Food Friday: Cioppino

Quick and easy cioppino

Cioppino, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a tomato-based seafood stew. It was developed by Italians who came to the San Francisco area, and it’s one of my favorite Bay Area foods (and foods in general). When you get it in restaurants it’s often made with mussels in the shell and fresh salmon and other impressive-looking and pricey options, but it was originally intended as a family meal that used whatever fish and seafood your family caught that day. This recipe is a simplified version that uses all ingredients from the pantry and freezer, and makes up quickly, so it’s great for a quick weeknight meal. This version makes enough for 3-4 adults.

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes with green chiles *
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
Basil
Crushed red pepper
1 – 1 1/2 lb of frozen seafood; a mixture any or all of the following: scallops, shrimp (tail-off), or calamari [Trader Joe’s sells a bag of mixed seafood that works great]
1 small can salmon (make sure to buy the kind with no bones – ask me why I know)
1 small can crab meat

Saute the onion in the olive oil on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes; for the last minute or so add the garlic. Add the tomatoes and spices and bring to a simmer. Add the frozen seafood and cook 3-5 minutes. Drain and add the canned seafood and cook until warmed through. Great served with garlic bread.

* Cioppino traditionally has a bit of a kick to it. Italian peppers are more authentic but chiles taste good too, and the canned tomatoes with chiles are an easy way to add flavor. If you like spicy food, use more chiles, some chile paste, or just a bit more crushed red pepper. If you avoid spiciness or are cooking for small kids, just use regular chopped tomatoes.

Tweaks: If you have a green pepper or rib of celery, chop it up and saute with the onion. In the summer, add a few chopped fresh tomatoes or substitute for one of the cans of tomatoes, and cook down a bit before adding the seafood. If you have a bottle of white wine open, add a half cup to the tomato mixture. Add fresh fish, chopped into chunks, to the mixture – any kind of whitefish works great – and cook a little longer.

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