Yet the idea of some tomato-ness is always welcome, and the home crowd was clamoring for something spicy. My solution is this:
Heat about a quarter cup of olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add two or three cloves of minced garlic. The garlic should sizzle immediately. Stir it into the oil and add a quarter to a half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Let them sizzle for a second then add about three tablespoons tomato paste (I used some homemade tomato conserva and it was crazy good, but the jarred stuff is dandy too). Work the paste into the oil. This will take a few concentrated moves with a wooden spoon, so the paste should sizzle and cook a bit in the process.
Add a cup of dry white wine and stir to combine everything into a broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for a few minutes to get the boozy smell cooked off. Add a cup or two of fish stock(see Bouillabaisse recipe) and bring to a boil.
The favorite combination for this dish at my house is a pound of calamari, a nice large (2-pound) Dungeness crab cooked just enough so it can be cleaned and cracked, and 3 pounds total of mussels, clams and small oysters (scrub those shells clean to avoid a gritty broth). You could add somefish in there, or spot prawns or crayfish. And, of course, you can leave out anything you want to and substitute in things you like better.
Put all that in the pot with the broth boiling, throw on a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and scads of freshly ground black pepper, cover and cook until whatever needs to be cooked is cooked, I'm guessing 5 to 10 minutes depending on exactly what and how much you've put in there.
Serve with loads of crusty bread to sop up the yummy yummy broth.
This content was published in the Winter 2012 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2012 Edible San Francisco.