A Cure for the January Blahs

January seems to be the dreariest, coldest, most miserable month of the year.  It follows a festive holiday season that begins in November and lasts through New Year’s Day.  Then suddenly the party is over, back to work or school, and time to pay the bills.  Many folks choose this time of the year to begin a workout regimen, or a new diet plan, or stop drinking in order to work on any new year resolutions they may have made, which translates to NO ONE IS HAVING ANY FUN.

Here’s why I really dislike January:  it’s my birthday month.  I know, we always hear about folks with birthdays around Christmas and how they get shafted with combination birthday/Christmas gifts, or never have a real birthday party because everyone is busy around the holidays.  I know this, because my husband’s birthday is 9 days before Christmas and I have ALWAYS made his birthday a special event – I refuse to wrap his birthday gifts in Christmas wrapping paper.  I insist on a nice dinner out, cake, candles, all of it.  The upside to the Christmas time birthday is (most) folks are in a festive, celebratory mood, so that is certain to spill over into your birthday – even if it is lumped in with Christmas.

January, on the other hand, is not what I would call a “festive” month, save for the first day.  January is typically cold, and most people aren’t ready yet for another celebration.  January birthdays kinda stink because no one has any money, no one is eating carbs, and no one is drinking, and if they are, an ice storm or blizzard is sure to roll in to make sure you don’t go anywhere.  I know, huge generalization, but you get the point:  January birthdays are blasé.

Here in Georgia this year, January has been unusually cold.  Like, really cold – like Minnesota cold.  And, while bundling up is the first step, I’ve found that good old-fashioned soup is what really warms me up.  It’s amazing how after eating soup, not only do I feel full, but my body actually feels warmer.  And usually, soups are pretty healthy, unless we’re talking broccoli cheese soup or loaded baked potato soup.  I’ve definitely been on a soup kick lately, but I wanted to prepare something different – not the same old chicken noodle or split pea soup.  I opened the freezer and saw the last two remaining snapper fillets from our fishing trip last fall in Destin, FL.  I wanted to do something with those, but the idea of “fish soup” just didn’t sound appetizing

*Side note:  that thought was prior to me enjoying a bowl of cioppino at our favorite local seafood joint, Goin’ Coastal.  Wow.  This delightful dish of shrimp, clams, and mussels in a hearty fish and tomato broth was out of this world!

I just happened to have a can of cannellini beans in the pantry, and I always have canned tomatoes and chicken broth on hand (they are pantry staples!), so I set out to make this soup.  I also used the last zucchini I had on hand and some onion to give it additional flavor and texture.  I decided to keep the fish simple – only using salt and pepper as alone it had a good flavor and I didn’t want it to overpower the broth.  It was delicious, and my husband was impressed with the results.

Red Snapper with White Beans and Tomato Broth

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 red snapper fillets
sea salt and cracked pepper
¼ cup sweet yellow onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
¼ cup cooking marsala or dry wine
1 can of diced stewed tomatoes, with juices
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
32 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy bottom large pot over medium high heat. Cook onion until golden, then add the zucchini, sautéing just until it starts to turn golden. Add the white wine and let it reduce about 1 minute. Reduce heat and add the tomatoes in their juices, the beans, broth, and the spices. Bring it to a low simmer.

Pat the fish fillets with a paper towel, then season liberally with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil over high heat, careful to not let it burn or begin to smoke, then add the fish filets to the pan, letting them sear for two or three minutes until a nice golden brown crust forms. Carefully flip the fish with a spatula and sear the other side for 2 minutes.

Spoon the broth into two bowls, then top each with a snapper fillet. Serve with a nice, crusty ciabatta bread to sop up the broth.

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