Mediterranean Fish Stew

28 Dec

mediterranean fish stew

I’m getting settled in here in Montevideo, and although a lot of things are very similar to Buenos Aires, there are also a lot of noticeable differences. For one, food on the whole is surprisingly expensive – about two to three times as much as I’d encountered in my neighborhood in Buenos Aires. So I’m cooking even more in order to save money. The river here is a lot cleaner, and we’re just at where it meets the ocean, so there’s a lot more seafood available here, and that’s one thing that’s actually cheaper. So I put together this basic fisherman’s stew, using tilapia that was on special (though any firm white fish should do). I’d never cooked something quite like this before, but it was very easy to throw together and packed with flavor. I especially liked the technique of using anchovies and garlic to create the base (instead of the usual fish stock or clam juice). Topped with fresh herbs, this stew makes a lovely simple meal.

Mediterranean Fish Stew (adapted from The New York Times)
Yield: 4 – 6 servings


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed, then finely minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • strip of orange zest
  • 2 – 3 sprigs parsley or celery leaves
  • 1 dried red chile (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces*
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • chives, sliced

*Or substitute with another firm white fish, such as halibut or cod.


  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat, then sautee 1 onion, chopped, 1 celery rib, chopped, and 1 carrot, chopped until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mash together 4 cloves garlic, finely minced and 4 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed, then finely minced with a pinch of salt.
  3. Add the garlic and anchovy puree to the pot, and sautee until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is aromatic, about 10 – 15 minutes.
  5. Add 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces, 4 cups water, 1 bay leaf, strip of orange zest, 2 – 3 sprigs parsley or celery leaves, and 1 dried red chile, if using. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover partially, and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the cover, discard the bay leaf, orange zest, parsley, and chile, then stir in 1 1/2 lbs tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces. Keep the stew below boiling, and let cook until the tilapia flakes easily when poked, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve topped with fresh parsley, roughly chopped, fresh basil, roughly chopped, and chives, sliced.

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