Cioppino: Comfort Food Lite
It is May. I realize for many of us that means the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we can all stroll around in sandals. Lest we forget, though, I reside in Seattle, the land of darkness and gloom. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to love the Pacific Northwest: crisp, clean air, gorgeous views of the mountains and water, athletic and intelligent citizens, lovely green trees everywhere, I can pretend I’m on Twin Peaks, etc… but I’m not gonna front. The fact that it’s officially spring and we are still dealing with rainy, gray 40-something degree days can get very depressing.
To be fair, bummer weather means more time I “get” to spend inside. While everyone else is dancing around on sun-drenched beaches, savoring tropical fruits and sipping on Mai Tais (maybe?! I don’t know what you exotic strangers do in your warm climates!) I have ample opportunities to play around in the kitchen. Last week my friend Kasey and I wanted to cook something soothing to counteract the lame rainy day, but I was sick of heavy, wintry comfort food. We decided to take the best of both worlds – warm and cozy, yet light and healthy – and threw together the perfect cioppino.
There is a lot to like about cioppino (unless you have a shellfish allergy, which, sorry). People are soooo impressed by it. The sheer amount of seafood and its effortlessly beautiful presentation is enough to win over any dinner guest. While it is not costly to make, the ingredients are so luxurious. And despite its impressive and somewhat intimidating demeanor, cioppino is incredibly simple to throw together! Try it, I promise you will be surprised at how easy it is!
Since we wanted to have a healthy, well-rounded meal, we added kale, an excellent move. This recipe is very loosely based on an Epicurious recipe but we took a heavy dose of creative liberties, and dare I say it turned out even better than their version.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Turkish bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups red wine (we used Zinfandel)
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
2 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 pound skinless fillet of halibut, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound mussels
1/2 pound shrimp, deveined
…but honestly, feel free to add your favorite seafood/shellfish. Don’t be shy!
Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then stir in onion, shallot, bay leaves, thyme, pepper flakes, and as much salt and pepper as you’d like.
Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring once or twice.
Add tomatoes, water, wine, and clam juice and boil, covered, for about 15 minutes. Toss your kale into the pot and continue to boil. After kale has started to soften, stir in seafood and cook, uncovered, until fish is cooked through and mussels open, 4 to 6 minutes (throw out any shellfish that don’t open, this means they are gross dead shellfish corpses insufficient for consumption). It should look something like this:
Taste your broth and re-season accordingly. Enjoy a steaming bowl of your cioppino with a large glass of leftover vino and a chunk of crusty bread for dipping. These components are essential to a successful cioppino experience.
Supposedly this will make 4 servings, but Kasey and I easily finished off about 90% of the pot. We didn’t feel guilty for a second.