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Overcast, gloomy, rainy. Not our ideal adjectives for the weather, but nonetheless accurate for NYC as of late. In which case, my go-to cure for dreary weather blues are warm edibles that soothe the soul.
Rain often sequesters New Yorkers indoors - a decidedly better option than braving the unforgiving elements. Consequently, I was left to conjure something satisfying from the items already in my kitchen.
Luckily I had just hoarded 2-for-1 cans of tomato sauce from the market (the shameless sale-stocker that I am) and had a bag of a frozen mixed seafood ready to freed from its crystallized form. (Frozen is cheaper than fresh, obviously, and still a good-quality short cut in my experience.) All arrows pointed to that Italian stew-classic, cioppino, a one-pot wonder that requires few ingredients and packs a lot of punch. The result is a steaming stew that will enable you to wether the weather bum blues.
Of course, this is my "Broke Girl Gourmet" version, so go with me on this one. (A disclaimer to all you Italian culinary savants: cioppino was the inspiration - I am not claiming any kind of recipe authenticity.) And still, I must say, it is a bangin' cauldron of soup satisfaction - one that stretches beyond just one serving. And with so few ingredients, the cost of this concoction is extremely low - good news for any broke girl, or guy! To boot, it freezes extremely well, ready for the unexpected rainy day reheat.
- 1 lb Mixed Seafood, frozen (Mine had calamari, shrimp, scallops, and mussels, but you can't go wrong with your favorite combo.)
- 3 six-ounce cans of Tomato Sauce, unsalted (a healthier option, and you will find the fish adds enough sodium-rich flavor)
- 1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 cup Water
- half of a Red & Green Bell Pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 small Red Onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of Garlic, chopped
- half of a whole Lemon, sliced
- Garlic Powder, generous
- Paprika, 2 tblspoons
- Ground Black Pepper, to taste
- Dried Tarragon, palm-full
- Large metal pot
- Over medium-high heat, sautee peppers and onion in the pot in a splash of water, developing a nice burnt crust from the onion's sugars. Every so often, deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine vinegar.
- After 5 minutes, add the garlic and sautee on a reduced heat for 3 minutes.
- Add tomato sauce, the rest of the vinegar and water, and again increase the heat to high. Add black pepper, a few healthy shakes of garlic powder, tarragon, paprika, and lemon slices.
- Once this reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. (The longer it simmers, the more flavor that infuses. If you have a lot of time, take advantage of this low-and-slow process before adding fish.)
- When you are ready, add the frozen fish (no pre-thawing necessary) and increase to medium heat. Keep stirring until the fish are thawed in the liquid (about 6-7 minutes). Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. *Be careful not to overcook the fish or it will get rubbery!
Generously serve this delicious bowl of ruby red comfort with the breezy aromas of the Italian coast. Every pipin' scoop will make you forget the downpour outside your front door.