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Cioppino

In a recent episode of Stanley Tucci’s “Searching For Italy,” when he was on the Tuscan coast that borders Liguria, he ate a seafood stew called cacciucco, prepared by chef Fabbio Picchi, who owns the restaurant Cibreo in Florence. Picchi followed the cacciucco with a pasta dish tossed in the leftover sauce after the seafood had been polished off. Here I am, chatting with Picchi on a trip to Florence when travel to Italy was relatively easy.

The dishes he prepared and that show in general, had me dreaming about going back to Italy. Since that’s not possible in this pandemic, I had to do the next best thing — cook something like it at home that might transport me for a little while to la bell’Italia. Having just returned from a vacation in the Caribbean where I ate seafood every day, I felt driven to keep up the seafood vibe and decided to make cioppino – an Italian American seafood dish with origins in San Francisco that is similar to cacciucco. So many cultures have versions of seafood stews, and aside from cacciucco, Italy also lays claim to brodetto, a fish stew from the Abruzzo region,  that’s slightly less soupy and tomato-y than cacciucco or cioppino, and is cooked in a clay vessel. I helped prepare this brodetto several years ago while on a trabocco (small wooden fishing piers that jut into the Adriatic) along Abruzzo’s coastline. To read more about trabocchi, click here.

To make the cioppino, start by softening the vegetables in olive oil — onion, garlic, celery, carrots, green pepper and some fennel.

Next add the tomatoes, white wine and seasonings. Be very generous with the basil and parsley. You can make this in a Dutch oven, or in a more shallow pan, like this one. This recipe includes seafood amounts for two very generous servings, but intentionally makes enough sauce for a whole lot more. After we scarfed down all the seafood the night I made this, there was still plenty of leftover sauce to serve over pasta the next day.

After the sauce has simmered for about aan hour, add the shellfish and the rest of the seafood. You don’t have to use the same amounts or types of seafood I did. It’s a very fluid recipe and you can substitute whatever you like and eliminate whatever seafood I’ve included that you don’t like. I used cod but haddock or halibut would be great too. The cost of all this seafood can get a little pricey, but it’s a delicious splurge and would be perfect for a Lenten Friday (or Christmas Eve).  Put the shellfish in after you’ve put the rest of the seafood in, to try to keep them from getting submerged too much and hinder their opening. Place the lid on the pot and keep it at a simmer for 15 minutes, without checking or removing the lid.

After 15 minutes, check to see if the fish is cooked through. If not, put the lid back on for a few more minutes until everything is cooked properly. Some of the clams and mussels might still be closed, so put those aside in a separate pan and place it over a low heat by itself, while you portion out the cioppino, either in the pan where you cooked it, or in a tureen, gently lifting the seafood. The cod will easily fall apart unless you use a large spoon to scoop it up whole.

Serve in bowls with crusty toasted bread, smeared with olive oil and salt, or over polenta.

I made some homemade pasta to toss with the leftover sauce. It was perfect for the next evening’s meal. If I can’t have Italy right now, at least I can have pasta and cioppino!

