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Calorie for Calorie: Perhaps the Best Dish I Have Ever Tasted!

I write this as someone who once lost 142 pounds on a diet. And, with a year's effort, gained it back. Of course I then lost over a hundred pounds a second time and, remarkably kept it off.

Unfortunately, then and today to accomplish this I count calories. Obsessively for thirty + years. Foie gras, white truffled risotto, baked haddock-all are calroies that I've counted over time.

What I am about to say I write as someone who has spent a lifetime on a diet. Also, as someone who has been fortunate to eat his way through Europe-a number of times. I've posted on here at length about Michelin starred restaurants, written about crossing an Ocean for a meal or the U. S. for a good hamburger. Every glass of wine that I drink each day is counted, just as the 30+ years of chronicles of my daily calories.

This, calorie for calorie is the best of all.

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/re... is the recipe for cod in a fresh fennel/onion/tomato broth that is just absolutely delicious. I doubled the linked recipe and ate both my and my wife's portions. Yes, it was THAT good.

I cannot tell you how appreciative I am to the Washington Post writer who created this. I should note here that someone at the Post thought enough of this recipe since it was the feature story in their Food section last Wednesday and a headline on their website.

Still, this is incredible. I just want to share with others who believe that every calorie counts.

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  1. I should add that for the white wine I used New Zealand's Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.

    1. I've just started reading you and you have much credibility with me (and many others, I'm sure). For YOU to rave like this, I've already saved THIS recipe. And fennel is one of my favorites. Thank you.

      5 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        Thank you c oliver. This is just a remarkably simple but absolutely delicious dish that tastes far more fattening then it really is. The Post actually didn't present it as a low calorie entree-that's my emphasis.

        1. re: c oliver

          I must be living under a rock for some time now. I am an avid 'disliker' of fennel :{

          1. re: iL Divo

            I thought I was, too, until I had it in a delicious Italian-sausage pasta sauce. Totally changed my perspective:


            1. re: iL Divo

              Have you tried just a little fennel seed in something? But it does have a distinct flavor and I can understand it's not for everyone.

              1. re: iL Divo

                I love fennel, but think that cod is one of the most boring fish on the planet.

            2. joe h, thanks for that recipe! may i suggest a teensy tiny caloric addition that i think might amp up the flavor of your cod in tomato broth dish: ouzo. i think the alcohol will help extract more of the tomato, fennel and onion flavors, plus enhancing the fennel-y aspect of the dish.

              6 Replies
              1. re: alkapal

                Alkapal, just curious how does ouzo differ from pernod? are they interchangable?

                1. re: cassoulady

                  i only know that they are *similar,* but i think pernod has some herbal elements that ouzo does not -- making it more complex and perhaps even better suited to use in a dish like this stew. ouzos, however, vary according to manufacturer's secret recipes, and thus may be more complex in flavoring: "Ouzo starts by distilling 96 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) pure ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin (or 96 percent pure ethyl alcohol in which 0.05 percent natural anethole has been added) in copper stills together with anise and optionally other flavorings, such as star anise, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon. The composition of flavoring ingredients are often closely-guarded company secrets and serve to distinguish one Ouzo from another." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouzo

                  (trivia of (possible) interest regarding ouzo, arak, similar spirits: "When water or ice is added to ouzo, which is clear in color, it turns milky white; this is because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water. Diluting the spirit causes it to separate creating an emulsion, whose fine droplets scatter the light. This process is called louching, and is also found while preparing absinthe."<<< id.

                  Soooooo......fennel itself has this same anethole compound which is soluble in alcohol and not water -- so even *more* reason to use a little alcohol in any fennel- containing cooked dish.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Ah, the whitening of ouzo -- and my brother's face when he raided the liquor cabinet when we were kids and tried to hide his theft by refilling the bottle to the same level as before.

                2. re: alkapal

                  Thanks, alkapal. Much appreciated! While this recipe is from the Post I have my own recipe for bouillibasse which I am obsessed with having once built a trip around a "traditional bouillibasse" at L'Ane Rouge in Nice: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485636 It had not occurred to me to add Pernod (which I have) or Ouzo. But I am making this again tonight (I really am obsessed with this dish right now!) and will try a splash. Still, this is a very "simple" dish that has almost comfort like flavors. The thought occurs to me I have a bit of saffron, too...

                  1. re: Joe H

                    yes, i too was thinking of shades of bouillibaise -- one of my absolute favorites.
                    i had a nice cioppino in richmond once that was served on fresh papardelle. i'm a sucker for seafood stews! ;-). this recipe you have linked is a much simplified zuppa de pesce, right?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      The zuppa de pesce recipes I've seen do not include fennel. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/it... is the link to a seafood stew that seems very similar, i.e. basic ingredients such as fennel, onion, lemon zest, tomatoes and white wine.

