Tasty Tuesday – Zuppa di Pesca

 

                                          

Cioppino is a grand San Francisco seafood dish modeled on the traditional Italian “Zuppa di Pesca” (Soup of Seafood) prepared as village specialities along its coasts, some of which bore names that sounded like “Cioppino”.  San Francisco’s fishermen have been Italian and Portuguese for generations; this recipe comes from their traditions, the  restaurateurs of San Francisco and the wonderful variety and quality of seafood that the coastal waters there provide.

Note that Cioppino is typically served with the shellfish still in their shells, making for somewhat messy eating. It’s a lot of fun for an informal gathering. Have plenty of napkins available and don’t wear white.

                                  

                                   Cioppino

Seafood

  • 3 pounds halibut, sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into inch-long cubes
  • 1 large (2 lb or more) cooked Dungeness crab (hard shell) or a cooked lobster
  • 1 pound (or more) of large shrimp
  • 2 pounds little neck clams, mussels, or oysters or all three

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 large green bell pepper)
  • 3 coves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28 ounce can tomatoes
  • Broth from the mollusks
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cups fish or shellfish stock
  • An herb bouquet of bay leaf, parsley, and basil wrapped in a layer of cheesecloth and secured with kitchen string
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley for garnish

Optional seasonings: a dash of Tabasco sauce and or Worcestershire sauce

Steam mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters) in a small amount of water (about a cup) until they just open. Set aside. Strain and reserve the cooking broth.

If using crab, removed the crab legs from the body and use a nut cracker to crack the shells so that the meat can be easily removed once it is served (leave the meat in the shell). Break the body in half, and then cut each half again into either halves or thirds. Keep the top shell of the crab for making stock.

If you are using lobster, cut the tail in pieces and reserve the body and legs for making stock.

Note you can use prepared fish or shellfish stock, or you can make your own. If you are not making your own stock, you can discard the crab top shell or lobster body. If prepared shellfish stock is not available, you can combine some prepared fish stock (available at many markets, including Trader Joe’s) with clam juice.

Split the shrimp shells down the back and remove the black vein.  The easiest way to do this, without removing the shell, is to lay the shrimp on its side and insert a small knife into the large end of the shrimp, with the blade pointing outward from the back (away from the shrimp and your hands). Once you have split the shrimp shells, you can turn the knife toward the shrimp, and cut in a little to find the black vein. Pull out the vein as much as you can. You can probably also use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the backs of the shrimp.

Alternatively, you can shell the shrimps and devein them. Shell-on imparts more flavor; shell-off is easier to eat.

In a deep 8-quart covered pot, sauté onions and green pepper on medium heat in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, broth from the mollusks, red wine, tomato juice, fish or shellfish stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove herb bouquet. Taste and correct seasoning.

Add the fish and cook, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the steamed mollusks, crabmeat, and shrimp. Heat just until shrimp are cooked (just 2-3 minutes, until they are bright pink). Do not overcook.

Serve in large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with crusty French or Italian bread and a robust red wine. Have plenty of napkins available, a few extra bowls for the shells, and nut crackers and tiny forks for the crab.

Serves 8.

 

Signature

Tasty Tuesday – Clams Casino

 

Mmmmmmm…I know, I know!  Deeelish, right, especially if you’re a lover of  bivalves, errrr…Clams!  This recipe is perfect for summer gatherings.

                       I give you….Clams Casino

36 littleneck clams
4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled, cut into 1-inch squares
12 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F

Shuck the clams, reserving the clam juice and arranging the clams on the half shell side in a 13 x 11 inch baking dish. Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into the baking dish. Sprinkle some of the parsley over the clams. Top each clam with a square of roasted pepper. Cover the pepper with two squares of bacon. Using about 3 tablespoons of butter, dot the top of each clam with about 1/4 teaspoon butter. Cut the remaining butter into several pieces and tuck them in and around the clams in the baking dish. Add the wine and remaining parsley to the baking dish.

Bake until the bacon is crisp and the pan juices are bubbling, about 12 minutes. Arrange clams on a warmed serving platter, or divide them among warmed plates. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the juices over the clams and serve immediately.

