I was introduced to this dish at the Snow Goose Brewery in Anchorage, Alaska, and again experienced it in San Francisco, reputed to be the birthplace of the Italian seafood stew; neither was like the other, yet both were delicious. You can use any combination of seafood you desire; traditionally, shellfish are cooked in the soup base in their shells, which can make for rather messy eating, but also provides a deeper flavored base. I opted to only leave the tails on the shrimp as the rich tomato sauce would have been everywhere.
- 1 bulb fennel
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 ribs celery
- 1 small bell pepper (preferably red)
- 1 28-oz can stewed tomatoes, chopped or ground
- 3 cups water
- 1-2 lbs various seafood (scallops, shrimp, mild white fish, mussels, crab, clams, etc.--I used about 8 oz each bay scallops and shrimp and a can of chopped clams)
- 1 Tbs. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. dill weed
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot. Saute fennel for 5 minutes, until it starts to brown slightly. Add onions and garlic. Saute 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add celery, bell pepper and herbs; stir in tomatoes and water; bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until fennel is tender. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over high heat. Quickly cook scallops and shrimp just until done. Stir in the wine and add seafood and sauce to the soup. If using other seafood, add it to the soup prior to cooking the scallops and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
PS- I think the juice from the clams really helped this along; if you are not using clams, I would suggest some good seafood stock in place of the water.