Matt Powell of Scarborough calls himself a “competent home cook.” Photo by Adam Graves

In many ways, cooking is a miracle. Take the lowly potato. By itself, it is pretty worthless. But with the proper technique, the right temperature, fat and salt, the potato is transformed into something delicious, whether it is baked, fried or sauteed.

Another food miracle is how we share recipes. Folks know I like to cook and like to tell me about a new recipe they have discovered. Every so often, someone will mention that they found out about a new recipe called “Miracle Fish Soup,” my recipe. The telephone game is turned on. The miracle of human communication is amazing. It is fun to think about how recipes are loved, shared and adapted.

This dish is a streamlined version of a Brazilian Fish Stew, called Moqueca Capixaba. Stews like this are very popular in Brazil and are made with many different kinds of fish, including shrimp and mussels. Some recipes use beef as well. I am told there is actually a holiday to celebrate the dish.

When I first saw a recipe for the stew in the back of an old Gourmet magazine, I could not believe the timing was correct. I said to my wife, “If this is done in the recommended time, it will be a miracle.” It was in fact done on time, so the dish became known as “Miracle Fish Soup.”

The original recipe called for plantains, which I do not really care for, so I substituted canned cannellini beans. As I recall, this is a much simpler presentation than the original. I cannot find the original recipe, but I will bet I subbed out some other things as well. I never cook anything the same way twice.

One other aspect to the miracle is that you assemble all the ingredients in a cold pot. This can be done well ahead of time. When you have folks over for a meal, you sneak out of the wine conversation, turn the pot on, let simmer for 20 minutes and it is done. Your guests will think you created a miracle dish since it seemingly came with no preparation, and it all came together so quickly. Fun!


Miracle Fish Soup is Powell’s twist on a Brazilian stew. Photo by Matt Powell


Serves 6

2 pounds cod, haddock or hake

½ cup good olive oil

Juice of 2 limes (at least)

4 cloves (at least) garlic, roughly chopped


1 teaspoon (at least) red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped with juice

1 large onion, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 cans cannellini beans, with juice

1 cup chopped cilantro


½ cup chopped parsley

Marinate fish in olive oil, lime juice, garlic and red pepper flakes for at least one hour and up to four.

Put tomatoes in bottom of cold pot. Add onions, peppers and beans. Add fish and pour marinade into pot.

Bring to boil and then simmer 20 minutes, until vegetables have softened and released their juices and fish is barely cooked through.

Stir in herbs, saving some to garnish if you like, and serve with crusty bread and green salad.

THE COOK: Matt Powell, Scarborough

“I consider myself a competent home cook, but have no formal training. I cook mostly Mediterranean and dabble in Asian cuisine as well. I cook mostly for family and friends (and my wife). My two new favorite tools are my Instapot (beans and broth) and my sheet pans.”

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