I was practically raised in the kitchen. My maternal grandmother and great-grandmother were extraordinary cooks and spent hours upon hours preparing a meal for the family. I so enjoyed sitting there, listening to them speak in German (and begging them to speak in English so “I could know what they were saying!”), watching them create delectable things from scratch, learning the cook’s tricks and being inspired to follow in their footsteps.
And so, when my better half’s children, Katie (who was 8 then and is now 24) and Jonathan (who was then 5 and now 20), began spending summers and holidays with us, cooking was one of the ways I interacted with them.
It was something I was comfortable with and knew how to do—not yet having had children of my own. From baking holiday cookies that I used to make with my grandmothers to planning and preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as well as everyday meals—it was our “together” time.
And we made a family adventure out of it. We would go grocery shopping, pick out what we were going to cook and we all took part in preparing the meal together.
Now, 16 years later, I am proud to report that Katie (pictured below) is a certified world traveler. She spent a semester in Spain during college and after graduating, traveled the world for six months—three months in Latin and South America and three months in Asia and India. She is just two countries shy of having her age meet the number of countries she has visited! And she is an adventuresome eater—willing to try anything—and, like a true foodie, she most enjoys eating authentic street food.
Jon, on the other hand, has taken a different path, but one that is equally culinarily-driven. He has been employed in the food industry for several years and spends half of his work time in the kitchen as a manager and the other half on the floor—waiting tables and managing. He is soon-to-be named the youngest kitchen manager in the company.
And we wonder if our time together was impactful? Clearly, it was. We can now can say that we are officially a family of foodies.
Katie has been visiting for the last week and tonight is the “last supper” before she heads back north to Washington State. We are making a Zuppa di Pesce, or seafood stew. You can add any kind of fish or seafood that you choose, although ours will feature squid, shrimp, clams and mussels.
And tonight, my husband, David, is head chef, but that still leaves me on dish duty.
Zuppa di Pesce
This variation of a seafood stew is one of my favorites. It comes together in 30 minutes or less and serves an army. Be sure and whip up a batch of garlic bread to sop all the sauce. It's beyond.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 cloves garlic left whole
- 1/2 onion sliced
- 1 tomato roughly chopped
- 1 cup homemade marinara sauce or good quality marinara such as Rao's
- Generous splash of clam juice or white wine or both
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh basil chopped
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 lb. shrimp shelled and deveined
- 1 lb. mussels rinsed
- 1 lb. clams rinsed
- 1/2 lb. squid sliced
- More finely chopped herbs oregano, thyme and basil, as well as Italian parsley for garnish
In a large stockpot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and saute garlic over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add onions and allow to saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add chopped tomato, herbs, marinara sauce, generous splash of clam juice or white wine and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
Add mussels and clams and cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes on medium-low heat. Add shrimp and squid, stir, trying to get the shrimp and squid down into the broth. Cover and steam until the clams and mussels open and shrimp and squid are cooked. This should be about 7-8 minutes. Do not eat the clams and mussels unless they open, which they will do when they are fully cooked. On occasion, some of them will not open, which means they are bad and throw those away.
Add more herbs including chopped parsley this time and serve immediately in big bowls with garlic "sponge" bread.
Big Wave Dave's Famous Garlic Sponge Bread
- 1 loaf of crunchy Italian bread not the kind that's like a hot dog roll [In San Antonio, we think the best bread for this is the seeded baguette at Whole Foods]
- Chopped garlic as much as you deem necessary (we like a lot!)
- Butter you can always substitute Smart or Earth Balance for the butter, if you want this to be healthier
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette the long ways (horizontally). Place both halves on a piece of aluminum foil. Put pats of butter on top of both halves, approximately every inch or so. Liberally drizzle olive oil over baguette halves and sprinkle with a little salt. Sprinkle chopped garlic over baguette halves and place in the oven for 8 minutes. Turn off oven and turn on broiler to high. Watch carefully until baguettes turn brown and the middle is bubbling. Remove from oven and slice crosswise into 3-inch pieces.
Serve and dip in seafood broth for best results.
The kitchen transforms into a magical place with family. For me it was watching my grandmother make homemade pasta, ravioli and cookies. While I was mesmerized by her flour covered aprons and the way she wielded a rolling pin, she was rarely pleased with my efforts to "help". The Italians can be so critical, good thing, I'm not!:)
GREAT POST! obviously i'm not at all biased or anything 😉