Bean bean bouillabaisse

vegetarian bouillabaise

While I was at work yesterday I got the idea to make bouillabaisse for dinner. I couldn’t wait to get home and cook it while listening to the Beastie Boys B Boy Bouillabaisse! (Because I’m crazy!) While I was stuck at work, I mulled it over (and over) in my mind, trying to decide the best way to go about it. I knew the basic ingredients I’d be working with…fennel, potatoes, saffron, white wine, a bit of orange juice, some rosemary & thyme. Then I decided to add beans. But what kind? Black bean bouillabaisse is very fun to say. White beans seemed more suited to white wine and herbs, and more generally provencal-esque. Then it hit me! Bouilabaisse is a mixture of all different kinds of bits and pieces of seafood. So why not several kinds of beans?!? I ended up using black and white. I wish I’d used fava as well – I will next time. I think kidney beans would be good, too. You could use pretty much anything you like. I have to confess that I use canned beans. We’re very lucky, in this area, to have a large variety of very good canned beans. I just can’t plan ahead well enough to account for soaking and cooking time. But I’m sure it would be even better if you took the time to cook the beans as well.

This is quick and easy to make, and only gets better and more flavorful as you let it sit. I served it with herbed semolina dumplings, which were a perfect match for ultimate warmth and comfort on a very cold December evening. (recipe coming soon!)

Here’s B Boy Bouillabaisse. I should warn you that it’s sweary and snotty. Give it a miss if you don’t appreciate those qualities in your Bouillabaisse-cooking music.

1 largish potato, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 fennel bulb, outside bit removed, core, removed, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 zucchini (optional!) cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 shallot – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely diced
2 T. olive oil
1 t. rosemary
1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 t. spanish paprika
1/2 t. basil
red pepper flakes
pinch saffron
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 cups beans – any combination you like! (I used half black, have small white)
Dollop of butter, dash of balsamic
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

1. In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, let it cook a minute, then add the potato and the herbs and the pepper flakes (Wait on the paprika, so it won’t burn!)

2. In a small bowl, cover the saffron with about 1/2 cup of boiling water and let it sit.

3. Back at the large soup pot… When the potatoes and shallot start to brown slighly, add the fennel, zucchini, garlic. Stir to mix well and cook for a few minutes. By this time, the pot should be quite dry, and things will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add wine, orange juice, and saffron in its soaking liquid. Scrape all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. Let everything cook until the vegetables start to soften and everything gets syrupy and reduced.

4. Add the beans and the paprika. Add enough water to cover everything by an inch or two. Add about a teaspoon of salt.

5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, till the potatoes and fennel are quite soft. More is better.

6. Add a dollop of butter, a dash of balsamic and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

7. Serve with semolina dumplings or good crusty bread.


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