Saffron-Scented Cod and Tomato Soup
Every fall the town of Truro has a week called Truro Treasures, which is a celebration of life in this special place (and perhaps an opportunity to reclaim the land after the tourists have left for the season). Truro has one treasure that exists yearround: the Atlantic Spice House, located on Route 6 just where 6A splits off, becoming a two-lane, sanddusted ribbon lined with beach cottages boasting the world's best front yard.
From the outside it would be hard to guess that the huge gray warehouse holds a treasure trove of hard-to-find spices and herbs along with teas and coffees from every corner of the earth. Dried fruits of every description are nestled in large barrels next to cinnamon sticks and tiny sachets for making your own potpourri. Herbes de Provence redolent with lavender, thyme, and rosemary perfume the air with an aroma that makes you think you've taken a trip to someplace wonderfully exotic without having to get on a plane.
Store manager Linnet Hultin not only sells to restaurants far and wide but also has a brisk mail-order business. So if you can't drive to Truro for your saffron (although it's worth a trip), you can call her at 800-316-7965 to place an order or receive a catalog. She generously shared this recipe for a marvelously colorful and equally flavorful fish soup that is garnished with a slice of toasted French bread and a dab of aioli (garlic mayonnaise).
1/4 cup mild olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups fish or vegetable stock
1 (14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes and their juice, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried saffron threads (about 20 threads)
1 pound cod fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (1/2-inch) slices Italian or French bread, toasted
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large, nonreactive soup pot over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the stock, tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, and saffron. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the cod and stir gently to combine. Cover, and adjust the heat so that the fish simmers gently for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is just cooked through but not falling apart. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
To serve, ladle the soup into heated bowls. Float a slice of toast on top of each serving, then spoon a generous dollop of aioli on each slice. Pass the grated Parmesan separately.
The Cape Cod Table
by Lora Brody
Photographs by Susie Cushner
240 pp; 45 color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
The Cape Cod Table
This page created October 2003