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Cioppino
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • The amounts for the seafood are for two very generous servings. If you add more seafood to serve more people, you don't need to increase the amount of sauce. This recipe provides enough sauce for at least three or four more servings. In fact, after we had eaten all the seafood from the Cioppino one night, my husband and I used the leftover sauce the next day and served it over homemade pasta, and there was still plenty of sauce left in the pan that I didn't use.
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup green pepper, minced
  • ¼ cup celery, minced
  • ½ of a large fennel bulb, sliced roughly
  • ½ medium carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 26.46 oz. box of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 26.46 oz. box of strained tomatoes
  • (or use all strained tomatoes, or all finely chopped tomatoes if you prefer)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup water (use it to swish out any remaining bits of tomato from the tomato box, jar or cans you use).
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ pound halibut, cod or similar fleshy white fish
  • ½ pound fresh shrimp
  • ½ pound fresh scallops
  • 6 squid bodies, cut into "rings"
  • a dozen mussels
  • a dozen and a half clams
Instructions
  1. Sauté onion, green onion, green pepper, celery, carrot, fennel and garlic in olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pan until limp.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, bay leaf, parsley, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.
  3. Heat to boiling and add the white wine.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. Simmer one hour, then discard the bay leaf.
  6. Cut the cod, or whatever white fish you're using, into two large pieces.
  7. Scrub the clams and mussels thoroughly, removing any "beard" from the mussels.
  8. Cut the squid into rings, and shell and devein the shrimp.
  9. Add the clams and the mussels to the pan, then add the rest of the seafood to the tomato sauce -- the squid, the shrimp, the scallops and the cod.
  10. Put the lid on and let everything cook together at a simmer for 15 minutes, WITHOUT STIRRING and WITHOUT LIFTING THE LID.
  11. If you stir, you will break up the codfish, which flakes apart easily when cooked.
  12. Check it after 15 minutes and if the fish is all cooked, serve the cioppino in the pan you cooked it, or remove it gently to a serving tureen.
  13. If some of the shellfish haven't opened, let them continue cooking in a separate pot, which should take only a few more minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with parsley and serve in bowls with plenty of toasted crusty bread smeared with olive oil and salt, or over polenta.
 

 

 

Shrimp and Corn Salad

Corn is at its peak right now where I live so it was a perfect time to make this delicious salad, using shrimp caught wild in the U.S.  I tried duplicating this dish at home that I ate last week at a new restaurant in town and I think I got pretty close. The weather’s been a scorcher too, so something cold for dinner just felt right. The corn is scraped off the cobs and eaten raw, and I didn’t even have to cook the shrimp since my fish market sold it already cooked. Just toss everything together in a bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, some herbs and seasonings.

The recipe makes enough for four people with normal appetites (or two ravenous adults) so I had enough for myself and to take to a friend who’s been diagnosed with a serious health problem, and her partner.

If you’re in the Princeton, N.J., please do stop by the restaurant for either breakfast or lunch – The Blue Bears. Not only did I love my meal, but the restaurant’s mission also captured my heart – “to sell diverse, freshly made meals everyday and to provide sustainable and meaningful jobs for adults with intellectual and development disabilities.”

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Shrimp and Corn Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ pound boiled shrimp, chilled
  • 2 ears of corn, raw and stripped of the kernels
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 stalks of celery, minced
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.
  2. Place all ingredients, including shrimp in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until everything is combined.
  3. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to help blend flavors.
  4. Serve over lettuce.
 

Fish and Corn Chowder

 It all started with about six ounces of leftover salmon and 1/2 cup of cream. I’m not generally a fan of leftover fish, but as I was driving one day thinking about what to serve for dinner, it occurred to me I had the basis for a creamy chowder sitting in the fridge.
So before I made it home, I picked up six scallops and six large shrimp at the fish store — and a couple of ears of corn at the local farm market.
I had two large cherry tomatoes and a green pepper at home, so that got thrown into the pot too, along with some diced potatoes and herbs.
The recipe is simple – Simmer the base ingredients for about 15 minutes, then add the fish in the last  few
minutes. The scallops and shrimp will need only about 4-5 minutes of
cooking in the hot liquid, and since the salmon was already cooked, it will
need only a minute to heat.
I thickened up the soup a bit by adding another potato that I boiled and mashed.
If you want to eliminate the cream entirely, you can replace it with water and another boiled and mashed potato.
But there is no substitute for that silky feel you get when heavy cream is used.
Leftover salmon never tasted so good.
The winner of the giveaway on my last blog post, a copy of Jamie Schler’s new cookbook, “Orange Appeal,” is Faith Bahadurian, chosen by a random number generator. Congratulations Faith.Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.

You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.

Fish and Corn Chowder
Printable Recipe Here

1 six-ounce piece of leftover salmon (or start with a fresh, uncooked piece)
6 large raw shrimp
6 large scallops
2 ears of corn on the cob, scraped of the kernels
3 small potatoes, two of them diced
2 T. butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced green pepper
1 large garlic clove
water
1/2 cup heavy cream
parsley
thyme
salt, pepper
Devein
the shrimp and put the discarded shells into a pot of water (about two
cups), along with one small potato. Cover and cook until the potato is
easily pierced with a fork. Remove the potato and set aside, and discard
the shrimp shells, retaining the water.

