Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hesitant to post lately

I had sort of a bad experience during the snowstorm. I ended up reading a bunch of posts from some 20-something women, mainly married, working, no kids. They kept talking about "balance" and posting pictures of complex meals like grilled cheese sandwiches with a slice of tomato. Now I get we were all stuck inside for a while, but I found their sites so off-putting. First of all, what on earth are you balancing?? You have no kids! I know they meant, balancing making healthy choices and being fit, with not being neurotic. But that struggle seems so self-indulgent to me, and even seemed so when I was that age. Of course I had bad habits then but that's not the point. I just found these blogs boring and self-indulgent and out of touch with people who actually might be trying to balance things. And I'm not talking about myself. Some people really have no money, no help, bad spouses, sick kids, etc.

The whole process of reading these blogs made me not want to post. But alas, I made such a yummy cioppino, with some help from Trader Joe's that I decided to share.

So here is my larger point, before sharing my experience. It's an extremely healthy, filling and forgiving recipe. You can make it in a big batch, tailor it to your likes, and it is one of those "better the next day" recipes. I just had it for lunch.

OK I'm a fish snob, having grown up around Cape Cod, and I hate frozen fish. But good fresh fish is just prohibitively expensive here. So I was craving cioppino once, and bought the frozen pre-made TJs package - really low standards for someone who used to only eat fresh seafood. Then I made it and of course augmented it. It wasn't bad! Yesterday I tried again but kind of doubled the recipe. And in a quest to clean out my freezer, which is overflowing, I threw in any number of random ingredients. The more the better. It was really good. Not amazing, made from scratch, spent $75 in ingredients good, but really worth making again. And it was so low-cal and super filling.

So today, at lunch it was much better, as is often the case with stewy things. I went online to look up some recipes. Emeril and Giada do a similar recipe, many spices, many ingredients, kind of a pain, but it made me realize, if I just had fish stock I could have totally made mine from scratch altogether. It' supposed to have fennel and all sorts of dried herbs but I got that from the package. If I made from scratch I would have needed to add some spices in. But my point is the combination of fish stock, wine, tomatoes and all that seafood, even frozen sea food, makes up the base of the dish and it's really flexible beyond that.

Here is what I did...literally throwing into pot.
-started with a can of crushed tomatoes
-4 medium cut up potatoes
-1 cup water
let simmer for 20 min (alternatively just pre-microwave potatoes first) then added
-1 bag frozen scallops
-1 bag frozen de-veined and de-shelled shrimp
-1 package frozen halibut cut into chunks
-1 can artichoke hearts in water, chopped
- half a jar olives, chopped
-1 can tomato paste
-1 can whole plum tomatoes
-1/2 bag frozen spinach
-1/2 bag frozen peas
-3/4 cup frozen roasted and pureed cauliflower from a few weeks ago
-1 cup or so wine - didn't measure but needed a fair bit.

The halibut literally disintegrated, and that with the cauliflower puree, whole can of tomato paste and chopped spinach made for a thick broth. The shellfish handled cooking for a while better than I expected. It didn't get so tough, but I should have waited to put the shrimp in perhaps. The dish would have worked well with white beans, or even pureed beans as a thickener, but it was thick enough anyway.

Any cioppino is super flavorful and healthy - no fat to speak of, except the parm shavings, and shellfish is really low in calories. Since it took a while and I was starving I ate Triscuits with cheese while it was cooking so I picked out the potatoes and skipped the cheese on top. For lunch today I had huge parm shavings on top and it was really good.

Dave ate 2 huge bowls. I could barely finish one. Alex ate some washed off scallops with parm cheese on top. Natasha ate some washed off shrimp and washed off, mashed potatoes. God forbid they ate something in a multi-colored broth. But they ate. I should have given them some carrots but kind of let it go, figuring scallops were enough of a challenge. Yes, I took the pieces out of the stew, washed them in the sink, and put them on the kids' plates. Not ideal, but kids really like their foods separated out, and this pot of shellfish and greens was just beyond the pale.

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