Jeff Koehler's fish soup from his new cookbook, Spain, is based on a classic dish from the island of Menorca. Traditionally prepared in a deep cazuela and enriched with saffron and the roe of spiny lobsters, this style of soup is fragrant and truly velvety. Spiny lobsters are hard to find outside of Spain and they have a sliver of a short season, so Koehler has shared instead a twist on the soup that can be eaten year-round, anywhere in the world.
You'll need to make fish stock, but consider the step a two-for-one gift—in the pot goes a whole fish that will later be picked apart and stirred into the final soup. This soup itself is an exquisitely simple purée of sofrito (onion, leek, carrot, and tomato), white wine, and fish stock. Sweet pimenton and a pinch of saffron add color and perfume. The cooked fish is added right before serving, remaining moist and tender.
Why I picked this recipe: Koehler had me at the word "velvet."
What worked: Besides the fish-picking step, the soup was a breeze to make, and a pleasant first course for just about any Spanish-influenced meal.
What didn't: I thought the soup needed more thorough seasoning. Next time, I'll start by adding salt to the sweating onions.
Suggested tweaks: Since you're only using two tomatoes, it's easier (I think) to gently peel them using a serrated peeler than going through the whole blanching step. If you don't have a food mill (I don't), you can pulse the sofrito mixture using an immersion blender. I added more broth in this step than called for to reduce the splatter. To save time, pick the meat from the fish while the soup is simmering.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.