Melt
the butter in a large pan, then add the onion, green pepper and garlic
and cook until softened. Add the water from the discarded shrimp shells
(it will be less than two cups of water after simmering) and the two
diced  (and raw) potatoes. Let the potatoes cook until almost soft, then add the
corn and cream and simmer on low for a few minutes. Add the herbs and other seasonings,
then put in the shrimp and scallops and cook for about four or five
minutes until almost cooked through. Add the cooked salmon (or if using
raw salmon, add it when you add the other seafood). Let everything cook
together gently for a few minutes without a lid, then serve.

 

Shrimp ‘N Grits

 OK, I may not be a Southerner and I may not have grown up with grits in my veins, but grits and polenta are just about the same thing. There are slight differences, but both are made from stone-ground cornmeal – dried corn that’s ground into smaller, coarser bits. 

According to a piece that ran on National Public Radio, Glen Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, says that Southern grits and Italian polenta are traditionally made from two very different types of corn, and there’s a difference in the fineness of the grind and how many times it’s milled.
Well, that may be true, but it gets complicated when you see so many different types of polenta for sale in Italy, from fine ground to coarse, and even polenta mixed with buckwheat, called polenta “taragna.”
Adding to the confusion is the myriad variety of grits available here in the states.
My instinct (and Italian heritage) almost always leads me to reach for polenta instead of grits. But on a trip to Charlestown last year, I bought a bag of grits at a farmer’s market, milled at Anson Mills.
What else to do with them, but make the ubiquitous shrimp and grits, found at myriad restaurants, diners and mom and pop cafes throughout the South.

 

The grits would be delicious on their own, with just a dab of butter, but I gussied them up and “Italianized” them with some mascarpone and parmesan.
Warning – you won’t be able to stop eating this. So save it as a splurge after a week of good behavior!
 
Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day. You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.



Shrimp ‘N Grits

1 cup grits
4 cups water
(Keep adding more as it gets drier)
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup parmesan
1 tsp salt
Mix the grits with the water over medium heat. I always use cold water and dump all the grits in at once. I find that helps keep out the lumps. Keep stirring and lower the heat somewhat – it may take 45 minutes to end up with really good, really creamy grits. If it looks like the mixture is getting too dense or too dry, add more water, a little at a time. Add the salt and keep stirring. After about 35-45 minutes, the grits will start to look creamier. To gild the lily, add the cream, mascarpone and parmesan.
18 medium Shrimp
3T Olive oil
Herbs, oregano, thyme, parsley
2 cloves garlic
Paprika
Red pepper flakes
Clean the shrimp and mix the olive oil with the herbs, garlic, paprika and red pepper flakes. Let the shrimp marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Grill the shrimp, but just until almost done. They’ll cook a little longer with other ingredients. Remove the shrimp from the grill and set aside. (Use a grill pan or the broiler if you don’t have an outdoor grill)
1/4 cup green pepper, minced
1 T olive oil
2 strips bacon
Sauté green pepper in oil until softened. Remove. Add bacon, cut in bits. Cook until crispy.
Add green pepper back in and after shrimp is grilled, add it to the peppers and bacon. Turn up heat to high. Add the white wine and let it reduce just a bit, then add 1 tablespoon of butter.
Pour shrimp mixture over grits and serve with a sprinkle of parsley or basil over all.

Fillet of Sole Stuffed With Shrimp

It’s Spring, it’s Spring. Finally, it’s Spring. OK, it’s drizzly and grey and ugly this morning here in central N.J., but a girl can dream, can’t she?

Daffodils, warmer weather and lighter dinner fare are a few of the things that come to mind when I think of Spring. Not to mention bathing suit season will be here before you know it. So with that horrid thought in mind, it’s time for me to start thinking lighter dinner fare, in particular seafood. While I was cruising the fish department at the supermarket the other day, the sole looked particularly fresh. I bought three pieces that weighed slightly less than 3/4 pound, more than enough for the two of us, especially considering they were stuffed with a shrimp and bread filling.

