As a chef, I consider our region one of the richest and most satisfying in the world. (And I've worked in quite a few other places!) We have vibrant crops, vast grazing lands, bountiful seafood, fabulous wines and so many reasons to celebrate our local resources.
This soup was inspired by an amazing Spanish Basque chef I met in Paris a number of years back. (He, by the way, envied my Northwest home!) Redolent with wine and garlic, it also utilizes our gorgeous local leeks, delicious mussels and clams, leafy greens and a somewhat unexpected but important addition: Italian sausage!
PCC brand sausages are custom ground for us by Mondo's right here in Seattle. They are our exclusive recipe and definitely (as you might expect) superior quality. Traditionally this dish calls for pork sausage, but I have lightened it by using our Chicken Italian sausage, bursting with fennel and spices! The beautiful thing about this soup is that it can literally be prepared in under 30 minutes and is absolutely gorgeous with its knockout vibrant colors! What a perfect way to celebrate the season!
8 ounces (2 links) PCC brand chicken Italian sausage (mild or spicy!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 organic leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced
4-6 cloves organic garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon thyme
1 cup Washington State white wine
2 cups clam nectar, chicken or vegetable broth
1-14.5 ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and "beards" removed (see note)
1/2 pound clams, scrubbed
1 pound firm-fleshed fish in season, cut into chunks
2 cups chopped organic winter greens (chard, kale, collard, any variety you love!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh organic basil
Extra virgin olive oil and a good vinegar for drizzling
Chopped parsley for garnish
Remove the casings from the sausage. In a large, heavy pot, over medium high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is lightly browned. (About 4-5 minutes) Remove the sausage and its cooking juices from the pan.
Place the pot back on the stove and heat the olive oil over medium heat until the surface begins to move. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme and fennel to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Add the white wine and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the clam juice, chicken or vegetable broth, tomatoes, and the sausage with its juices. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes and then taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt and pepper.
Add the mussels, clams and any other seafood you would like. Toss in the greens and basil. Bring the mixture back to a simmer over medium heat, cover the pot and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the clams and mussels pop open. (Discard any that do not open.)
To serve: Spoon the soup into heated bowls, top with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of your favorite vinegar. Scatter with chopped parsley.
Note: Most mussels have what is commonly called "the beard," also known as byssal threads. The "beard" on a mussel is comprised of many fibers used to attach the mussel to rocks, pilings, so on. To remove the beard, using a dry towel, grasp the beard and give a sharp yank out and toward the hinge end of the mussel.