When I was two years old, my parents did a house swap with a couple living in St. Jean de Luz, in the south of France. This was a critically important period in my life as I had to be potty trained so that I could attend pre-school, and for the first (and last) time, I was fluent in two languages. Although I don’t have many memories of that year, there is a famous story of me dancing on the table at midnight. This might explain why I earned the nickname, Coquina, which means little rascal in Basque.
My father recently gave us a bottle of the typical seasoning that the Basque use in everything from stews to spicing up their mayonnaise. We’d researched Piment d’Espelet enough to know that it’s a red pepper grown extensively in the Basque region, but we had no idea what to expect from our mysterious little bottle of spices (especially since the label is entirely in French). We decided to experiment with our most trustworthy aquatic ingredient, black cod, in a tomato-based stew. What we ended up with was pretty incredible; the ingredients were simple, but the final product was rich and complex. We both agreed that this recipe could be a cheaper and easier substitute for cioppino, that’s just as delicious. The only thing missing was a steaming French baguette to soak up the juices!
1/2 lb. black cod, cut into 1.5″-2″ pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
12-15 kalamata olives
Few sprigs of thyme
2 tsp. Ezpeletako Biperra Basque seasoning
Parsley for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for a minute or two until the garlic just begins to soften, then add the Basque seasoning. Stir constantly until the garlic just begins to caramelize (monitor by smell – when the garlic turns from pungent to nutty and aromatic, you’re good to go!). Add the wine and reduce for several minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth and thyme, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, at least (the longer the better!). Literally minutes before serving, nestle the cod into the sauce and cook for 4 minutes, until cooked through. Plate over rice and garnish with Parsley.
Here’s a link to buy the seasoning online, and we recently got a ‘hot tip’ that the Spanish Table in the Pike’s Place Market carries it.