Fictional characters are a great outlet for fantasies. In my novel the main character’s best friend, Alexa, owns a thriving bistro in Kemah, Texas. What does she do with Gulf Coast seafood? She makes my favorite recipe for Cioppino.
Cioppino – Seafood Stew
Make this Mediterranean style soup base in advance when you want to serve seafood to a group of people. Use whatever seafood is fresh, various types for a total of about two pounds. Try to get a combination of:
- fish with a thicker flake (like red snapper or sea bass)
- fish with a small flake, like flounder or sole, and
- shellfish (I usually use both shrimp and crab). Clams and mussels are also good in this, if you like them, and make it look sort of fancy.
The soup base:
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 20 oz. can of Italian tomatoes
1 ½ c. white wine
1 ½ c. water
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp dried basil
About 2 lb. of seafood, as described above.
3 T. chopped parsley
To do in advance of your dinner party:
In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until it’s transparent. Add green pepper, tomatoes, wine, water and bay leaf. Break up the tomatoes, cover pot and simmer for about one hour. Remove bay leaf and stir in salt, pepper and basil.
When you’re twenty minutes away from serving time:
Bring the sauce to a simmer and layer in chunks of heaviest fish, chunks of lighter fish, and shellfish. Cover and simmer ten to twenty minutes (until clams open). Check on it, and don’t overcook. Overcooked fish tastes “fishy”. If any clams don’t open, throw them away. I usually add some crab after everything is cooked, either very good canned crab, or some from the fish market, already cooked and picked out. (Try to keep the chunks of crab in chunks. Don’t let it flake apart.) Sprinkle with parsley and serve in soup plates.
Serve with Italian or French bread. Maybe a salad, or just some fruit and cheese.