Monday, February 28, 2011

Vegan Bouillabaisse

Or, Manhattan Clam Chowder by way of France and Barbados... and without clams.

A few years ago when I was tearing across western Europe before moving away from London and returning to the US, I got stranded by a rail strike in Marseille.  This gave me plenty of time to explore, and it ended up being my favorite city in France.  The coastal setting, the colonial-era architecture, the state of disrepair, the people from West Africa and the Maghreb, all made it feel strangely familiar--as much like St. Louis (Senegal), Dakar, or New Orleans as like the rest of France.

I don't think I've ever had bouillabaisse, but it apparently comes from Marseille.  Although this recipe sort of reverses the process, making the broth and "seafood" separately and combining them at the end rather than cooking it all together and separating the broth from the fish at the end, I was still really impressed by how innovative it was.  As any reader of this blog knows, to me, fake processed "meats" are unappealing at best and offensive at worst.  But in this recipe, Taymer Mason marinates heart of palm, tofu cubes, and rolled up eggplant in a mixture of nori, fennel, and herbs to get a slightly fishy taste.  The texture of the heart of palm, in particular, is eerily seafoodish.

This was also my first time cooking with a bouquet garni (at right).  Oh, French cooking is so complicated!

But this soup was amazing.  It tasted a lot like the Manhattan clam chowder my parents used to make when I was little.  The hearts of palm fall apart in the soup, and the little pieces of them are dead ringers for chunks of clam.  The flavor of the soup is not only lightly seafoody, but also (thanks to the herbs, spices, and orange rind) spicy and complex.

Ok, it's kind of a lot of work, but it's easy to make the stock and the marinating "seafood" ahead of time, and the next day when you're ready for soup, there's not that much left to do.  My only problem was that since I only had plastic toothpicks I didn't feel comfortable sauteeing the eggplant rolls with the other "seafood."  So I steamed them separately.

This went really well with the also-fennel-inflected Brussels sprouts and mushrooms I recently posted about.

Vegan Bouillabaisse

Vegan Fishless Fish Stock
1/2 onion chopped in half
1 garlic clove
2 sheets roasted seaweed crumbled
3 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
1 bouquet garni (fennel, bay leaf, parsley and thyme)
Eggplant Seafood,Heart of Palm and Tofish Marinade
2 sheets of nori
6 green onions, minced
1/2 small onion chopped
1 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne
2 sprigs fennel
2 c of water
3 TB oil
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 medium eggplant deseeded and cut into strips
1/2 can hearts of palm
6 oz tofu cut into small flat rectangular pieces
1 recipe for marinade
3 TB oil
Bouillabaisse Stock
3 TB olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb thinly sliced
3 tomatoes blanched with the skin removed
2 leeks thinly sliced
1 carrot chopped finely
1/2 zucchini chopped finely
2 medium potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
1 bouquet garni
6 cloves garlic crushed
4 pieces of orange rind
1 recipe vegan fish stock  (I ended up adding several more cups of water as well)
1 heaping TB tomato paste
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste

1. Add all the ingredients of the fish stock into a pot and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat. Set aside and let the flavor meld together. When cooled strain and set aside in the fridge until ready to use. This can keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
2. In the meantime salt the eggplant and leave for 30 minutes to wilt and turn brown. Roll eggplant strips into a ball as shown in the photo. Add all the ingredients for the marinade together in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. The mixture will appear a little slimy. Pour over prepared seafood bits and leave to marinate overnight or a fast marinade of 1 hour.
3. Heat olive oil to medium heat and add fennel bulb, tomatoes,leeks,carrot,zuchinni, potatoes, 1 bouquet garni, and 4-6 cloves garlic. Add orange rind, fish stock, tomato paste, white pepper, turmeric, and cayenne.  (I ended up adding several more cups of water at this point to cover all the veggies).  Cover and cook in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat for  40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook vegan seafood pieces. Add to the bouillabaisse and serve hot.   Serves about 6.


Betsy DiJulio said...

Julia, how synchronistic to have found the perfect recipe for my husband's and my annual Julia Child's Birthday Party dinner from someone named Julia! I am visiting my parents and currently reading one of my mom's Peter Mayle's books, "Encoure Provence." This morning, I had just finished a chapter about Marseilles in which the description of bouillabaisse broth, redolent of saffron and garlic, had me thinking that it would be one of my contributions to this year's fete. Plus, in the airport on the way here, I had just confirmed by text with all of our guests August 11 as the date of this year's gathering. So the timing was perfect. Not only that, but my father is wild about Hearts of Palm--we sometimes put a can in his Christas stocking!--and I had never thought about them tasting "uncannily" like seafood. Thank you for the inspiration!

Julia said...

Hi Betsy,
The heart of palm was awesome in this soup-- very tender. I've also been experimenting with jackfruit this year as pulled pork, tuna, etc., but it's been a bit tougher. Enjoy! :)