Cara O. Frank, L.OM
Succotash and Bouillabaisse had a baby today. The glory of late summer produce is upon us and I am unable to resist the offerings at the farmers’ market. This morning, a bowlful of shelled lima beans beckoned. Tender small red potatoes whispered. How could I say no?
Meanwhile, exhibiting zero self-restraint at the Red Top Market, I had already purchased okra, corn, tomatoes and cod. I needed a plan. I picked up a pound of mussels. A head of fennel was hiding in the produce drawer. I thawed a couple quarts of lobster stock made from the lobster shells that we save from our beach day meals (have I blogged about this? I should! Suffice to say: Recipe for a perfect beach day: Beach+ lobsters + boiled potatoes +green beans + corn +homemade aioli slathered on everything + crisp cold rose=perfection).
I simmered the stock with the fennel fronds and then faced some tough decisions. Should I make a tomato-based soup? Should I add cream? Should I make little corncobs? Should I shuck them? All this weighed heavily on me. The shape of food influences the flavor of food. What kind of mouth experience did I want to create? Did I want to go in a Mediterranean direction? Should it be French?
One class I teach is called Slow Diagnosis. In the class I guide students towards a true diagnosis in Chinese Medicine. I hold their hands through the anxiety of not knowing how to organize signs and symptoms, towards an effective treatment plan that honors the persons constitution to help them feel their best. Slow diagnosis leads, in the end, to fast diagnosis, but it takes study and familiarity with diseases and patterns. Ingredients are like that too. I had my idea of what I was going to cook, but then the food presented its true nature and I had to abandon my presumptions of what I should cook and move with the spirit of the food.
Thinking I should move the stew in a tomato-y direction, I moved to the stove. Opening the pot of simmering broth, I saw that the fennel fronds had turned the broth a bright green and, inhaling the steam, I was reminded that when I last made lobster stock, I added corncobs. The sweetness of the corn released such a sweet and bright fragrance; I knew that I had to move the soup in a green direction. A far away memory bubbled up. When I was a kid, we would go to a place in Greenwich Village- The Bleeker Street Café. Sometimes, for a special occasion, my mother would order Mariscada, a seafood stew green with parsley.
Abandoning the can of tomatoes I had opened, (red+green=brown=blech), I added fragrant celery from my city garden. In went half an onion, diced potatoes, a little bit of yellow tomato, the limas, diced fennel bulb and some chopped garlic. With the upmost respect for the tender vegetables, I simmered them on very low heat. When they were just barely cooked through, I added cod cut into right sized pieces along with the mussels. This only takes a couple of minutes to cook. Then, a splash of Pernod, a nod to the fennel and such a delightful match with seafood, and we dished it up with a baguette.
Side note: what happened to the okra? We decided to serve it fried. Eric dredged it in cornmeal and spices. We splashed it with lemon and Tabasco and greedily ate them!
2 quarts fish or shell fish stock
Half bulb fennel, diced
2 ears corn, shucked
6 small red potatoes, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
Half medium Vidalia onion, diced
1 lb fresh or frozen lima beans
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 lb codfish, but into 2” pieces
1lb mussels, cleaned
Handful of parsley chopped fine
Warm the broth with the fennel tops in a large soup pot. I used my Dutch Oven for this. Remove the fennel tops.
Add the veggies and garlic all at once and simmer gently until just cooked through. Don’t overcook. Add the fish, mussels and parsley and cover the pot for 5-7 minutes, until the mussels open. Splash the soup with Pernod and season with salt and pepper.
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised in a health food store in Brooklyn NY. When she was 8 she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For over 33 years she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17 she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. In 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with Chinese herbs. Since then, she has devoted her life to studying and teaching the topic.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts and Six Fishes Neighborhood Acupuncture, both in Philadelphia where she maintains a busy acupuncture practice and acts as the head fish of two warm and lively offices. She is also the president of China Herb Company. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.