Sunday, February 6, 2011

one dish at a time

I've been trying to cook my way out of grief. 

Unlike Jack McCall, in the novel Beach Music, who cooked so much for so many during his mother's death, I'm cooking for just two, here at 3906.  Two or a hundred, it's all the same.

We've been trapped inside by snow which fell following an ice storm and for several days my need to cook has been at the mercy of fridge and freezer. 

It started with potato soup.  Comfort, you know. 

I had a couple of potatoes, one yellow onion and some vegetable stock in the freezer.  I added several roasted cloves of garlic, topped the soup off with a touch of cream, and began to feel better.  

Then there was that Peppers and Peanuts stir-fry which is my standby.  It was all about wanting peanuts that day. 

The temperature continued to hover around 20 degrees, dipping very low at night.  I forged ahead with what I thought would be a sad version of Cioppino, having no celery for the sofritto and a very small selection of frozen seafood. 

Turned out only I was sad; the Cioppino was amazingly good.  I've had four bowls.

And then there were scones.  More scones.  I really need to stop baking scones...

Our house is always stocked for regular guests; birds.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner, they all watch us like hawks, spreading the call whenever we fill their stations. 

This is an odd, iron candle stand I came across and turned into a feeder. 

click to enlarge photos

Yesterday brought a thaw with some sunshine and I got a chance to inspect a new neighbor in the cul-de-sac.  "Welcome, Mr. Snowman," I said on my way to the market.  Last winter, a very large snowlady wore a tiara.

By this afternoon, we were warmer, revived, and ready for a Super Sunday.  I'm thinking fresh guacamole, salsa, and steamed broccoli drizzled with queso.  Then charred shrimp along with charred chunks of onion and pineapple, all glazed with fiery pepper jelly.  And a little fluffy rice.

Fluffy like the snow expected tonight.  

With a pantry once again full, I'm prepared for more winter.  I am. 

But in my heart, deep down in my heart, I know snow or no snow, I still have a whole lot more cooking to do. 

Snowy Day Cioppino

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 bunch chopped spring onions, including most of the green stalk
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 large pinches of dried, red pepper flakes
6 to 8 ounces white wine
1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand and any tough cores removed
6 cups stock, preferably fish stock but vegetable stock from the freezer was fine
6 cups water
1 large bay leaf
3/4 tablespoon dried tarragon
a few sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
2 tilapia or other mild fillets
1 to 1 1/2 cups scallops, divided
a lemon
cooked rice (optional)

In a large stock pot, saute the onion and carrots until they begin to soften.  Add the spring onions and saute for several more minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stir for a minute but don't let them brown.  Pour in the white wine and cook until all but a third of it is absorbed.  Add the tomatoes, stock, water, bay leaf, tarragon, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the soup has  reduced a bit. 

Add one tilapia fillet and about a half cup of scallops.  The seafood will begin to fall apart, seasoning the soup.  Simmer slowly for another half hour or so, adding water if needed.  Before serving, add the second fillet and the rest of the scallops and cook until the seafood is tender.

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice into each bowl. 
The soup is great served with bread or as an alternative, add a large spoonful of cooked rice to each bowl.
{Although the fish breaks down more, the soup is actually better the second day.} 

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