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Saturday, April 26, 2014

San Francisco-Style Cioppino

Cioppino, also know as Italian Fish Stew, is by far my favorite dish.  A combination of fish, shellfish and vegetables in a rich broth of tomato and Merlot wine, the taste is simply remarkable.  

San Francisco's Italian immigrants are credited with creating this delicious stew and there are many variations.  Some versions of this recipe use white wine in place of the Merlot, and there are some changes in the amounts of peppers, onion, garlic or tomatoes that are used.  But what is consistent for this recipe is the need for fresh, high-quality seafood.  So for your best results, try to get the freshest ingredients possible.

For our version of this dish we used large chunks of cod, but you could also substitute halibut or another firm-fleshed fish.  Next we included a generous amount of fresh clams and mussels, along with a few dozen large shrimp with the shells on.  The shrimp are butterflied down the back and deveined, but the shells is left on so they can add lots of flavor to the stew.  Lastly, the beautiful king crab legs and cleaned, cracked and quartered before being added to the pot.

This recipe is made in two steps.  First a pepper sauce base is slowly simmered to create a wonderful  base with lots of oregano and garlic, then the second step you will add the seafood which will cook pretty quickly.  This dish might seem a bit intimidating but it is actually quite fun to prepare.  Having all of your ingredients prepped and ready to cook makes the recipe very easy.

Cioppino is a hearty and delicious meal and is wonderful to serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  If you are tired of serving the traditional turkey or ham, your guests will love the change.  Be sure to serve with lots of crusty French Bread, a few bottles of good red wine and lots of napkins. Enjoy!!

3 TB Olive Oil
1 large  Red Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 large  Green Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup  Sliced Onion
3 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Fresh Basil, chopped
1-1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano
32 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1  8 oz Bottle Clam Juice
1 cup  Italian Merlot Wine
2 cups  Chicken Stock  or  Water
12 Little Neck Clams
4 Alaskan King Crab Legs, cleaned, cracked and quartered
12 - 18 Fresh Mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1 1/2 pounds Large Shrimp, in the shell - butterflied down the back and deveined..leave the shells on
1 pound Sea Scallops, trimmed, rinsed and patted dry
1 pound Firm-Fleshed Fish such as Halibut or Cod

First make the Pepper Sauce base:

Heat the olive oil in a large stew pot over medium heat. Add the peppers, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add the basil, oregano, tomatoes, clam juice, wine and broth or water, and bring the mixture just to a simmer.  Adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar, for 30 - 40 minutes.

Finish the Cioppino:

The steps of adding the seafood goes very quickly so have all of your seafood ready to go.

With the pepper sauce at a simmer, increase the heat to medium-high, then add the clams, and cook covered over medium-high heat for 4  minutes or just until the clams begin to open. Add the crab legs, replace the cover and cook 2 minutes. Next, add the mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish, and gently push the seafood into the broth. Give the pot a little shake to settle the seafood into the broth, cover the pot and simmer for 5 minutes.  Check  to see if  until the mussels are open, the shrimp are pink and the scallops are just firm.  You might need to add about 3 minutes or so depending on the seafood you are using, but once the shrimp are pink and the fish is opaque you are ready to serve.

Ladle the Cioppino into large heated bowls, making sure to include a generous ladle of broth with each serving of seafood.  Serve with lots of crusty French bread and a bottle of Chianti or a rich Merlot.  You will also want a few large empty bowls around the table for your guests to discard their shells. Makes about 6 generous servings.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chicken & Linguine with Spinach-Parmesan Sauce

Getting a healthy dinner on the table in a hurry is always a challenge, and some nights it's nearly impossible.  But this meal is sure to please everyone in your family and you can have it cooked and ready to serve in less than 30 minutes.

For this recipe we started with boneless and skinless chicken breasts that are thinly sliced, which will allow them to cook very quickly.  Next we made a creamy sauce of spinach and Parmesan cheese that reminds me of a rich, old-fashioned creamed spinach.  And for some extra color and nutrients, we added strips of sweet red bell pepper.  A dash of lemon juice adds just a touch of citrus to bring all of those flavors together.

For this dish we used whole wheat linguine and my kids said they actually like it better than the regular pasta.  With lots of fiber and protein, this is delicious pasta.

3/4 cup  Flour
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Dried Basil
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
3  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (about 1-3/4 lbs)
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
3 TB  Olive Oil, divided
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1  Medium Red Bell Pepper, sliced into strips
8 oz  Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted and drained (or use fresh, cleaned spinach)
3 TB  Flour
1/2 cup  Chicken Broth
1/2 cup  Heavy Cream  or  Half and Half
1  cup  Milk  (we used 1%)
1/2  cup  Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1  13.25 oz Box  Linguine (or pasta of your choice)
Extra Grated Parmesan Cheese for Garnish

Slice each of the 3 chicken breasts horizontally, so you have 6 thin fillets.  By cutting the chicken this way the meat will cook very quickly and allow the meat to be nice and juicy inside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In a shallow dish combine the flour, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and garlic powder.  Stir mixture to combine. 

Heat a large pot of water and cook the linguine according to package directions until al dente, about 8-9 minutes.  While the water is heating you can get the chicken started.

In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of olive oil until hot, over medium-high heat.  Coat each of the chicken fillets in the flour mixture, place the chicken in the pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  When chicken is nearly finished cooking, drizzle with the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, and let sizzle for 1 minute.  Remove the cooked chicken to a baking dish, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven until the pasta and sauce are ready.

Using the same skillet the chicken was cooked in, heat 1 TB olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and red pepper to the pan and saute for about 4 minutes until veggies are softened, then add the spinach to the pan and saute for 2 minutes longer.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir to evenly coat.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken broth, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes, then add the cream (or half and half), milk and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese to the pan and stir.  Reduce heat to medium-low until ready to serve.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and place a portion of pasta on each plate, top with a spoon of sauce, then top with a sliced chicken fillet and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!!