 

Signature

Emma’s “Holy Saturday” Frittata

I’ve always felt that the sign of a really good cook is their ability to make a delicious meal out of whatever items they have on hand; my late mother-in-law, Emma, worked that very magic in her kitchen.   You could stop by, anytime, and in a flash,  you would be enjoying a marvelous feast.
Being Italian, she had little twists that she put into her meals that were so satisfying, and filling.  Taking her shopping, on the other hand, could test the boundaries of ones patience; my oldest daughter Jen can attest to that fact.  Never was there just one stop for groceries, Emma had separate stores for her meat, her cold cuts, vegetables and bread, much to the frustration of Jen who was the only one out of Emma’s grandchildren who religiously chauffeured her grandmother around, week after week, including a Saturday stop at the hair salon.
The one trip we all loved to make was down to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx area of New York; a yearly pilgrimage just before Easter when this famous shopping area is at its best and…crowded!  Hanging in the windows of various butcher shops are baby lambs and goats (don’t go “ewwww”…it’s an Italian thing to have both at Easter) and merchants are always happy to feed you, giving samples of their shop specialties to lure you into spending money.  But, even there, my mother-in-law still had her favorite stores that we followed her in and out of, holding shopping bags full of Sausage, Cheeses, Pasta, Breads, Easter Chocolates, Sfogliatelle, Cannoli and Napoleons from Artuso Pastry, our last stop as we struggled with bulging packages, making our way back to the car.
Everything I first learned to cook was from my book collection but, thanks to Emma, I developed a passion for creating meals as she did without the dependence on the written word or even measuring.  A little of this, a lot of that and, “don’t forget the Basil” were important ingredients to almost every meal.  I can still see her in the kitchen, slicing a huge loaf of round, crusty Italian bread while holding it under one arm.  When my husband was little, he remembers his father making trips to a local store to buy “Pot Cheese” (fresh Ricotta), packed in tall metal containers covered with cellophane and a rubber band that held the overflowing cheese from spilling down the sides; cheese so fresh that its middle would be almost buttery and perfect to spread over thick slices of bread with some grape jelly added.  Simple foods, incredible pleasures.

                                                                             

One of her seven sisters, Gilda, lived nearby and she was the baker of the family, making a fabulous Strawberry Spongecake drenched in a mouth-watering whipped cream for special occasions, a recipe I have still.   Aunt Gilda once taught me to make a regional pasta, called Garganelli, that she rolled on sticks brought from Italy.  Once rolled, the sticks were carefully removed and the pasta gently cut into smaller pieces, allowed to rest, then quickly cooked to be served with an amazing sauce.

Each year, on Holy Saturday, my mother-in-law would make her Frittata; a basic dish with Asparagus, Sausage meat, Eggs and Fresh Basket Cheese; this meal was a tradition after fasting on Good Friday.  It’s a very simple, easy to make dish, done in one large saute`pan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Basket Cheese can be found in most good Italian delicatessens; this soft, almost bland, cheese is generally made around Easter although it periodically appears at other times of the year; it is named simply after the container it is put in to drain and ripen. Most basket cheese is eaten fresh, soft and unsalted, but you can also salt it lightly and let it set for a longer time to obtain a firmer cheese. It’s delicious eaten with just a drop of Olive Oil, a sprinkling of Garlic Salt and a slice of Tomato!

   Basket Cheese             
                                         
                   
               Fresh Asparagus            
                           
                     Fresh Italian Sweet Sausage              
                  
                                                                                                     Eggs
                                                                                                                         
To serve four, you will need:
  • Large Saute`Pan
  • 1 Basket Cheese
  • 1 Pound Fresh Asparagus
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Pound Sweet Sausage
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
Remove the Sausage meat from their casings….you can just squeeze it out…saute with a dash of Olive Oil until cooked through; drain, remove from pan, set aside.
Turn out the Basket Cheese onto a cutting board and easily cut into cubes, set aside.
Cut the woody stem ends from the Asparagus, cut each stalk into 1″ pieces.  Using large pan, gently saute in one tablespoon of Olive Oil until tender, not soft; color should still be bright green.  Add cooked Sausage meat to pan, mix with Asparagus and the Chopped Garlic, cooking over low heat.  Add a drop more Olive Oil if needed.
Stir in cubed Basket Cheese, continue to cook over low heat.
Beat 6 eggs in bowl and slowly pour into pan, raising heat to medium level.  Slide pan back and forth across burner so that the mixture doesn’t stick and you have an Omelet consistency. 
When cheese is soft and eggs are set….you have…Emma’s “Holy Saturday” Frittata!  Serve along with a side Tomato Salad, fresh Italian Bread and…a nice Merlot if you don’t have Chianti in your wine collection.
 For more servings, just double your ingredients. 
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