Friday, September 3, 2010

Author Robin Spano Shares Her Bouillabaisse Recipe and More

I'm back from my unexpected blogging hiatus which I'll be writing about for Sunday Salon. In the meantime I want you to meet Robin Spano, a Canadian mystery writer. She's also a motorcycle enthusiast who makes a killer bouillabaisse.

Robin's first novel, Dead Politician Society, was released on September 1, by ECW Press.

My thanks to Robin for writing today's guest post. We're all in for a treat. 

Aloha from Rob

"As I was Rollerblading home with my groceries the other day, I realized why fiction writers are so often creative cooks. Writing is just like cooking; you throw a bunch of ingredients (or characters) together, turn up the heat, and see what happens. Sometimes you're rewarded with a great dinner or a story that works. Other times, you toss it out and start again.

Some writers avoid potential calamity by plotting their book out before they begin writing. Not me--I dive in and see what happens. I want to get right to the action"
"So I think it makes sense that my favorite recipe is not a recipe at all, but a creation that's slightly different every time I make it. Even though I can't tell you exactly how to reproduce mine, I can tell you all the steps that go into preparing it, so you can create your own original masterpiece at home.

Bouillabaisse. (Also known as zuppa di pesce, cioppino, or fish soup).

It starts with Italian tomatoes. I am not snooty or pretentious about food being upscale or gourmet, but Italian tomatoes are worth the slight cost premium. They're sweeter and have a beautiful flavour. You can go super premium and buy San Marzano or organic--and if your taste buds are sensitive, you will notice the difference. But for everyday cooking, the keyword is Italian. I buy crushed; whole taste equally good.

Fish Stock: Optional. I'm lucky; I live in a fishing village where one of the fishmongers makes a fresh stock from halibut bones. If you can find an excellent fresh fish stock, throw it in. If not, leave it out (I've used canned before and it's not the same). Just use an extra jar of tomatoes for volume, and the flavors from the fish you add will be simple.

Herbs and spices. This won't make or break you, because most of the flavor is from the tomatoes and fish. Play around to your heart's content. I add: garlic, onions, bay leaves, salt, basil, oregano, celery salt. At the table, I add black pepper and tons of chili peppers. (I'd cook with them, but my husband hates hot spice).

I simmer this for a few minutes while I'm preparing the fish. I usually start boiling the pasta water around this time.

Fish. I choose three or four different kinds of fish and seafood and switch up the combination. My favorites to include: sockeye salmon, halibut, scallops, spot prawns, mussels, calamari, ling cod, snapper. (A lot of this is local to where I live in British Columbia; if you have other local seafood, use that). You could also add lobster tail or crab legs (I find them too fussy, but their flavors are great). The only fish I haven't liked in bouillabaisse is black cod---it took over the sauce and I did not enjoy the flavor. But play around; your taste is as good as mine.

Cook the fish for as little time as possible. Prawns are 1 minute (they go in when I turn the pasta off). Mussels are 6 minutes or so. Everything else depends on size, but 3-4 minutes is generally perfect.

Red Wine: Optional. If I have a bottle open (okay, that's usually), I throw some in the sauce near the end.

Pasta: Optional. I like to eat this dish as a giant bowl of soup with a bit of pasta in it. Others prefer to eat it alone, or with bread. Still others prefer to have pasta fill their bowl, and use the bouillabaisse as sauce. Again, it's all about you.

I think writing is like cooking in one more important way: you need to do it for yourself first, and use the edit stage to consider someone else's needs and preferences. Maybe I'll use a bit less spice or a bit less swearing than I would if I was the sole consumer, but really, I'm writing a book that will entertain me, and cooking a meal I can get excited about. Enjoy!" written by Robin Spano

For more information on Dead Politician Society, visit Robin on Facebook, Twitter and her website. I also recommend watching Robin's book trailer on YouTube.


  1. oh YES! gonna try that bouillabaisse IMMEDIATELY!

  2. One variation my stepfather tried was adding truffle oil and some different kinds of mushrooms (porcini, shitake, etc.) I can still taste that sauce in my memory; it was fabulous.

  3. One way get readers to visit a blog - post through their stomachs. LOL. I'm a soup lover, so any recipe that goes with a slice of homebaked bread is going to appeal to me. Nice post, Robin. And nice blog, Rob! See you over at FB.

    Happy day ~ Dani

  4. YUM! I have cioppino every Christmas Eve -- I spend the time with friends, and he's Sicilian and makes an amazing one.

  5. What a great analogy… and the bouillabaisse sounds delicious.

  6. Hi Rob, I've missed your posts! My mom used to make a killer cioppino with a recipe she found in Sunset magazine. Like all great cooks, she fiddled with the recipe to make it her own and I still have dreams about it! Thanks to Robin for sharing her recipe. Look forward to visiting her website.

    Aloha, Bonnie

  7. Wow, Robin, you certainly have some amazing seafood items available. We don't have the salmon and many other items you mention available here. Besides that, I'm not a cook. What a nice post though. I like your comparison to writing.

    Thank you,

  8. Robin, you truly are a woman of many talents!

  9. This was a fun tour stop for me. You're right, Monti - I'm lucky where I live that all this seafood is available. At the moment, salmon is basically jumping from the river across the street directly onto our barbecue! (It's a good year.)

    Rob, thanks for hosting me, and for introducing me to Books Are Like Candy Corn. I'll be back to read your future posts; I feel relaxed every time I'm on this site.

  10. HI Rob, Great to see you again. Wonderful guest post by Robin. I will definitely be checking for one of her books. Love her approach to cooking and writing. Thanks.

  11. I love recipes and I love soup. But this one is definitely something new for me. Thanks for sharing!


Aloha! Thanks for taking time to talk story. Your comment will be posted soon.

Ho'ola'i na manu i ke aheahe

"The birds poise quietly in the gentle breeze."
Said of those who are at peace with the world, undisturbed and contented.