Honestly, it’s been beautiful. Mild days. Cool breezes. Sunny and cloudy in equal measure. Not a single activity has been postponed due to weather, I’m sure. I should know, I’ve been outdoors quite a bit between walks with the pup and braving the endless steps of Texas State; it’s certainly hard to complain, even if I do wish the weather was more befitting the season.
My long break between terms was equally as nice, albeit a tad boring. I haven’t had that little to do since those glorious school days in which full summers were free of obligation. That was a long time ago. So I’ve been occupying myself by rereading the entire Harry Potter series and watching every episode of The Vampire Diaries (Stop judging me. I can feel you judging me). But I’m so thankful to be in a position where I don’t have to work and am able to go to school full time, which commenced last week. Truthfully, I’m glad to have something to do, something to occupy most of my time.
I can not express how nice it is to have nights free to cook dinner! It’s spurred my culinary creativity and made me feel like a normal person with a normal schedule. My favorite of all the dishes I’ve been experimenting with are in the soup department: Butternut Squash with Brown Butter, Pasta Fagioli with Winter Greens, and Cioppino. I’ve said it before, but I just love soup. I love the richness, the complexity, the warmth it brings. This Cioppino, or more appropriately, this seafood stew is so satisfying and any seafood lovers’ dream. Plus, it’s a cinch to make.
I hope this new year has thus far exceeded your expectations, as it has mine.
Cioppino (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups white wine
- 1 280z can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 5 cups seafood stock (clam, lobster, shrimp or a mixture)
- 2 bay leaves
- about 5 large leaves of basil, chopped
- big handful of Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 pound clams, scrubbed clean
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound halibut, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/2 pound bay scallops
- 1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed clean (optional, I didn’t use them the second time I made this soup)
- basil oil (optional)
- s&p to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, shallots, and a pinch of s&p and sweat for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for another minute. Add tomato paste and saute for yet another minute, stirring. Add wine, raise the heat a little, and let it simmer until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Add San Marzano tomatoes, fish stock, basil, bay leaves, and another pinch of s&p. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and raise heat to medium again. Add the clams, shrimp, and halibut and cook for 5 minutes. Add the bay scallops and cook for another 3 minutes. Make sure the clams are fully open. Check for seasoning. Take off heat and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and top with some more fresh basil or a drizzle of basil oil if you like. Serve hot with ciabatta rolls, halved and sprayed with a little olive oil and rubbed with a clove of garlic.