The origins of this robust stew lie with the fishermen who made it on their boats when tuna fishing. But in modern times the stew has become an integral part of a summer celebration commemorating the dispute between two coastal Basque villages over the ownership of the tiny island of Izaro, which lies about three kilometers from each village. To settle the dispute, which raged about 150 years ago, the towns organized a rowing race to the island. Now every year on July 22, both villages turn out for a lively regatta that ends in a third coastal town, Elantxobe (a picturesque village built on such a steep hill that donkeys stand on roofs jutting out from the hillside to munch on grass growing on nearby roofs) During the festivities, parties on pleasure boats eat marmitako as a tribute to the fishing that has been the mainstay of the region. This pocket of the coast is so rich in sea life and valuable habitats that, in 1989, UNESCO declared it a Protectorate of the Biosphere, an environmentally protected area.
This dish is meant as a first course, but when you increase the amount of water by 1 cup and double the amount of tuna, it becomes a main course.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper cut into strips
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup Biscayne Sauce or 2 tablespoons paprika
3 cups water
1 pound fresh tuna, cut into small chunks
1. In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. sauté' the onion for about 3 minutes, just until it begins to soften. Add the green pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and Biscayne Sauce or paprika, mix well, and then add the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until it boils. Reduce the heat, and cook the stew at a low simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.
2. Add the tuna to the stew, season to taste with salt, and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the tuna is opaque throughout. Transfer the stew to a casserole, and serve.
The Basque Table
Passionate Home Cooking from one
of Europe's Great Regional Cuisines
By Teresa Barrenechea with Mary Goodbody
Harvard Common Press
Hardback, Price: $22.95
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created March 1999
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