Fishing in a sun-dappled lake or surging mountain stream is a treasured pastime, but Americans are, in general, notoriously reluctant to eat fish. Some people who grew up on deep-fried fish eventually graduate to seafood grilled, poached and lightly sauteed or stir-fried. But statistically speaking, few of us explore more adventurous pleasures from the sea.

Cooking fish at home is even less popular than eating it, with the exception of heating up fish sticks. Considering how healthful eating fish is, and how simple it is to prepare, this is downright shameful.

When I ask friends who eat fish in restaurants why they never cook it at home, I get three answers. First, it makes the house smell. Second, if grilled outdoors, it falls apart. Finally, whenever they gave it a try, the fish was overcooked. Fortunately, avoiding these legitimate problems is easy.

In two words, stew it. Easy as poaching, this method ensures better flavor. And even if the fish overcooks, the accompanying juices still make it flavorful and appealing. Finally, the mouthwatering fragrance of a well-seasoned fish stew more than offsets any odors. Europeans prepare more fish dishes than I can list. This is hardly surprising since Italy, Spain, Greece and France border more water than land, and most other European countries have coastlines along either lakes or rivers.

Classic seafood dishes include the famous French bouillabaisse, as well as bourride, cacciucco, paella, the lesser known Sardinian cass˛la and the Basque marmitako, made with fresh tuna. My Fisherman's Stew derives from the same Mediterranean tradition.

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Bottled clam juice, always on hand, eliminates the need for fish stock. I use a combination of meaty white fish and shellfish, selecting what looks best in the market. Cooking takes 20 minutes or less, depending on the fish I choose. Tarragon adds French flavor, but equally good is Greek oregano, Spanish paprika, or a touch of saffron.

Fisherman's Stew

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Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 12 oz. cod, cut in 8 pieces
  • 4 oz. small scallops or 4 oz. cod or other fish (halve the scallops, if large)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp. dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. SautÚ onion and garlic until translucent, about 4 minutes. Pour in clam juice and water.
  2. When liquid comes to a boil, add potatoes and tomatoes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes.
  3. Add fish, scallops, tarragon and salt to taste. Simmer until fish is opaque in center and flakes easily, about 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutritional Information Per serving:

169 calories,
3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
14 g. carbohydrate,
22 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
231 mg. sodium.
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean-meat, 1 Vegetable, 1/2 Starch/Bread


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