Monday, January 20, 2014

One-Pot Supper: The Lazy Cook's Masala Fish Stew

Masala Fish Stew
When you're short on kitchen space and cooking time, or worn out after a long day, or simply feeling lazy, you can still whip up a satisfyingly flavorful, inventive and wholesome supper without too much effort if you keep some basics in your freezer and kitchen pantry.

In fact, it was after a long day of home renovation work that I came up with the following one-pot supper recipe, precisely because I was too tired to exert any real effort in the kitchen, didn't want to unpack more than one pot, and was feeling too cheap to eat out. My Masala Fish Stew is made in the "throw cooking" style, where you simply throw together some handy ingredients that you like and season them to taste, with minimal measuring, chopping or other such work. It may not be much to look at, but it's zesty and comforting to the palate and the belly.

I usually have some frozen fish fillets along with bags of frozen vegetables in our freezer, several cans of tomatoes and a variety of dried herbs & spices in the pantry, and basic savory staples in the refrigerator like onions, garlic, peppers and parsley. This particular evening I also happened to have some leftover cooked rice, and Greg had brought home a bottle of red wine. I've noted substitutions for those ingredients in the recipe, and you can certainly omit the rice altogether if you are following a low-carbohydrate diet.

You're welcome to customize this recipe to better suit your tastes and to use what you have on hand.

1 to 2 Tbs fat for sauteing: any vegetable oil, ghee or coconut oil (I used coconut oil)
2 or 3 dried curry leaves (available at Indian & Asian markets) or 1 or 2 dried bay leaves
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped peppers (bell, sweet, hot chilies, or a mix)
1/2 lb frozen fish fillets (I used tilapia), not thawed
1 cup frozen green beans*
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup liquid: wine (I used red), broth or water
1 Tbs garam masala spice blend**
2 Tbs chopped parsley or cilantro
Salt & pepper to taste

*You can probably substitute frozen broccoli, cauliflower or corn kernels.

**Garam masala is a spicy all-purpose seasoning used in Indian cooking, much like curry is used. It's very easy to make, and like curry, there are many different versions. Click here for my recipe for Garam Masala, which is half-way down that blog post.

Heat the fat in a Dutch oven or other similar heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, then add leaves, onion, garlic & peppers. Saute until vegetables are softened and onion is turning translucent. Add remaining ingredients except the parsley or cilantro, stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until fish is cooked and green beans are tender. Stir in parsley or cilantro (reserve some for garnishing if desired) and season with salt or pepper to taste. You can also add more garam masala for a more intense flavor. Remove the curry leaves or bay leaves and serve over cooked rice, noodles, or "as is" for a low carb supper. Makes 2-4 servings.

Zestfully yours,

PS: Not in the mood for Indian food? No problem! Turn this into a Cajun or Creole Seafood Stew by using a vegetable oil, bay leaves and your favorite Cajun or Creole Seasoning blend like Emeril's Original Essence Spice or any variety of Slap Ya Mama.

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