I once went with a friend to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf — for lunch.
I grew up as the daughter of a commercial airline pilot, which made it easy to taste the world on a whim. My children did not inherit the same travel benefits, but I like to think that my own job as a food editor and restaurant critic has shown them that worthwhile culinary adventures do not require access to unlimited frequent-flier miles.
Easy Cioppino is a recipe that allows a cook to experience the flavors of another place without leaving their own kitchen’s time zone or even making a trek to a specialty market for ingredients.
The tomato-based seafood stew (pronounced chuh-PEEN-noh) originated in San Francisco. Nearly every source I consulted traced the name and its origins to Italian-American immigrants. The dish fed miners during the Gold Rush, then became a popular menu item at restaurants around Fisherman’s Wharf by the 1930s.
Seafood — fish and shrimp in this case — swim in a rich, flavorful tomato broth. Some chefs add garlic, celery and onion. Our recipe adds zucchini, then garnishes the stew with spinach instead of parsley for a bump in nutrition.
Sodium counts can be high in some versions of cioppino (Trader Joe’s sells a cioppino stew with nearly identical nutrition stats, except for the 950 milligrams of sodium), so we went with no-salt versions of broth and tomatoes for our version.
Such liberties may be par for the course. When the editors of Cook’s Illustrated looked into the origins of cioppino for their “Soups, Stews & Chilis” cookbook, they found that “the stew is more of a concept than a combination of specific ingredients” and that many of the recipes in popular cookbooks “were unnecessarily complicated.”
▪ Substitutions: In the spirit of the immigrant table, which prompted fishermen to contribute a little of this or that to the pot, cioppino recipes are flexible. Not a fan of cod? Allergic to shrimp? Feel free to substitute 1 pound of your favorite fish or seafood, or combine your favorites.
The stew is an ideal time to use frozen fish or seafood, but thaw them before adding to the pot.
Add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes along with the seasonings for a spicier stew.
▪ Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving, if desired.
There are plenty of side dishes or accompaniments that could go with cioppino, but the hearty one-dish meal is most often served with wine and a loaf of sourdough bread.
Makes 4 to 6 servings (total yield about 6 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 medium zucchini, not peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces medium fresh or frozen, thawed shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 (6- to 8-ounce) cod fillet, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in celery and carrot, and cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds.
Stir in broth, tomatoes, zucchini and seasonings. Heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in shrimp, cod and spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp, fish and spinach are cooked. Do not overcook.
Per serving, based on 4: 180 calories (27 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 103 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 153 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.