Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heavenly Cioppino

This was incredible.... and yes, even better the next day. It originated, and then twisted, from Fish: Without A Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore. In general, the recipes in the book are great starting-off points; each one can be improved with a little research and some more complex seasonings or techniques from the cuisine that inspired the dish. I really respect the authors, who took the time to construct a cookbook around sustainably-harvested or farmed fish. They include an introduction about ocean sustainability, as well as how to clean and prepare fresh fish. There are lists of acceptable fish substitutes for each recipe, and the flavors are generally modern and use fail-safe techniques for even the most inexperienced home fish cook.


Cioppino, that gorgeous seafood stew, can be as complex as you want it to be. Shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, scallops and lobster all have taken center stage in it at some point. I personally like simple cioppino, just with scallops or a dense fish, so you can really taste the quality of the seafood and let that particular meat shine. So, this recipe is for scallops only. For mussels or clams, use another recipe, preferably with red wine - this one would be too delicate. One of the best things about this dish is that you can make virtually everything the day before, or much earlier in the day - the finishing step takes only ~15 minutes! Oh, so soul-enrichingly good!

Heavenly Cioppino
Serves 6
(Make croutons, cilantro aioli, and cioppino base the day before. The day of, heat base and finish.)

Olive oil
1 rustic baguette, sliced on the diagonal into 1/2" slices
1 large garlic clove

1 tiny shallot, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1.5 Tbl fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk
coarse salt

2/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, pressed
4 small bell peppers, one each of red, green, yellow, orange - cut into 1/2" dice
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary, thoroughly crushed
1/2 fresh bay leaf (1 dried)
pinch cinnamon
pinch allspice
2 serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry, crisp white wine
coarse salt
fresh pepper (white if you can stand it, black if you can't)
16 oz. clam juice
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

1.5 lbs sea scallops, fresh or frozen
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil

To make croutons:
  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  2. Put in as many slices of baguette as will fit.
  3. Saute until a reddish-brown, maybe 3 minutes.
  4. Turn, adding oil if needed, and repeat.
  5. Remove bread to a plate to cool.
  6. Finish remaining bread.
To make aioli:
  1. Put shallot, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor and make a paste. Add mayo and egg yolk to make a smooth sauce.
  2. Season with salt.
  3. Refrigerate until use.

To make cioppino base:
  1. Have all ingredients measured out and next to the stove.
  2. Heat a large stockpot over high heat.
  3. Add the olive oil and onions.
  4. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add garlic, saute for another 1 minute.
  6. Add bell pepper, dried herbs & spices, saute for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add serranos and tomato paste, and mix until combined.
  8. Saute for another 2 minutes, or until bell peppers are almost tender. DO NOT BURN PASTE.
  9. Pour in wine, bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, until syrupy.
  10. Add pepper, clam juice, tomatoes, and bring to a boil again.
  11. Turn down the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes to reduce.
  12. If saving for the next day, let cool and refrigerate. The next day, bring to a simmer and continue.
To finish cioppino:
  1. Add the scallops. If frozen, let cook on a slow simmer for about 10-15 minutes, adding fresh herbs in last 3 minutes of cooking. If fresh, add scallops and fresh herbs and cook together for only 3-4 minutes (they will continue to cook after you take them off the stove).
To serve:
  1. Rub a clove of garlic over both sides of a crouton & put the slice in the bottom of a bowl.
  2. Add a couple ladlefuls of cioppino.
  3. Drizzle with aioli, maybe some more fresh basil.
If there is anything closer to heaven, I don't know what it is.

**Note: if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, DO NOT microwave the scallops in the broth - you will be sorry. Instead, ladle out soup into a bowl, pick out the scallops, and heat soup until very hot, about 2 minutes on HI. Meanwhile, rub a crouton with fresh garlic and chop some fresh basil. Take out the soup and add the scallops back in, mixing well. Slide a crouton into the bowl under the soup, drizzle cilantro aioli on top, and top with fresh basil. Like fresh, but better!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fluffy Pita bread

These pitas were excellent - very soft, fluffy, and even with the required 'pocket' inside!

