Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page

My Dad cooked and ate a countless number of fish stews almost every night for dinner. I think each night had a variation from the previous night. He grew up in Ilocos Norte and I am guessing fish was a major staple in that province. I’ve only gone there, I think, just about twice in my life and the only vendor food that I truly adored and that had stuck up and stayed in my head was the Bagnet. That was something I would go as far north of Manila, if I were still living there, just to taste that mouth-watering, deep-fried pork butt or ‘kasim’ over beer. I was lucky to find a small non-chalant restaurant just near my ex-wife’s apartment, and while I was in Manila, became a regular visitor of that joint. Bagnet is not Lechon Kawali; if I’d compare one with another. It has a much better smell and condiment and it is not as fatty. Anyway, I’ll talk about Bagnet some other time when I come up with a classical pinoy dish much related to it. I was originally just thinking about fish itself and making a fish stew.

Going back, I tasted my Dad’s locally concocted fish stews a few times and unfortunately, didn’t like them at all. It must have been an acquired taste (like Iska’s Chicken Liver); when he was growing up in the province and was stricken with poverty, and the plants and local herbs that abundantly surrounded the province in my Dad’s early childhood added something peculiar to the overall taste of his meals and particularly to his fish stews.

While growing up, I basically just had Sinigang na Bangus as my fish stew; if it weren’t another night of Fried Tilapia or Bangus. I just hated picking through Bangus’ tiny and sharp bones (tinik), and still feel hungry after chewing on its very light meat. That was all the kinds of fish the entirely family had every time. Of course, shrimps and crabs were there once in a while, but I was allergic to them and really had not much of a choice. Chinese Steamed Fish was a major treat for me at that time.

I’ve been trying to eat fish lately and have been searching for a more affordable means and ways to do so without breaking my bank. As my grocer continued its renovations, more fresh frozen items continued to pour in during my every visit. When I was looking around, I discovered some fresh frozen Tilapia & Calamares which I really couldn’t resist. I took a bag of each item; knowing they would last me a week or two to consume.

I’ve also been stung by Italian Pasta Dishes and Recipes lately, and this is with no exception. I know this is also a Classic Italian American Dish and when I first saw and read about the recipe, I just couldn’t resist, but making something of my own creation. It’s a very light and hearty dish; perfect for a cold winter and definitely perfect with wine. Even though I didn’t have the complete ingredients, I proceeded; knowing the taste would still be as spectacular. I enjoy freestyle cooking and it does help just working with I have in my fridge to bring out the spirit of a certain recipe.

Tilapia Fillets
Calamares (tubes & tentacles)
San Marzano Type Canned Tomatoes
Red Wine

Blend the canned tomatoes using an immersion blender and reduce by a third in a sauce pan. Adjust the consistency with stock if required.

Start mincing and dicing some garlic and onions, and chop some Parsley and Thyme. Set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and start sweating the onions and garlic. Deglaze with Red Wine, add the Tomato Sauce followed by the herbs. Let the pot simmer for a few more minutes. Season to taste.

Cut the Squid in rings and the fish fillets in big chunks. Add the Squid first and let it cook for about ten to fifteen minutes at low-medium heat. Check occasionally and when the squid is tender, add the fillets into the pan. Let it simmer for another five to ten minutes at low until the fish is nearly done. Adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Add more fresh chopped Thyme and Parsley as it cooks further. Squeeze some lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

This dish is very versatile. I adjusted the ingredients to my liking due to my allergies and time limitations, but there is more seafood involved with this dish like: Clams, Cod (or any other white fish), Shrimps (peeled & deveined), Lobster’s Tails & Crab’s Legs and Scallops. It’s really totally up to what’s available in the market; budget and what else can be thrown into the pot. Fish stock and clam juice will also make it more flavourful and fuller. It’s really all according to preference.

I would have sauted Carrots and Celery with the onions and garlic, however, I wanted to keep it more straightforward and simpler. I could have also adjusted the Tomato Sauce in the beginning since that was the base of the stew, but my time was very limited to create something a little more extraordinary. Additional herbs can also be thrown in for that extra aromatic punch like Basil. Thyme, Parsley and a squeeze of lemon are already a perfect match as it is.

I had some toasted bread (not exactly Italian) on the side to dip it in the broth. Of course, I drank my evening away with the leftover Red after a very long week at work.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page
When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

4 thoughts on “Cioppino

  1. This looks delicious and so easy! That’s my favorite combination. I can see making these to our family parties! Thank you :) Love them!!!

Leave a Reply to Perfectly Blended Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge