Dinner for 12: Shrimp, Cod, and Fennel Soup

I've been at this dinner co-op thing for three years now. There are the recipes I make that are stalwarts: delicious, simple and very amenable to upsizing. But every once in a while, I can't help myself. I get a little frisky, my eyes wander, seduced by the sexy centerfolds in magazine like this one. As a result on those weeks, there are a lot of people who get to be dinner guinea pigs. They will tell you this is not always a good thing. This recent meal was a cod and shrimp soup flavored with fennel and tomatoes in a light white-wine broth. I love a good fish stew, particularly one served with a dollop of garlicky rouille and a glass of Pouilly-Fume. But this was not that soup. It is light and delicate and maybe the perfect thing to cleanse the giblets and gravy out of your system. I served it with a green salad with sectioned oranges, fennel and beauty heart radish with a citrus-hazelnut dressing. And of course, the crustiest baguette you can find. This soup would probably also be delicious with a little feta crumbled into it for deeper flavor.

A note about the fish and shrimp: Anytime you're serving fish for 12, it's not the cheapest ticket in town. One great tip I learned is to buy the fish pieces sold at my neighborhood co-op for any fish stews. This time around, I got extra lucky since they were all cod pieces (ha! codpieces!). If you don't need full fillets, this is a significantly more affordable option. As for shrimp, I use it very judiciously, it's not the most sustainable seafood around. In this case, I upped the amount of fish and went low on the shrimp.

Shrimp, Cod, and Fennel Soup with Tomatoes (adapted from this recipe printed in Martha Stewart Living, Oct. 2011)

  • 6 tomatoes (I used my frozen paste tomatoes but canned will also work)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large leeks, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise, cored, thinly sliced crosswise, (I saved the youngest, tenderest fronds for the salad)
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 12 cups fish stock
  • 3 lbs skinless cod fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails left intact)


  1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score an X into the bottom of each tomato using a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes until skins loosen, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to ice-water bath using a slotted spoon. Peel and discard skins. Core and coarsely chop tomatoes.
  2. Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic, and sliced fennel until fragrant and softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Remove from heat, and add wine. Return to heat, and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom using a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cod and shrimp, and return to a simmer. Remove from heat, and let stand, stirring halfway through, until cod and shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. When serving, drizzle with additional oil. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds.


Autumn in Pictures



Hello, November!

It's been a tough October around here, I'll admit. But to keep spirits up, I use a failsafe trick: remind myself of the good bits that the fall brought. And there was much beauty and goodness to this season. Um, can you spot the trend?


This week's Co-op menu: Sopes

This week's menu was inspired by the abundance of tomatillos in my garden. OK, what I really mean to say is that the tomatillos completely took over both my gardens this year, trampling everything in their path and weilding their cloaked fruit like some sort of demented weedy monks. The funny thing is, I remember thinking back in May, "Gee, I forgot to plant tomatillos. I'm bummed I won't be able to harvest any." Evidently, the tomatillo gods heard my lament. I have truckloads to harvest.

lime and charred jalopeno
And so this menu takes advantage of an abundant crop yet again. And I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making sopes, a dish that I had the privilege to learn to make with some friends from Mexico City a few years ago. Fair warning here: this was not a speedy dinner. There are a number of components to make but a few can be done the day before and the side dishes: rice and jicama-orange salad, are pretty effortless. And I love these kinds of composed dishes for a few reasons. They are modular, so there's almost always something even picky eaters will agree to. They can be vegetarian or not, and the meat is not the centerpiece, but rather a garnish. Finally, they are fun and delicious and a little bit festive and who doesn't like a little party in the middle of the week, right?

Sopes for 12 with black beans, chicken, salsa verde and queso fresco.


There are a few ways to make these and the video here is most like what I do: seared in a cast-iron pan, not fried in oil.

2 cups masa harina (found at any mexican grocery store)
4 cups hot water

1. Add the water to the masa and stir well. Cover and let sit for about an hour (Note: I found my dough stiff and dry, I would probably add more water or let it sit for less next time).
2. Heat a cast iron griddle or frying pan. I painted on a thin layer of oil but it isn't really needed.
3. Divide dough into 24 balls. Shape and flatten them and then toast them on the griddle about 2 min per side or until they are golden and crispy.
4. Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle them. Then push the edge of each sopa into a rim (watch the video if this doesn't make sense!). It's ready to fill!

Black Beans
I cook mine from dried beans, but you can also use canned.

2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight.
1 medium onion halved
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1tbsp cumin
bay leaves

1. Drain the soaked beans and then cover with fresh water to 3" above the beans.
2. Add all other ingredients and bring to a slow simmer until desired tenderness.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking.

The beans can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, just rewarm before serving.

Salsa Verde
This is a loose and fast recipe because it's very forgiving of proportions.

Tomatillos (I made enough to fill the cast iron frying pan three times)
2 white onions, peeled and halved
1 jalopeno
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes
salt (I also use a vegetarian "chicken" broth powder that works great instead of salt)

1. Heat the cast iron pan. Add tomatillos, onion and jalopeno and char them on all sides.
2. Dump it all into a food processor, throw in the cilantro, lime juice and salt. Pulse to desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky).

Poached Chicken
This is entirely optional, the meal is really satisfying without it, too. I chose to simply poach my chicken but you can roast it. Or use chorizo, which is a more traditional topping. For this recipe, I used 2.5 lbs chicken total.

To assemble the full meal, place black beans, shredded chicken and salsa verde on your sopa. Crumble queso fresco (or feta) on top and garnish with cilantro and another squeeze of lemon.
Serve with white rice and a side salad of sliced jicama and orange wedges.
This is what dinner looks like

This is what a happy diner looks like