Cioppino Recipe

CioppinoChristmas is one week away.

This is when I should be settling down at night with a glass of spiked egg nog and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, having finished with decorating the tree, having done with wrapping all the gifts, and knowing our smiling mugs in Christmas cards delighted our family and friends yet another year.

But I am not.

I’m not even half way there yet.

In fact, I didn’t even start. What? I know. That’s what I said yesterday.

Christmas Tree. Which tree?

Christmas Tree from 2009

I don’t even have a tree yet. I’ve been having an internal debate this year. Should I get a fake plastic tree that is probably made in China with PVC (polyvinyl chloride – highly toxic chemical commonly found in toys and plastics, like fake Christmas trees) by some under paid worker making less than the price of an ornament, probably also made in China, I bought on sale five years ago? Or, as per our tradition every year, should I send my family down to our town’s Volunteer Fire Department, and buy a tree, grown with pesticides and probably from Canada? I don’t know if the tree is, in fact, from Canada. I never thought to have my Accidental Recycler (a.k.a. hubby) ask the fire fighters. I doubt he would ask that because he is  usually too busy emptying out his wallet to the enthusiastic bunch of firefighters who’s happy to sell another tree, getting five times more than what the price of the tree is. He rationalizes and says, “It’s a donation.” He’s generous like that  – or foolish. No, I’d like to think he’s being a thoughtful citizen.

To complicate matters this year, Andrew is not home yet. And Emily says we can’t get a tree until he’s home. The three of them have to go and get the tree while I stay home and prepare the spot for the tree. “It’s a tra-di-tion“, she says, with air quotes around “tradition”.

Gifts. What gifts?

She is adamant about tradition, like going to the Mall one night to buy each other’s gifts. She makes sure we all go to the mall in December, closer to Christmas the better. When the kids were younger, we’d take them to the mall to buy each other’s gifts. Each adult would take one kid and then, switch kids so that we can buy the other person’s gift. It worked in the past since the kids were too young to shop on their own. And the kids liked the mall. We never bought any expensive gifts but we just liked walking around the mall, taking in all the holiday sights and sounds, looking at holiday window displays, snaking thorough busy stores, watching other shoppers, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the food court in between. Emily will make sure we do the same this year. I’ll bet Rudolph’s red nose on it. Even though we no longer buy anything from the mall, she just likes to reminisce the “good old days”, as if her “good old days” were, like, eons ago. Man. I must be ancient. Don’t answer that.

Cards. What cards?

So, back to my “Bah Humbug”. Where was I? Oh yeah. Cards.

In addition to not having a tree, I haven’t sent out any Christmas cards yet.

Dear My thoughtful friend who sent me your Christmas card before, yep, before Thanksgiving,
You do that one more time, I’m de-friending you.
Your loving friend

I don’t know what I’m waiting for, some miraculous inspiration? Some elves to have all the cards done and mailed for me?

The thing is, I always expect my “idea” to be an earth shattering, you know, the first-time-ever-ingenious-idea as a Christmas card. I don’t want those over priced, flimsy, expensive, over-priced one-hour photo Christmas cards. Did I say over-priced? I mean, what is a shelf life of a Christmas card anyway? Seven days? If I send them now, it’d be less than seven days. So, why bother spend $1 per card for someone who might or might not even save my photo card? I mean, we usually end up sending them to people who we don’t see that often anyway because … we don’t see them that often.

Hey, look how old great we look these days. See all the grey and balding head? See how the kids are taller than us now?

I figured people we always see already know what we look like. So, like I said, why am I spending oodles of money to send cards to those who  may or may not keep the photos past Christmas Day?

Well, guess where I was yesterday afternoon because my uber inspiration didn’t materialize and I panicked because it’s a week before Christmas? Sitting in front of a Kodak kiosk, ordering my over priced, flimsy, expensive, one-hour photo Christmas cards. Did I say over-priced? Yep. That was me, asking the clerk, “Ha… ha.. how much for twenty cards?” But I must say, the photo card came out really great. I love the design I chose and the pictures looked very Christmas-ey. I thought I counted my list more than twice to cut it down to a more manageable number. I came home, with my tail tucked between my legs, sat down to look at my list again, feeling like a total failure for not coming up with a uber creative and ingenious Christmas cards. Then, I really, really, counted and came up with 52 people I need to send “photo” cards to. And fifty more people whom I need to send plain cards to. How did that number grow all of a sudden? Are  you as confused s I am?  Gah~.

Well, I started deleting the names of those who I thought don’t need to receive the photo cards, those who we see at least once a year, and ended up with a list of teachers, coaches, long distant cousins, elderly neighbors of Accidental Recyler’s home town, and my old colleagues from past whom we just exchange Christmas annually. See where I am going with this? Yeah. I am definitely revisiting Kodak’s kiosk later today and doing the ‘right’ thing and sending photo cards to all 52 people on my list, including the long distant cousins whom I haven’t seen in five years. Why? Because it’s Christmas.

