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1.07.2013

Cioppino

Do you have a restaurant meal that makes your eyes bulge out of your head when you see it on the menu?  One that you order no matter what restaurant, neighborhood, time zone, or psychological state you're in?


My sister orders pasta alla vodka whenever it's on the menu.  No matter where we are.  No matter what noodle they use.  Winter, summer, raining, snowing, rigatoni, penne, Italian restaurant, Moroccan restaurant (no, just kidding), it doesn't matter.  She sees it and boom.  Menu closed.

Then she takes five bites and saves the rest for 3 night's worth of dinners.  She also recently texted me that she finally just finished her stash of boardwalk candy from this summer's beach vacation.  She's a saver.  We are sooooo different.

Cioppino, a hearty seafood stew with a thick and spicy tomato broth, is my penne alla vodka.  It's my see-it-on-the-menu, no-need-to-search-any-further, done-and-done kind of meal.  I love it because it's healthy, the flavors are BEAUTIFUL, and it almost always comes with a toasted, garlicky slice of sourdough bread for dipping.  Come on.  It's like you don't even need to think anymore.

Remember how I spent time in California  recently?  I ate Cioppino, oh, I don't know, a THOUSAND times on this trip.  I could not get enough of the local seafood and the different, bold spices used in this part of the country, and my beloved Cioppino seemed like the perfect vehicle for enjoying the best of the area.  I was so not disappointed.

Because I've since had dreams where I'm swimming like a fish in Cioppino broth, I decided to recreate this recipe at home.  I found this recipe by Giada DiLaurentiis and doctored it up a smidge.  It still contains the basics like tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes, but I pureed the soup until thick just before adding the shrimp and chunks of white fish to cook.  This created a thicker, heartier "stew", perfect for dipping crusty bread.

And talk about healthy!  Fennel and tomatoes make for a rich sauce and healthy sauce, and you can load this up with whatever lean seafood you like.  Serve it on its own or over your favorite whole wheat pasta for an even more substantial meal.

Moral of the story?  Don't think.  Just make.  And, Leslie, just an FYI that this won't keep well under your bed for 5 months.


Cioppino
Adapted from a recipe by Giada DiLaurentiis
Serves 4-6

Ingredients;
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes in their juices
1 1/2 c dry white wine
4 c low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 lb firm-flesh fish fillets (I used Hake, but you could use halibut, mahi-mahi or salmon), cut into 2-inch chunks
1 lb peeled, deveined, cooked, tail-off shrimp, thawed

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, fennel, and salt, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the tomato paste until well combined.

Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, chicken broth, and bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it's thick and chunky.  Alternatively, you could ladle spoonfuls of the soup into your blender, puree, and pour back into the pot.  Continue until all of the soup is blended.


Add the fish chunks to the simmering pot.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Add in the cooked shrimp, and cook an additional minute or until the fish is cooked through and the shrimp is just warmed.  You don't want to overcook the shrimp or else they will be rubbery, so add at the very end of the fish cooking time.


Season the soup to taste with more salt and red pepper flakes if desired.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

1 comment:

Suzy said...

I love it too. I WANT to order it every time I see it on a menu and I do sometimes. I often refrain though because as much as I love it the price usually puts me off. Its soup! lol But darn good soup I know! I have made it at home and need to do it again soon. I'm the only seafood lover in my house so its mine all mine! :-)

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