As I dropped my children off for their first day of school yesterday, instead of the elation (alone at last!) I usually feel at the beginning of the school year, I felt sad and regretful that the summer was really over. No more lazy days at the pool or at the beach, no more long car trips to new places, and no more of the fresh vegetables I've come to depend on. Well, actually, that's an exaggeration, the vegetables should be around until early October, but you know what I mean.
Seafood will be around too, but somehow, it never tastes quite as good as it does when the sun's been baking the sand and the salt from the ocean is drying on your ankles. To commemorate the summer's end, I loaded up the stockpot and made a glorious seafood stew, courtesy of Michele Scicolone (Savoring Italy) and Julia Child. From The Way to Cook, I first created the base for the stew with Julia's lobster stock.
Now, you don't need a lobster to make this--you just need its shell. A brilliant idea, don't you think? Whenever you splurge and boil up lobster for a romantic dinner for two (and you really should, you know, every now and then) or if you eat lobster out (this takes a little more courage when you make this request of the server), save everything you don't eat and throw it into the freezer (or bring it to my house). When you want to make stock, whip out your frozen shells, wrap them in a kitchen towel and crush them into smaller pieces with a rolling pin. Or mallet. I don't happen to have one of those. Whatever. When they're thoroughly banged up, toss them in a large pan and saute with onion, celery, and carrot until the vegetables are soft. Add four cups of chicken broth, two cups of water, and half a can of diced tomatoes with a pinch of dried tarragon and a bay leaf. Simmer for about 45 minutes and then strain.
Now you have your amazing, aromatic base. Add garlic, squid, clams, assorted fish, and tomatoes, and once again Italy transforms the simple into the sublime. Click here for Scicolone's recipe for Zuppa de Pesce alla Romana. The essence of summer will be distilled directly into your bowl, and although the season's passing will seem a little melancholy, this culinary balm will soothe your fretful soul.
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