This post on Cioppino was first published in April of 2006. It is a superb dish if you are at the seashore this summer and have access to great seafood. This not only tasted terrific, it is one of the most visually attractive dishes I have ever made!
The mercury was soaring and Holy Thursday at the beach was HOT, HOT, HOT! Early mornings were spent at the local seaside market, and I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and amount of seafood on offer. Normally, I fret that there is so little for sale during holiday weeks and because times are tougher than ever, merchants just donâ€™t stock up. But the opposite was true and I went a little wildâ€¦ I bought lots of crabs, squid and lobster then decided to make some cioppino (seafood soup), so I bought fish to make a homemade fish stockâ€¦ then I got sliced tanguigue, alumahan, matangbaka, tulingan, and on and onâ€¦ Totally went overboard but that just meant our guests and entire household would be eating well over the next few daysâ€¦
So, instead of just an intense â€œLast Supperâ€, we started with a â€œLast Lunchâ€ as well. Cioppino is a seafood soup from San Francisco created by Italian immigrants and my version of it is really more seafood with broth rather than the other way around. A nice spicy flavorful tomato based broth with the freshest shellfish and fish you can find at the market. It is really easy to make, absolutely delicious, admittedly somewhat extravagant if you throw in lots of variety. It can be simply made with just a few brilliant clams and mussels and fish or you can go to the “Versace” end of the spectrum and have lobsters, crabs, etc. I have made this soup in the province several times simply because the selection of seafood was just too good to ignore. So instead of giving you a recipe that is anally measured, I will describe to you a process that should work well every time.
Saute some chopped onion, and garlic in olive oil. Add some chopped red capsicum or sweet bell pepper if you have it. Saute for several minutes over medium heat until nearly browning. Add some tomato paste and about a cup or so of red wine. Add some chopped chilli peppers to taste (I like it spicy) then a large can of chopped tomatoes and some fresh or dried oregano and basil. Add a splash of wine vinegar. Add several cups of fish broth (I make mine from scratch) or bottled clam juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Boil this down a bit until you have a substantial tasty broth, about 20-30 minutes. To this broth (make more if you want your cioppino soupy or less if you want lots of seafood just â€œbraisedâ€ with tomato-ey broth) add cleaned and dismembered crabs, lobsters, fish (tanguigue or firm fleshed fish), clams, mussels, etc. and cover until cooked. Arrange the seafood in large soup bowls and add some broth. If you want to get fancy, make a sauce of some raw garlic, lots of basil, salt and olive oil stuck in a food processor (a pesto of sorts) and drizzle it over your soup. Serve with some grilled country bread brushed with olive oil. This pesto is drizzled on the cioppino as shown in the first photo up above…it was delicious!
It is difficult to describe just how good this soup wasâ€¦ fresh sweet meat of shellfish, spicy tomato-ey broth, bread and pesto. One of the finest meals I have had this year. There werenâ€™t any good clams or mussels that day at the market but they had everything else so this was a decadent version of the soup without â€œfillers.â€ The clams would have added flavorful liquid to the soup and made it even richer tasting… I will leave you with this photo of lobster tail meat freshly extracted from its shell instead of writing more jibberishâ€¦