                      Over the years I've made a lot of seafood stews including several different cioppinos and a half dozen or more bouillibasse. The above didn't have as much liquid nor any "complexity" of flavor beyond the few ingredients. I wouldn't compare it to anything else; rather, it was just really good for the simple dish that it is. I should also mention that I used fresh cod.

                3. I saw this recipe a few days ago and saved it, too! Funny coincidence. It sounds wonderful. I'll have to find out what "cod" is in German and get cooking. I am on a big fennel kick lately. Thanks for the review and story!

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    christina, i don't know if you ever saw/posted on the big fennel thread, but the link is listed below, "let's appreciate licorice, anise and fennel." it's got *great* ideas for fennel lovers, like so many of us.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      You forgot the link, babycakes. I've been meaning to revisit that one.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I see it, here at the bottom of this thread, one of the auto-generates. I'll check it out. Thanks!

                        p.s. here is my absolute favorite (and much more calorific) fennel recipe, a pasta with Italian sausage and braised fennel: http://culinspiration.wordpress.com/2...

                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          Yep, I saw that after I posted.

                          Italian sausage and fennel are two of my favorites. You should also post that on the fennel thread.

                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                        Cod is das Kabeljau, I believe. Too many years spent reading Brigitte in my past...this recipe sounds delicious, love fennel in/with anything.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          der kabeljau '-). but you're right. schellfisch is haddock. for some reason, i always confuse those two.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            Damn I always have a problem with gender in German! Thanks.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              Everyone does. To many, there's no rhyme or reason to it.

                      2. Joe, if you were standing in front of me right now i'd hug you. *thank you* for sharing your experiences and this wonderful recipe. i'm constantly trying to teach people that healthful eating habits should NOT preclude the joy of eating delicious (and yes, occasionally "indulgent") food, and it pleases me to no end to see a fellow Chowhound living it!

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Thank you for the sweet words, goodhealthgourmet. They are sincerely appreciated!

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Henry Miller once wrote..."I am living at the Villa Borghese. We are alll alone here and we are...."

                            He was talking about a spirit, a perspective for life when he wrote this. Tonight, having made the exact same recipe two nights in a row I decided that I had much in common with Henry Miller. I ate my portion AND my wife's portion. While I never considered that I might be at the Villa Borghese I seriously considered that whatever Villa I was in, I had eaten too much.

                            I must note here, too much of a low calorie dish. If the nutritional info says 310 calories per portion and there are only two portions, well, I doubled the basic portion. then ate almost all! My wife looked at me with amazement! Could a man really eat so much of a low calorie, nutritious dish that he gets fat? Well...fatter?

                            I tried my best. My confession: it was really, really good. But 1,200 calories later I have to wonder what else I could have eaten for over a thousand calories? Would a banana split-in moderation (!) have been better?

                            It's not easy to get fat (er) eating healthy. Tonight, I tried my best.

                            1. re: Joe H

                              Please forgive me goodhealthgourmet, I went too far tonight! Now, the guilt has settled in. The Guilt!!!

                              1. re: Joe H

                                ahh, but the point, Joe, is that there's noting to feel guilty about. you enjoyed it, STILL consumed fewer calories than you probably would have at a restaurant, and what you ate was nutritious and satisfying to boot! where's the harm in that? mind you, i wouldn't encourage you to eat that much EVERY night, but your body and soul were both nourished, and tomorrow is another day. let it go. besides, the banana split might have been enjoyable in the moment, but both your conscience and your body will be happier with the meal you *did* eat :)

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Tomorrow night, goodhealthgourmet, I eat salad...without dressing.

                                  1. re: Joe H

                                    I'd take that dish over a banana split ANY night. But I gotta ask: what does your poor wife get to eat? Is she a skinny little thing? Or did she have a banana split???

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      When we met 17 years ago she was a size 4. She told me that food wasn't important to her, only a good candy bar. I told her then that food was a far too important part of my life. Today she would still prefer a candy bar-or a banana split. Perhaps the difference is that now she wants me to make the ice cream from scratch...

                                      Size 4? That's not important. Putting up with me is.

                                      1. re: Joe H

                                        And that's a lovely sentiment.

                                    2. re: Joe H

                                      "Tomorrow night, goodhealthgourmet, I eat salad...without dressing."
                                      oh no you don't! you can't absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from all those veggies without a little fat in there. at least a drizzle of high-quality oil. (or toss in a slice of avocado or a tablespoon of seeds or chopped nuts).

