Photo: Prepared in Puglia, Italia by Margaux Cintrano.
Puglia is the extensive lengthwise portion of southeast Italia, that resembles a high heel, where the blue skies are unmisted, and the Adriatic is profound turquoise and royal blue.
Although the Sacens, Longobards, Spaniards and Normans had all been there, the Greek occupation of more than three thousand years ago, has left the most profound footprints with their fish stews in ancient styles similiar to the Boulaibaisse from Marseilles, and the Cassola from Sardinia or the Cazola from Portugal, and more recently created by the Italian immigrants who arrived in San Francisco, well known dish Cioppino.
Here is one that I have made for Nathalia´s birthday today.
Seafood Cassola Stew
750 ml. dry white Italian wine
2 onions minced finely
2 bay leaves
4 fresh thyme swigs
1 kilo fresh mussels well rinsed and de-bearded
500 grams baby squid
30 grams of fresh basil leaves chopped finely
80 Ml. Evoo
6 sun dried tomatoes in Evoo
1 green bell minced finely
1 stalk celery diced finely
1 carrot diced finely
4 cloves garlic chopped finely
2 tablesp. of Marinara Sauce ( home made if possible )
400 grams of deseeded and peeled fresh sliced finely tomatoes
500 grams of assorted white firm fish of choice
2 kilos of fresh shrimp or prawns
2 tblsps. Evoo
* additional basil and additional garlic
1. rinse all fish and shellfish thoroughly
2. place mussels in a single layer in heavy large skillet
3. add enough water to come 1/4 Inch up the sides of the skillet
4. cover and steam mussels (can sub clams if you wish) and place over high heat 8 minutes and discard those that do not open
5. remove the mussels from the shells and boil the liquid in the skillet until reduced to 1/4 cup about 5 mins.
6. strain through a Sieve lined with dampened paper towel and set aside
7. Het 1/4 cup Evoo in heavy 6 quart pot over medium heat and sauté onion until golden tender, add 6 sun dried tomatoes, and the fresh basil sauté. Add the squids and sauté until opaque about 3 mins. Now sauté all other vegetables until tender.
8. Now add the garlic cloves, and stir 1 minute. Combine the sun dried tomato liquid and boil until the liquid dissovles stirring consistently
9. reduce heat and add the fresh tomatoes and add a dry chili pepper or cayenne flakes
to your taste
10. add the reduced mussel liquid and shellfish or fish stock and cover partially simmering for 35 to 40 minutes
11. add the fish, the prawns to stew and cook just until cooked through 4 to 5 mins.
12. season with salt, black freshly ground pepper and add the mussels at the very end of concoction for a few seconds
13. serving: place a thick slab of Italian Baguette in bowls, and drizzle the shellfish stew over the bread in bowls ... Large Napkins are a wise idea.
14. Add additional crusty bread for dipping & Sparkling white wine, Prosecco D.O. shall be a fine pair.