Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 45 minutes
This isn’t your run of the mill chickpea tomato stew. It’s got so much interesting goodness going on: fennely bites, a little orange undertone and just a hint of the sea. I wish I had a really interesting story to tell about me and bouillabaisse and my French lineage but…the truth is, the word just got stuck in my head. A few days ago out of nowhere. Bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse.
In fact, before today I couldn’t even tell you what went into the recipe. Just one of those things that sounded super fancy to me in the 80s and kind of fell off the radar.
But I became intrigued and did some intense research (uh, google image search). A Provençal fisherman’s stew, a bit spicy, usually served with crusty bread and rouille. OK, well, count me in.
For my vegan version, I had two main goals — replicate the fishiness and retain that eclectic fancy rustic-ness. For the sea flavor, I decided on my old stand-bys: chickpeas and just a little crumbled nori. And for garnish, a few briny capers. Easy enough!
To mimic the pretty shapes of the shellfish that poke out of the stew every which way, I decided to go with yellow squash, cut into half moons. Since sometimes boiled summer squash can get mushy, I opted to roast the squash and toss it in at the end. Forgive the fussiness, but well, sometimes a little extra work produces great rewards. The roastiness brings a lot to the bowl.
In most of the photos I saw, I noticed that although the stew was brothy, there was a lot of stuff floating around, likely from flakes of fish. But I decided to throw in a handful of red lentils to give the broth some interest and boost the flavor even more.
For the rouille, I decided to…oh wait, what’s that you say, what is rouille? Well, duh, it’s a peppery mayo! How could you not know that?
For mine, I basically followed Julia Child’s recipe (she uses almonds, although many recipes call for breadcrumbs) and threw in a little Ina Garten (that’s the dijon mustard.) Now, of course bread and spread are options here, the stew is filling enough on its own, but please if you’ve got the time, make the rouille! It was so rich, cozy and decadent, and really just the thing for dipping into the stew on a blustery winter afternoon.
And there you have it. A vegan bouillabaise that even a French fisherman would love. OK, fine, a French fisherman would probably laugh at me and call me terrible things in French. But still. It’s still totally delicious.
~ Since yellow squash tapers at one end, you can simply slice the narrowest part into discs. Then cut the rest in half lenghtwise and make 1/4 inch thick cuts widthwise to create the halfmoons. You can use zucchini instead, if you like!
~ I love the flavor that fire roasted canned tomatoes bring to the party, but use only the tomatoes, not the juice. You can reserve that for another soup another time! It freezes well in a small plastic ziplock. I just grab the tomatoes out of the can and crush them in my hands right into the pot. But if you don’t feel like being savage, you can chop them on a cutting board, too.
~ One average sized naval orange should get you enough zest. Use a microplane grater and eyeball the amount. It’s too frustrating to actually measure a teaspoon of zest, in my opinion.
~ If your nori is incredibly fresh, you should be able to crumble it in your hands. But sometimes, even if the package has been open for only a few days, the nori is too pliable to crumble. In that case, roll it up and chop into tiny pieces with a chef’s knife.
~ I roasted the peppers for my rouille while the squash was roasting. That made it super easy to pull together.
~ Most recipes call for saffron. I didn’t have any, but if you do, congratulations Warren Buffet! By all means, throw some in.
2 average sized yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch thick half moons
2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (one bulb should be enough)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
24 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, tomatoes only, chopped (see note)
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup red lentils
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
1/8th teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
Several dashed fresh black pepper
1/2 sheet nori, crumbled into tiny pieces
5 cups vegetable broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups cooked chickpeas (a 25 oz can, rinsed and drained)
Chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the yellow squash with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. When oven is preheated, roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from oven and set aside. In the meantime, prepare the stew.
Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Saute fennel and onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil with a pinch of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the remaining ingredients, except for the chickpeas, cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and leave the lid ajar so that steam can escape.
When potatoes are tender and red lentils are cooked, about 15 minutes, add the chickpeas and turn heat to its lowest setting, cooking uncovered for 15 more minutes. This is so that the potatoes don’t overcook, but the lentils have more time to turn mushy and the flavors can develop even further. Add up to an extra cup of vegetable broth if needed, to keep the stew brothy. Cook this way for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and let stew sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Taste for salt and seasoning. Remove the bay leaves and thyme springs before serving.
Ladle stew into bowls, top with roasted zucchini, capers, fresh parsley and fennel fronds. Serve with toasted bread spread with rouille.