I have just a few days left in Perth, and I'll be back in Boston next week. I've been updating my cooking to-do list, and dreaming about all the produce I'll find at the farmers' markets. But I'm not very happy about the news I've been hearing from New England.
The blight that has decimated the local tomato crop has cruelly dashed my dreams of eating insalata caprese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From what I understand, I might not get my heirloom tomato fix at all. I'm trying not to think about that possibility, because it's far too depressing, but I'm stockpiling recipes that work with supermarket tomatoes, just in case.
Though supermarket tomatoes don't make for terribly good eating when raw, they work just fine when cooked in a dish like pesce all'acqua pazza, one of my favorite late summer meals. The name translates literally as "fish in crazy water," but I can't find anything crazy about poaching white fish in a broth made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red chili flakes and flat-leafed parsley. The flavors are clean and simple, and it's satisfying without being heavy.
Maybe it's acqua pazza because, even made with supermarket tomatoes, you'd have to be pazza to turn it down?
Pesce all'Acqua Pazza
This recipe works with any mild, firm-fleshed white fish, though I usually use tilapia. If you don't have a particular fish in mind, and you're curious about sustainable seafood choices, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide.
(Serves one, with leftovers.)
Put the kettle on, or boil some water in a pot, if you're not a tea-drinker.
Take two large, ripe tomatoes, cut a big X in the bottom of each, and put them in a big heatproof bowl. Once the water boils, pour it over the tomatoes. Allow them to sit for two or three minutes, then fish them out with a slotted spoon. Peel off the skins - they should come away easily.
Chop the tomatoes roughly and put them in a shallow pan.
Mince two cloves of garlic. Toss them in the pan with a glug of olive oil and a dash of red chili flakes. Add two cups of water and a big pinch of salt, and turn on the heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn it down to a steady simmer. Let it cook for thirty minutes or so, or until the tomatoes start to break down and the mixture looks soupy.
Take a generous bunch of flat-leafed parsley and chop it finely. Add it to the pan. Let the mixture simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes, or until the parsley has softened. Congratulations, you now have crazy water.
Time to add the fish. Take two fillets of mild white fish and gently slide them into the mixture. Add a little more water if they're not fully covered - unless you're using tilapia, which give off a lot of liquid as they cook.
Let everything simmer for another five to ten minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your fillets. Once the fish is cooked through, turn off the heat. Serve immediately, preferably over rice.
Note: If you end up with excess crazy water, don't toss it. It can be frozen and used in other fish or seafood dishes.