FISH SOUP (ITALIAN)
Really good, really easy ... low-fat, light enough for summer, nutritious enough to be the main course for a meal ... and takes about 20 minutes from opening the refrigerator door to setting the bowls on the table. It's hard to beat this simple variation Italian fish soup, any way you look at it.
Start with 1/2 a medium onion and one large clove of garlic, minced fine. Sautee them over high heat in a little olive oil (just use a skosh in a nonstick pan if you're watching fat), until they're soft and starting to brown. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped flatleaf parsley and a dash of other fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano), salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 cup dry white wine. Boil until the wine's almost gone, then stir in one cup of tomato sauce (I use a homemade sauce from our bumper crop of San Marzanos, but the canned or boxed kind will do). Simmer the sauce for just a minute or two, and then stir in about a pound of the fish of your choice, cut into boneless, skinless 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.
All it needs is crusty Italian bread (a local bakery has started making a fantastic ciabatta) and a green salad. And wine, of course! We had it with the Bonny Doon La Garrigue, but I'd think any white on the fruity side, even slightly off-dry, would make a fine match with the fish, tomato and herbal flavors; and a light, fruity red like a Beaujolais or Dolcetto d'Alba would work, too. Red wine with fish? Yup!
A hint on the choice of fish: Just about any combination of fish and, if you like, shellfish, will work. I like to use more than one for textural variety. Last night, for instance, going with what was fresh and reasonably priced at the fish shop, I went with 1/2 pound of tilapia (a firm-fleshed fish that retains its shape in the soup) and 1/2 pound of blue pollock (a flaky fish that falls apart and naturally thickens the soup). Best of both worlds!
Note also that despite the tomato-sauce base, with the addition of the fish juices and vegetables, this soup doesn't turn out bright Neapolitan red but a nice appetizing pinkish-orange color.