Some days don't call for a quick and easy meal.
Some days call for a celebratory dish-- something special. Some days call for a meal you spent a little extra at the grocery store for and something you slaved over a little bit longer.
Some days call for ciopinno.
The husband loves ciopinno but I've never made it because it always seemed really complicated and scary. Despite my Northwest upbringing, I'm still a bit scared to cook fish, just because it's so easy to overcook it into a rubber.
But on Memorial Day he was at work and I was at home wearing yoga pants, so it only seemed fair that I attempt ciopinno.
And surprisingly enough, it wasn't that hard or that expensive.
1/2 walla walla sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tbs olive oil
1 fennel bulb (the white part) rinsed and thinly sliced
2 leeks (white and pale part only), rinsed and thinly sliced
4 to 6 small red potatoes, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 cup of water
2 tbs red pepper
3 tbs of red wine vinegar (or dry red wine if you have it on hand)
1 lb of cleaned mussels*
12 sea scallops (half them if large)
1/2 lb skinless, boneless halibut filet
loaf of sourdough bread
Heat the oil in a large soup pot, add diced onion and sautee until transclucent. Stir in garlic, fennel, leeks and potatoes and cook for a minute or two.
Pour in broth, water, red pepper, and red wine vinegar and bring soup to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then reduce heat and simmer a half hour or so, until potatoes are fork-tender.
Raise heat back to medium-high and stir in seafood. Cook until the mussels have opened and the seafood is cooked. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
Serve with sourdough bread.
*a note on fish sustainability. It depends on your area, but certain kinds of fish are high in mercury or are not sustainably fished. For example, farm-raised scallops are a better option than diver-caught, but wild-caught Pacific Halibut is the best sustainable choice. If you don't have access to fresh fish, frozen fish works great; just defrost before adding to the soup.