Thursday, May 23, 2013

Zuppa di Pesce...Think Outside the Book!

Zuppa di Pesce!!
The people of public television's very popular "The Test Kitchen" believe that to understand good cooking, you have to understand chemistry. Their books talk about "the altered states of temperatures" and the forces of molecules when liquids reach the boiling point. Now, I'm a pretty good cook, but I absolutely suck at chemistry. My boss, on the other hand, is a chemistry whiz who, as far as I know, never even attempts to cook. So, maybe, the the two are not mutually exclusive.

Sometimes, (actually, most times) in my kitchen, cooking is feeling. And recently, on an unusually cool and rainy late spring Sunday, I felt the need to cook. A visit to the Jersey shore the day before, put me in the mood for seafood. And a "Seafood Fest Sale" at our local market was the answer to my to my desire. I wanted to make a pasta dish using crabs, shrimp, scallops and clams or, as known to most,  Zuppa di Pesce...and I wasn't going to use a recipe.

As an Italian, I know how to make a very good basic sauce. But, I'm not above buying a jar of quality marinara if the sauce isn't the main ingredient. When I go that route, the only brand I'll buy is from another public television favorite  Lydia Bastianach. It cost a little more than the average market brand but, oh, so worth it.

Zuppa di Pesce is an eye awesome dish that is so easy to make, it's ridiculous! It is the basic layering of flavors that brings it all together. I start by drizzling a decent amount of olive oil into a bottom heavy pot of the enameled cast iron variety. Then saute a couple gloves of finely diced garlic mixed, with a good dose of red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking). I then add about a 1/4 cup of dry red wine and a good handful of chopped parsley. Let this simmer a few minutes to get the flavors going, then add about 3/4 cup of water (boxed broths such as vegetable, seafood or even chicken work just as well here).

Meanwhile, I am scrubbing a dozen or so little neck clams and putting them in a metal colander that will sit inside my bubbling pot with a lid so that the steaming clams release broth into my simmering mixture. (If you prefer mussels, same method applies). Now, you have something going!

Once the clams are open, remove the colander and set opened clams still in shell, aside. Add shrimp, scallops and 1 pound of lump crap meat. (I didn't say this was cheap, just easy). It only takes a few minutes for shrimp and scallops to cook at a simmering point. Overcooked shrimp is tough so once it is pink, remove and set with clams. Now add the marina sauce and let simmer 20 minutes or so. The aroma is amazing!

Get your favorite pasta going, I'm a Capallini kind of girl myself. Now, add all of the seafood back into the pot (clams/mussels should remain in shell for eye appeal), and bring back to simmer stage. After a few minutes, you are done. Zuppa di pesce! Good, crusty bread is a must with this dish. Mopping up the sauce on the bottom is a temptation you won't be able to resist.

By the way, this entire meal takes less about 40 minutes to make, so when you want to impress your friends on a Saturday night, you won't have to stay home all day to do it!

Added Bonus!!! If there is any thing leftover, remove clams from shells and put back in sauce. Cool and freeze for the next time you make the Maryland Crab soup recipe formerly featured on Kitchen Clatter in place of the canned chopped tomatoes. It creates an out of this world seafood soup!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Groom's Side Part VIII...A Shower, A Funeral & Mother's Day

The Bride and her girls!!
What a week! If my emotions had travel points, I’d be set for a very long time. A much anticipated bridal shower, a totally unexpected death of a close friend and still reeling from the effects of going a one on one with pneumonia (and losing), left me collapsed and zonked on the couch by late Saturday afternoon. This past week has typically followed the journey of this past year, forcing me to juggling the hard stuff with the good stuff. And yet again, when my resolve to be strong is tested, it is the women in my life who pull me through!

I started the week anxious over the fact that the bedding set I ordered from the bride's registry over three weeks ago, had still not arrived. Late Monday night, I was checking the tracking of my purchase when my cell phone rang and I learned of the death of a favorite friend. A man who we've boated with, partied with, laughed with and cherished, was suddenly gone. I sat heartbroken and crying with my fingers still on the keyboard searching for the shower gift. The hard stuff is rearing its ugly head again.

On Tuesday, I learned that the funeral was going to be on Saturday, the same day as my future daughter in-law's wedding shower. Oh great, I thought, I will be showing up at the shower with red eyes, mascara ruined  and empty handed. On Wednesday, the real estate agent selling our home called to say that Saturday would be a great day to have an "Open House" and to make sure all was perfect before I left for the day. Yes, I agreed, please, let's add something else that I have strong feelings about to this day!

The good stuff! On Friday, the realtor came to take new pictures of the house, and sent me a text at work, "There is a big box from Macy's sitting in front of the door. Is it okay to use my key and put it inside?" Yes!! The tide is changing! Saturday morning reminded me that my friends, Lynne and Karen, are strong amazing women. One minute, we are at the funeral, huddled, hugging and crying, the next we are in the car and chatting about the wedding. Like the windshield wiper that cleared the soft rain from the window, we swiped the tears and replaced them with smiles and talk of who was wearing what to our upcoming beach wedding!
Lynne & Karen won beach hats!

The great stuff. I already love Kathleen (Kat to most), the beautiful woman that my son is marrying. Arriving at the shower and seeing her beaming smile melted the sadness of the morning completely away. Standing not far from her was my son Trevor, still in his suit from the funeral, looking at her with a smile that almost brought tears to my eyes...again.

The beach motif was in strong evidence as sea shells, star fish and candles in sand created beautiful seascapes on the tables. Jean, the bride's Mom, a fabulous baker, (I already surrendered all future grandchildren's birthday cakes to her) made sand dollar cookies along with cupcakes iced in the colors of the bridesmaid's dresses. They tasted as good as they looked. Kat's sisters and the rest of the bridesmaid did a fabulous job. Circumstances prevented me from getting there early to help, but trust me, it wasn't needed. These girls had it going on! And, as Macy's promised, I was not empty handed!

Thank You Macy's!
A day that started in pain, ended with life reminding me of all the good things to come! As I write this, it is Mother's Day and I am grateful that both my boys, and their girls, all of whom I am blessed to not only love but like as well, are strongly entrenched in my life. Trevor, the groom, took me to brunch and Kyle, the chef is cooking me dinner! I couldn't or wouldn't dare ask for more!

Next up? The rehearsal dinner! Oh...It is getting close!!