                                      and i agree with c o re: the sentiment about your wife :)

                                        1. re: Joe H

                                          And you're "just" remarkable :)

                          2. So many thanks for posting this recipe. I mean to try it soon.

                            BTW: Marcella Hazan has an excellent fennel/fish recipe, Sauteed Snapper or Bass with Finocchio, Sicilian Style (in Essentials) I make the recipe with halibut and it is so easy and so good, not to mention low calorie.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: erica

                              I'm making Osso Buco Bianco right this minute from that book. Will check it out.

                            2. Wonderful recipe. It's nothing more (or less) than the Neapolitan pesce all'aqua pazza, or crazy water. Batali's done it often, and Schwartz's Naples cookbook has a lengthy base version. It works with shellfish, too, mixed or of one type--often, jumbo shrimp are less expensive than good fresh cod. I've done it with the juice from a can of San Marzano tomatoes, too, and a few crushed cherry tomatoes are a nice addition.A small finger of hot red pepper works wonders, too. A tavola!

                              1. I wish I could hug you too. I've slipped up on my dieting recently and have been working on the motivation to get back on the horse. Thank you for being a wonderful chow "mentor" and letting us know that a hound can still be hound and diet too. You are braver than I am, I'd avoid finding out the caloric value of Foie Gras. Thanks for sharing the recipe and your story.

                                1. Oh dear. I bought all the ingredients for making this dish without reading the directions closely enough. I do not have an oven-safe skillet/sauté pan. Do you think the recipe could be adapted to the stovetop (i.e. just poaching the fish on a low burner)? Or should I transfer everything to a gratin dish to finish in the oven?

                                  Help! :(

                                  1. Verdict: Very good. A nice fish option; I'll be saving this recipe. I am sure it is even better with the cod the recipe calls for.

                                    I followed the recipe except for I added a bay leaf and half a shallot, plus a dash of cayenne. I ended up having to poach on low heat on the stove, but it came out perfectly. Also sprinkled with fresh parsley in addition to the lemon zest and olive oil. A flavorful olive oil is really nice here.

                                    I served mine with cheesy polenta (the Italians are aghast---cheese and fish!) and dilled cucumber salad. Satisfying--I look forward to the leftovers tomorrow.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      Thanks for trying it, Christina. I'm certain that many fish would do well instead of cod. Some perhaps even better (i.e. haddock). I just really like the flavors, especially considering that the entire recipe is something like 600 calories total!

                                      1. I'm working on a riff on this recipe involving seared boneless, skinless chicken breast. I also want to incorporate some ideas from Eric Ripert's "chicken bouillabaisse" (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/01/din...).

                                        I especially want to up the flavor of the broth a bit with some of Ripert's herbs and spices. And this is just a personal preference, but fishy broth sometimes turns me off. Let's see how the adaptation goes! I'll report back.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                                          "chicken bouillibasse" looks really interesting!

                                          1. re: Joe H

                                            I read on another thread that it's very good, but haven't tried it myself yet. It looks a bit time consuming...and I don't own any Pernod. If you try it, let me know what you think! :)

                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                              While this will be quite different I am actually somewhat obsessed with bouillibasse, Christina. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485636

                                        2. We just made this tonight. I used a bit more wine and juice than called for (and poured some wine to drink, of course!) and it was fantastic! We got a nice fresh local baguette and tore it up to dip in the broth. Simple, easy. Wrote it up here:
                                          I'd make this again in a heartbeat.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: marcreichman

                                            Thanks, marcreichman! And, it's about 300 or fewer calories per serving which I believe is remarkable for so much flavor.

                                            1. re: Joe H

                                              I'm also not a huge fan of fennel. I had some great food at Roy's last night, my only complaint was "this butter tastes like fennel". It sounds like you have a unique perspective-- I'm curious, what other dishes do you think are calorie-for-calorie worthwhile?

                                          2. As I've read thru the thread, I see some other fennel/anise/licorice flavor dislikers. I really would like to try making this dish with a substitute for the fennel. Has anyone already tried, say, a celery & caraway seed subsitution? Or are y'all waiting for me to do it and report back?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: weezycom

                                              You could could easily leave out the fennel and add thinly sliced red onion, more garlic, some lemon slices, and lots of fresh parsley. A bit of sliced fresh hot pepper would be fine, too.

                                            2. I made this last night. It was really great. We did add some shrimp to it and also some sambuca. It was so good I might make it tonight. Thanks so much for sharing.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Analisas mom

                                                shrimp and sambuca (or ouzo) is terrific with tomatoes and feta, too, served on pasta.