Great paired with hummus for a potluck.

Fluffy Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas
Baking+rising time: ~3hrs

1-1/4 cups whole milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 c whole wheat chappati flour
1 c King Arthur Bread Flour
1 c Fairhaven red wheat high-gluten all-purpose flour
bread flour for extra sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp salt
1.5 Tbl sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Warm milk in microwave in a glass measuring cup for 30 seconds. Stir, and warm another 30 seconds.
  2. Pour out 1/4 cup into a small bowl and sprinkle yeast into it. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Put flours, salt, and sugar into KitchenAid.
  4. Mix with paddle until yeast is done.
  5. Make a well, and pour in yeast, milk, and olive oil.
  6. Mix with paddle until incorporated.
  7. Switch to a dough hook, and knead for 3-5 minutes, adding flour or water to make a soft dough.
  8. Oil a metal bowl. Put dough into bowl, move around so it has a layer of oil.
  9. Let rise for ~1 hour in a warm place.
  10. Punch down, and cut into 8 pieces.
  11. Roll into balls, then let rest for 15 minutes.
  12. Shape balls into flat, 5-inch pancakes, and let rise 20 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, put a baking or pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 450F. (an upside-down cookie sheet can double as a baking stone)
  14. Put three to four pitas at a time onto baking stone and bake for 3-4 minutes, until puffed but not brown.
  15. Wrap in a damp towel to keep warm.

Vegetarian Moo Shu Stirfry

One take on Moo Shu, which we made as a dish to use up some leftovers. Really, one of the better Asian quick stir-frys I've ever eaten! The sauce has a silky texture, thoroughly flavorful but not heavy, and lightly coats the vegetables. The explosion of flavors from the matchstick ginger was awesome, although some more faint-at-heart might prefer mincing or grating it. The daikon radish had seen better days, but perked up when cooked to complement everything else. It was loosely based on this recipe from Very tasty with brown rice, if it is started a little earlier in the rice cooker. We used Tah Tsai greens fresh from the garden, but any mild, slightly sweet, Asian mustard green would work really well, like baby bok choi or gailaan.

Moo Shu Stir Fry

Serves 4

1/2 tofu cake, cut into 1/4" cubes (I love SprouTofu brand - very flavorful, for tofu)
2 Tbl soy sauce
2 Tbl rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbl cornstarch
1 handful presliced dried Chinese shiitake, or about 4 whole dried shiitake
boiling water to cover mushrooms
1.5 Tbl oyster sauce
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbl peanut oil
1 (3-inch) knob fresh ginger, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on diagonal
1 (6-inch) length daikon radish, peeled and julienned
2 large supermarket carrots, peeled and julienned
2 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 large onion, sliced into medium rounds, then half-moons
2 heads (about 1 lb) Tah Tsai
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  1. In a medium bowl, combine together 1 Tbl soy sauce, 1.5 tablespoons rice wine, and cornstarch.
  2. Let marinate 30 minutes.
  3. Rehydrate shiitakes in a small bowl with boiling water to cover. Cover with a small plate and set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. In small bowl, stir together remaining 1Tbl soy sauce, remaining 1/2 Tbl rice wine, and the oyster sauce and sugar. Set next to the stove.
  5. Have all ingredients ready by the stove. Remove shiitakes from water.
  6. In wok or heavy large sauté pan over moderately high heat, heat peanut oil until hot but not smoking.
  7. Add ginger, garlic, half of scallions (reserve remainder for garnish), and tofu and stir-fry until tofu is heated through and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add daikon, carrots, celery, and onions, cooking until just barely translucent.
  9. Add mushrooms and tah tsai, and stir-fry until vegetables are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  10. Add eggs and soy sauce-rice wine-oyster sauce mixture and stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
  12. Serve hot with rice, or moo-shu pancakes.
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