Cioppino Recipe

Feeling totally unaccomplished and unproductive, I cooked. At least I can produce a good meal. RIght? So I made one of my favorite comfort foods. Soup. There’s nothing like a warm soup to make me feel whole especially on a cold day like yesterday.

And since I had various kinds of seafood in the freezer, I decided to make Cioppino. I love dishes that I can just throw in whatever I have in the refrigerator – freezer in this case – without planning and grocery shopping for ingredients. And  I always have variety of wild caught seafood in my freezer, just in case I have days like yesterday. I had frozen shrimp, cod, scallops and squid – all wild caught, from Trader Joe’s.  Did I say wild caught? What I love about them is that they are packaged (yeah, I know it’s plastic. But there are no other options.) in reasonably sized servings so there are no leftover pieces that I have to store. They are perfect portions for our family.

Here is what my Cioppino looked like.
CioppinoI didn’t take any photos of the instruction because it’s so stupid simple to make. ..and because I didn’t think I’d be sharing the recipe with you. You can find Cioppino recipe anywhere but my recipe is very simple and yet it delivers the same punch. Instruction is very simple. Did I say simple? Basically, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil, toss in celery, then, tomatoes and herbs. When they are tender, take them all out, and saute shrimp, scallops, quid, and cod – in that order – in the same pot in olive oil. Add back the veggies, tomato sauce (I used left over spaghetti sauce in mine) and pour some water or clam juice or chicken broth if you like but you don’t really need any enhanced flavors. Water will be fine. And that’s it. Sop up the broth with some crusty Ciabbata and my world is at peace again.

And that’s how my day finished yesterday. No tree. No cards. No gifts. Just Cioppino.

I’m praying that the girl behind the Kodak Kiosk won’t laugh at me when I return today. If she does, I may have to bribe her with Cioppino to keep her quiet.

Here’s the recipe.


*all seafood should be wild caught and not farmed – especially from a foreign country. Otherwise, this recipe will be terrible on your palate and you’ll go, “Gah~ What a terrible recipe Karen gave me! Peh peh…..!” and you’ll hate me forever so buy wild caught seafood. Always.


Veggies and Herbs:

  • EVOO – extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lg. Onion – chopped into  squares
  • 5 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 1 head of celery stalks, leaves and all cut up
  • 2 lg tomato, cubed
  • 1 big sprig of fresh Basil – chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1 /4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • splash of white wine


  • 1/2 C shrimp – any size shrimp will do
  • 1/2 C Bay scallops – those little guys
  • 1/2 C sliced squid rings – can be any part of squid but rings are prettier.
  • 1/2 C Cod – cut in cubes
  • splash of white wine


  • 1/4 tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce
  • 1 C Water
  • 1/8 C of white wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (have you tried mineral sea salt? You’ll die when you try it


Saute onions and garlic in EVOO until onion is translucent and add the rest of the veggies and herb. Continue to saute until celery is translucent and tender. Take them out into a bowl and saute seafood in the pot, in order, adding cod last. Don’t over stir seafood otherwise, cod will crumble. Add the veggies. Add broth. When it boils, lower to simmer for about ten minutes. That’s it!

While soup is simmering, smell the aroma, and slice the Ciabbata or any crusty bread, being careful not to cut your fingers because you are hurrying to eat the soup.

Sit and forget about what you didn’t do today. Just enjoy Cioppino.

Tomorrow is another day.

Oh, by the way, here is a handy dandy printable pocket size National Smart Safe Seafood Guide 2010 on which seafood is sustainable from Food and Water Watch Org

Jenn Flynn-Shon
Jenn Flynn-Shon

Yup, I just sat down and wrote out the Christmas cards yesterday so I know just where you're coming from there. Every year I say I'm either A) not doing cards at all and screw 'em if they don't understand (!!!) or B) writing them out & mailing the first week of December. And every year I send them out a week or less before Christmas. Funny though the list has shrunk exponentially in recent years as most of us just exchange email greetings now. There are some who would argue its not as personal or heartfelt but it certainly is cheaper if nothing else! The soup looks & sounds wonderful :-)

Jen on the Edge
Jen on the Edge

I don't know if this will help or not, but environmentally speaking, the live tree is your better bet. Since you have grown or grown-ish children, just send them to buy a tree and put them in charge of getting it up and decorated.


A live tree is what we'll end up buying tomorrow. And too bad that we can't rent a living tree from companies like Living Tree out here on the East Coast because that would be ideal. But until something like that comes along, we'll buy it from the Fire Department. And I know kids will love to decorate because they love to reminisce about each ornament that they made.