This would make a good recipe for company too, since it could easily be assembled ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator until ready to bake in the oven. Just adjust the amounts of ingredients according to the number of guests.

Fillet of Sole stuffed with shrimp

3 sole fillets – total weight about 3/4 pound
3 large shrimp
1 shallot
1 T. butter
3 T. roasted red, yellow or green pepper, chopped
a splash of dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
salt, pepper
2 T. chopped parsley

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 T. butter
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
paprika

Pat dry the sole fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the butter in a pan and saute the shallot and celery until limp. Add the chopped pepper and shrimp and saute a few more minutes over medium heat. Add the splash of white wine and cook for another minute or so. Take the pan off the heat and add the bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix everything together. It should hold together loosely in a ball. To make the bread crumbs, I trimmed the crusts from three slices of stale Italian bread and put them in the food processor for a couple of minutes. You can use purchased bread crumbs if you prefer, but the texture will be different.
Place a handful of stuffing over the center of the fish fillet.


Roll up both ends over the stuffing.

Place the folded side down in a buttered casserole. Pour the 1/2 cup wine around the rolled-up fillets.
Melt the 1 T. butter in a saucepan and add the panko crumbs. Divide the panko mixture over the fish and sprinkle with paprika. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Sauteed Shrimp with Celery Root and Apple Puree

Pity the poor celery root. Also known as celeriac, it must be one of the ugliest vegetables ever. I mean who wants to even pick up that gnarly tuber with all those nubby, root-like things sprouting all over it, much less cook it and eat it?

Well, I took pity on the sad vegetable and gave it a home in my kitchen. And you should too, if you’re interested in good food and new culinary adventures. It has a subtle celery flavor that pairs with nearly everything. I used only skim milk – no cream or butter in this recipe – yet it had a luscious, silky texture and was a perfect foil for the sauce oozing off the shrimp.

And for those of you avoiding carbs, this puree would be a great substitute for mashed potatoes or polenta, especially nestled beside pot roast or osso buco.

You may end up running for a Band-Aid if you’re not careful when peeling the celery root. I found it safest to trim off the thickest, nubbiest parts with a medium-sized knife in one hand, rather than a vegetable peeler, pressing down on the top of the celery root as it lay on my cutting board, rather than picking it up and trying to trim it in my hand.

Sauteed Shrimp
(serves two)

8 large shrimp
1 shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt, pepper to taste
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Saute the shallot and garlic in a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, just until softened. Add the shrimp, turning the heat a little higher, and quickly saute on both sides. You don’t want to cook it all the way through just yet, just brown the outsides. Remove the shrimp from the skillet and add the cherry tomato halves to the pan. Cook for another minute or two until the tomato starts to soften. Place the shrimp back in the pan, add the wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another couple of minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is reduced. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and swirl around on medium heat until it looks like the sauce has emulsified, or thickened. Add the lemon juice and minced parsley, swirl again over the heat and serve over the celery root puree.

Celery Root and Apple Puree

(Adapted from “A New Way to Cook” by Sally Schneider)

1 celery root, peeled and cubed (about 1 lb. to 1 1/2 lbs.)
3 cups milk (I used skim)
3/4 tsp. freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 Tablespoons white rice
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
2 teaspoons unsalted butter (I omitted this)

Cook the celery root in a saucepan with the milk, (I used skim milk which works fine, but the original recipe called for 2 percent milk), salt, pepper and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Stir in the rice, lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apples and simmer for 10 minutes longer, or until the celery root is very tender. (The milk will curdle, but the curds will be incorporated when the celery root is pureed.) Drain the mixture in a colander set over a bowl, but save the cooking liquid.

Puree the celery root in a food processor or blender until perfectly smooth, adding some of the cooking liquid if necessary. Scrape down sides until you have a fine puree. Add the butter if desired, but I left it out and it was delicious with just the drippings from the shrimp sauce. This puree is enough for four servings.