Canned tomatoes (Recipe: cioppino)
You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let's call the whole thing off!
Are you a member of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Rainy Sunday Afternoon Romantic Comedy Movie Club?
Okay, there is no such club, but if there were, I would be its president. And if you were a member, you'd surely recognize this classic song from Swing Time.
It's a love song, and it's not really about potatoes and tomatoes.
But if there were a love song about tomatoes, I'd be singing along.
Processed at the peak of flavor, canned tomatoes are always a better choice than poor-quality fresh tomatoes. My favorite canned tomatoes actually come in a box, which guarantees a fresh, clean taste in roasted red pepper tomato soup, sausage and basil marinara sauce, five-minute tomato sauce, cauliflower with tomatoes and cumin, and Moroccan coconut and chickpea soup.
The grocery store in my town stocks half a dozen brands of canned tomatoes, including some that are fire-roasted, organic, or seasoned with basil and garlic (don't buy those -- season yourself, depending on the dish you're cooking). I prefer to buy tomatoes without added salt, too, so I can season to my own taste.
Save the little leftover bits in a container in your freezer until you have enough to make sauce, or freeze in ice cube trays.
You can make the base for this classic San Francisco soup in advance, and freeze it. For a quick dinner, reheat the soup base, add any combination of shellfish and fish, and your cioppino (pronounced chah-PEEN-oh) will be ready in 10 minutes. I had a lot of fun making this with Kalyn in my Rhode Island kitchen. Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis' Everyday Italian. Serves 8.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (a mandoline works well for this, if you have one)
1 onion, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 large squirt of tomato paste from a tube (2 Tbsp, more or less)
1 26-oz box Pomi chopped tomatoes, or equivalent canned or fresh tomatoes with juice
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
2 8-oz bottles clam juice
1 bay leaf
1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 lb raw "large" shrimp (26-30 size), peeled and deveined
1/2 lb halibut or mako shark, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 lb cod (the thick loin) or scrod, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 lb salmon (skinless fillet), cut into 2-inch chunks
2-3 Tbsp rough-chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Heat the oil in a very large nonreactive stockpot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomato with the juices, wine, chicken stock, clam juice and bay leaf. Cover, and raise the heat just until the soup comes to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes. (Can be made ahead up to this point; refrigerate or freeze.)
Add the clams to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the clams begin to open. Add the mussels, shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the mussels are open, about 5 minutes (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Top with parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve.