Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ciopino Night

After teasing so many people when buying my ingredients, I bet y'all want my recipe.
I don't have an official recipe. Ciopino is much like gumbo, chili, or meatloaf.  There are tons of varieties and the end result can vary due to ingredient changes.  Here is my usual ingredient list, which may be modified without notice.

This time, I wanted to stretch it and made more of a broth base than a thick soup base.   But it was still wonderful as the taste is entirely dependent on the quality of the ingredients. 

Heavy stockpot with lid, pot to steam clams/mussels, knives, wooden spoon, ladle.

1 whole dungeness crab.  Shell on.
1 lb raw large prawns, tails on.
1 lb raw bay scallops (cause sea scallops are way too expensive for this)
2 lbs fresh Manila or savory clams, scrubbed
1/2 to 1 lb mussels, scrubbed
2 lbs firm white fish (rockfish or cod is best)

Everything else:
3 small onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Vegetable or chicken stock (Vegetable stock seems to let the seafood shine a bit better)
1 bottle of clam juice (or make your own)
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste (use less if you want a more brothy base)
1/2 lemon sliced
Dried Oregano
Dried thyme
Bay Leaf
Red Pepper Flakes
Ground  Black Pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Dry white wine or Dry red wine (i have tried using both.  Use white if you want a brothy base, use a red if you want a rich hearty soup base)
Parsley - chopped
Sourdough bread

Basic instructions
Prep the veggies, set out other ingredients.
In a heavy bottom stock pot, add the onion, garlic and celery and sweat until onions become translucent.  Add 1-2 cups of wine, cans of tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil then reduce by half. 
**Some would say that only the garlic should be sweated and the wine.  But this is my way.    :)

Next, clean the crab by removing the shell, and breaking body in half, then half again.  Clean out the crab innards and keep the shell.
Remove shells from prawns, and scrub mussels and clams.
By this time you should be ready to add the desired amount of tomato paste, the clam juice, dash or two or Worcestershire, shake of red pepper flakes, herbs, squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper and some stock if needed (1-2 cups) then let cook with a lid on over medium for 20 minutes. 
Steam open the mussels and clams in a separate pot with some lemon and garlic.  Once they open, remove from heat.
Drop into soup pot: Crab bodies, then fish, scallops, prawns, and then crab shell. Replace lid on the pot to maintain the heat, allow 5-10 minutes for the seafood to cook.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Remove lid and drop in clams and mussels.  Turn off heat and let sit another 5 minutes.
Put sourdough in the oven to warm for 5-7 minutes.
Take down some bowls, add some parsley to the bowls, scoop big portions of ciopino into the bowls.
Remove the sourdough, cut into large 2" pieces, and serve immediately.


PS - for any extra, once cooled completely - remove the clam and mussel shells, put into freezer safe containers, label and enjoy during a cold winters night.  Keeps well for a year.  To reheat, add 1 cup of vegetable broth to a stock pot and bring to a boil, then add the frozen portion and bring to a simmer. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ciopino Time

My favorite time of year is here! When the second garden season is starting, the leaves are turning, and its cool enough to make warm soups and stews.   One such recipe I have been waiting to make, Ciopino. 

If you don't like seafood or tomatoes, chances are you may not appreciate the qualities of this dish.  Who knows, you may just find your next favorite fall meal.
I still have some shopping left to do, but if you are like me, you'll be sourcing the freshest ingredients:

Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, white fish, garlic, lemon, onion, celery, tomatoes, dry white wine, herbs like oregano, parsley, bay, and of course the meal isn't complete without a crusty sourdough.  These simple ingredients will form what we gloriously savour at least once a year.

Recipe will come later, same with pictures.  Off to hunt down some clams!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Here comes the .... rain.

Yesterday the garden was selectively harvested - outside raised bed tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, some cucumbers, and some zuccchini.  Anything previous harvested item (corn stalk) was removed to make way for the winter garden of  radish, onions and of course our broccoli is still growing strong along with our kale. The cabbage was decimated by cabbage worms in the last week (ugh!) So after I moved the front potted tomatoes into the green house, all of the trimmings were put to the fire. 

Why fire?   We cannot compost until a lid is added to the compost bin as puppy thinks it's fun to dig in it.  At least most of the food scraps have turned into wonderful dirt, but still, eww.

The rains started here in the Upper Skagit Valley, the burn ban was lifted.  I enjoyed my brush fire although I can say with certainty that cabbage does have a smell when burned. With no more 75 plus degrees in the forecast, it was time to prepare for fall.

Today my foot hurts, so it is the first opportunity to sit out on my back deck, cup of coffee, a book, wrapped in a blanket on a lounge camp chair and enjoy the rainy morning.

Welcome rain. Glad to see you back.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Almost Fall and the balance of it all.

It's almost time.  Time for what you may ask?  Fall, or the beginning of Fall which is actually my favorite time of year.  The nights start shifting to cooler temps, my garden bounty is in full giving mode, apples are ready to be made into sauce, stews go on the stove, and sweaters can be worn again!  The days become shorter and I don't feel as guilty being inside as when I do when it is full bloom spring and summer.

I love the crisp morning air, it smells clean due to rains that are finally gracing us with their liquid love.  One of my favorite things to do when I have a spare moment, grab a hot cup of tea or coffee, a book, a blanket and settle out in the back to get absorbed in a story.  This little bit of me time helps me to recharge.

You may wonder what this post is about.  It's not about any one book, or any one recipe.  It's about why I love this time of year.  I struggle with some aspects of life.  Memory, fatigue, attention drift, anxiety, depression, and self esteem issues.  Most issues are not as prevalent because I can now recognize my signs and take measures to circumvent a full episode - usually.  But when my thoughts are running rampant, and I need to de-stress - one of my me time activities helps.  Reading, a cup of decaf tea, being in a quiet place, cooking, gardening, or even a hot bath helps.  

I crave balance.  Being more middle road.  It's a concept that has become more and more a life long ambition.  I don't want to be labelled as one or the other, but a bit of both who can understand all sides of a coin (three sides by the way).  Balance to me is harmony.  Knowing that life can swing both ways -  easy or hard, soft or sharp, light or dark, and hot or cold.  I found my happiness somewhere in the middle.

So today I am reminded of that balance.  You can't have summer without winter, green grass without rain, and you can't have crisp morning air without cooler temps.  I look forward to these life changes, am working to make sure I am appreciative of this life - and thankful for those that share in it with me.   

Happy end of Summer, cheers to an upcoming fall.