Monday, January 9, 2012


Blogging always seems like a good idea when you start doing it. Yet. eventually the reality of having to keep it up hits and then it becomes a sort of chore, like having a job. For those of you who actually have real jobs that probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. But for me, who left the daily grind by the wayside a while back, it’s a little more than I bargained for.

Still I do enjoy sharing something when there is something to share. It’s now January, a time for new beginnings. We just got past the ultimate new beginning, New Years Day. Habit, or ingrained work ethic makes me want to start something new and satisfying. The great thing about new recipes is that you not only get a new challenge, but also something to eat! Win Win.

This is not actually my recipe. Steve spotted it first and mentioned it as something he wanted to do. Well, if he wants to cook, who am I to stop him? A new type of recipe usually means that I will participate in some way, even if it is only shopping, making suggestions, or hanging around the kitchen with a glass of wine while he cooks.

So it’s January, cool weather even in California, and soup seems appropriate. Cioppino is a fish stew which Wikipedia says originated in San Francisco. Usually made with catch of the day which can include any number and types of fish like crab, shrimp, mussels, squid and fish. It is related to fish stews from countries like Italy and Portugal and, I suspect from practically any fishing area locale. The local name comes from “to chop” as in chopping up various leftover of the days catch. In any case Steve spotted the recipe in the LA Times and the article about it claimed it was easy, calling it “no work” cioppino which helped sell it. It apparently is a dish from a restaurant in San Luis Obispo.

With the holidays over we are settling back into normal routines, which we dearly love. That includes cooking and eating a little different than we do over the holidays. Lighter, hopefully because we are acutely aware of all that holiday overeating because of being faced with so many choices.

Steve made this last Saturday for us and we invited his mom and sister to enjoy the food. I added a small salad comprised mainly of Point Reyes blue cheese, a few greens dressed in a light vinaigrette and with some slices of pear. We served the cioppino with a hearty bread to help mop up the sauce. We all voted a thumbs up on the recipe- It was wonderful! Delicious flavors, satisfying and beautiful.

My impression was that the most tiresome part of prep was the cutting up of the vegetable and herbs. We believe that you can prepare the sauce a day or two ahead and keep in the refrigerator and then heat up when ready to add the fish and use. The fish don’t take long to cook so it really can be a last minute preparation as far as that part goes.

Ciopinot's 'no work' cioppino

Servings: 4
Note: Adapted from Ciopinot in San Luis Obispo.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound (about 1½) leeks, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally ½-inch thick
1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 dried bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch dice
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup dry white or red wine
1/2 to 1 cup clam juice
Hot sauce
4 to 6 ounces large shrimp (16 to 20 count per pound), shelled and deveined
1/2 pound large scallops
6 ounces firm, light-flesh fish steaks (such as swordfish), cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped
Freshly chopped basil and oregano, for garnish

1. In a medium, heavy-bottom pot heated over medium-high heat, add the oil, then stir in the onions, leeks, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, pepper and saffron. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the herbs are fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine. Cover and simmer gently to develop the flavors, 30 to 45 minutes. Thin if desired with 1/2 cup to 1 cup clam juice. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste. The cioppino base can be made ahead of time to this point; remove from heat, cover and refrigerate up to one day (reheat before continuing).
3. To the pot, add the shrimp, scallops and fish. Cover and simmer gently just until the fish and shellfish are firm and opaque, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and remove from heat. Stir in the chopped cold butter, stirring just until the butter melts to add a little richness to the broth. This makes about 5 cups cioppino. Ladle the cioppino into wide bowls, garnishing each serving with freshly chopped basil and oregano. Serve immediately.

Happy 2012! Bon Apetit
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