RECIPE DIARY: HALIBUT CIOPPINO

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This week’s recipe: HALIBUT CIOPPINO

ORIGINS: Cioppino is a traditional Italian fish stew made famous in the U.S. in the San Francisco Bay Area where restaurants have been serving fresh fish and shellfish in a rich, delicious tomato broth for decades. No Cioppino is complete without warm crusty bread for dipping. Don’t skimp on the quality here – a great rustic loaf of whole wheat bread is just what you need.

KEY INGREDIENTS:

  • Halibut
    Halibut, like flounder and sole, is a flatfish (adults have both eyes on one side of their head) that can grow to be exceptionally large – over 450 pounds. They are one of the many lean, white, firm fish varieties that are affordable and well suited to a variety of cooking techniques. Halibut has a sweet, delicate flavor and its firm dense texture makes it a great choice for the Cioppino. It is also favored because it is not overly bony and is low in fat. When buying halibut, look for consistent white color, NO fishy smell, and plump moist fillets. If frozen halibut is your only option, that is fine, too. But before you go that route, see what fresh fish is available – cod, turbot, grouper, or sole would all be fantastic in the Cioppino.  In general, frozen fish tends to be drier than fresh, but because it will soak up the delicious tomato broth, it won’t be as much of a factor in this recipe.
  • Seasonings
    Basil and oregano, the core of most commercial Italian seasoning mixes. Their flavors are perfect complements to the rich tomato flavor in Cioppino. Don’t substitute a store bought mix for this recipe; the oregano should be dried and the basil should be fresh!
  • Tomato Paste
    Concentrated tomato paste gives this dish its signature flavor. There are a lot of tasty affordable brands to choose from. If you don’t use a lot of tomato paste in your cooking, you can freeze any leftover quantities. Just spoon it into dollops (a tablespoon or two) on a lined baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer it to a freezer container, and you’ll always have some on hand! 

RECIPE NOTES: Few things are better than a quick hearty meal on a busy weeknight. Although the recipe calls for a longer simmer, if you are pressed for time, you can add the fish after 20 minutes and have dinner on the table in half an hour.

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