These lovely little red ruby cherry tomatoes (tomate cerise) from my Place Monge market cost 9 EUROS!!!!! That's about $12 give or take a dollar....basically an arm and a leg and another arm thrown in for good measure. Approximately 42 tomates cerises, not counting the few that I ate from the market back to my apartment, comes to about 29 cents a tomato! Is it worth it, of course! Once in a while anyways....when you pop one of these little jewels into your mouth and bite down, the taste explodes. It actually tastes like...oh, I don't know...a tomato! A glorious little tomato they way God intended it, not the genetically-engineered chemically-altered mutant waxed dull lifeless tomatoes with absolutely no flavor sold in the big markets. Now what to make with them? Tomatoes this spectacular call for a special recipe....
Maybe Marcella Hazan's Acqua Pazzo ? Hmmmm......where is that recipe? Twice a year Marcella and her husband Victor teach a 1-week class at the French Culinary Institute and I assisted them in their class about a year and a half ago.
Chef Susan Lifriere, FCI & Marcella in the ...and Marcella, Victor & moi at the end
FCI's Culinary Ampitheatre of a very long week and still smiling!
That's another story in itself but one of the items we made was Pesce all'Acqua Pazzo or Fish in Crazy Water, cooking sea bass in cherry tomatoes and white wine. Chef Bruno Quercini at Pane e Vino in San Francisco makes Acqua Pazzo in his Modena-built wood burning brick oven that could move a man to tears, it is so heavenly. It's still too early to call San Francisco so I will have to defer to the grande dame of cucina italiana.
Ah, here we go. I brought 4 cookbooks with me to France and hers is one of them. From Marcella Cucina, her recipe calls for snapper but I prefer a thick piece of sea bass. Also, I opt out of serving it on bread, I use about half water and half white wine and when using cherry tomatoes I don't peel them! Finally an Italian recipe :-) This should make my grandmother happy.... Mangia bene!
Pesce all'Acqua Pazzo ~ Fish Cooked in Crazy Water
1-1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
4 cups of water (or 1/2 water 1/2 white wine)
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, sliced very thin
2 tbsp very finely chopped parsley
1/8 tsp (or to taste) chopped red chili pepper (or dried chili pepper flakes)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2- to 2-pound red snapper, filleted with its skin left on
Salt & pepper
Optional: 4 slices of day-old or grilled sourdough bread
1. Peel the tomatoes raw and chop them roughly with all their juice and seeds. The yield should be about 2 cups.
2. Choose a saute pan in which the fish fillets can be subsequently fit flat without overlapping. Put in the water, garlic, chopped tomatoes, parsley, chili pepper, olive oil, and salt. Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium, for 45 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan, turn up the heat, and boil the liquid until it has been reduced to half its original volume.
4. Add the fish, skin facing up. Cook for 2 minutes, then gently turn it over, using two spatulas. Add a little more salt and cook for another 12 minutes or so.
5. Serve promptly over the optional bread slice.
*Recipe from MARCELLA CUCINA by Marcella Hazan (HarperCollinsPublishers; October '97)