Have a happy stew year with lush, one-pot fare

In the last 6 months I’ve celebrated and cooked for two New Years, Sukkot, Thanksgiving and Chanukah. A little rest for the “kitchen weary” is in order.

I’m ready for a one-pot, easy-to-prepare dish, and to me nothing is more satisfying than a well-crafted, warm, savory stew. I have wonderful, comforting memories associated with stews, but sometimes I overlook the advantages and delights of these dishes when planning company menus, thinking them too mundane to serve at dinner parties.

These are some of my favorite stews designed to correct that misapprehension. They are all lush and glamorous enough for company, yet retain the essential soul and body nourishment that memories are made of. They require only simple service and accompaniments. I recommend serving these stews in shallow soup plates with steamed little potatoes, noodles or rice. A fresh, tartly dressed green salad, good crusty bread and seasonal fruits complete the menu.

Sicilian Fish Stew

Serves 8-10

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced

1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme

1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano

1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

6 anchovies, drained and mashed

2 cans (28 oz. each) imported Italian tomatoes, drained and chopped

2 cups fish stock

2 lbs. assorted white fish such as snapper, sea bass and halibut, roughly cut into 1 1⁄2-inch chunks

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

16 slices baguette, toasted (optional)

Horseradish Aioli:

1 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs. prepared horseradish

1 tsp. strong mustard

2 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained

In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic and fennel until soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in thyme, oregano, red pepper, and anchovies and cook another minute. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Mixture should thicken and reduce by a fourth.

Meanwhile, make aioli by combining all ingredients until well blended. Add fish to tomato mixture and simmer about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and stir in parsley. Serve with horseradish aioli, either stirred directly into each portion of soup or spread on toasts and floated on soup.

Persian Lamb Stew with Mint, Parsley and Dried Fruit

Serves 6-8

1 cup dried apricots, cut into strips

1 cup pitted dried cherries or cranberries

11⁄2 cups water

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

1⁄2 tsp. turmeric

1 cup chopped chives

1⁄2 cup chopped mint leaves

2 cups chopped parsley

2 cups chicken stock or water

3 lbs. lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

additional parsley for garnish

Place dried fruit in medium bowl and cover with water. Soak for 1 hour.

In a large pan heat the oil. Cook onion until soft, about 5 minutes, and then stir in turmeric, chives, mint and parsley. Cook over medium-high heat about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add stock, bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes. Add the fruit, soaking water and lamb. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook about 2 hours or until lamb is tender. Taste for salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].