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Simple seafood stew can be adapted to cook’s preference

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that most likely originated on fishing boats as a one-pot meal that fishermen would cook up from the catch of the day.

That’s probably why I like it so much. It is so easy, you could literally pull it together on a tiny boat, with little equipment or attentiveness required.

Yet, despite its humble simplicity, a bowl of cioppino is gloriously alluring and impressive looking, with chunks of fresh fish and shellfish piled in a tomato-rich broth fragrant with garlic, herbs and aromatic vegetables.

It is one of those dishes you can play with, depending on your preferences and the ingredients you have on hand. Instead of the onion, celery and sweet red bell pepper I use in the accompanying recipe, for example, you could use shallots, leeks, fennel and-or sweet green bell pepper.

You don’t have to be exact about the proportions of tomato and broth. Make it as thickly tomato-y as you like by adding more tomato paste or additional chopped tomatoes, or, hold back on them a bit to make it more broth-y.

Most important, because the dish was born to celebrate seafood, choose the fish or shellfish that looks best at the market the day you plan to serve it. Just about any type will work.

On the table in less than an hour, cioppino is perfect for weeknights. But it is also ideal for serving to guests, because you can make the soup base in advance and refrigerate or freeze it.

Then, all you need to do is bring it back to barely bubbling and add the fish right before you are ready to eat. Serve it with a hunk of crusty bread, as I am certain the Italian fishermen did.

Cookbook author and registered nutritionist Ellie Krieger is a contributing writer for The Washington Post. She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at elliekrieger.com.


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