My husband, Larry, writes this month’s blog. He was a career naval officer, private school administrator and teacher, and for the past twenty years, President of Your Finest Hour Leadership Programs. He is an executive leadership coach, facilitator, and keynote speaker (http://www.yourfinesthour.com/). He also shares with Sgt. Casey one special love.
In Naomi Kryske’s The Mission, second novel of The Witness Series (http://naomikryske.com/the-novels/the-mission/), we learn a little more about the inscrutable Sergeant Casey. We discover he grew up in Penzance in Cornwall and developed a taste for the sea, both as a profession and a culinary choice. As a former member of the elite British Special Forces unit, the Special Boat Service, Casey realized that food supported his mission. So he ate what he could, where he could, when he could.
In Part II of The Mission, we find Sgt. Casey having supper at his girlfriend, Marcia’s, parents’ house. (It must be serious when he’s invited to meet the parents.) Marcia’s mother knows Casey enjoys seafood, so she wisely served cioppino replete with scallops, clams, and fish.
Although several varieties of fish stew are found all along the Mediterranean Sea, cioppino originated in cold Pacific waters of San Francisco. In the late 1800’s Italian immigrants in the North Beach neighborhood of the city combined shellfish with some of the finned catch in a wine, tomato, and herbed fish stock. Cioppino (pronounced choh-pee-no) literally means “little soup” in the language spoken in Genoa, Italy, home of many of the immigrants. These newcomers to America were clearly following in the tradition of their great forebearer, Christopher Columbus, who also hailed from Genoa.
Cioppino moved from the fishing boats, where it was made after a long day on the water, to the elite culinary establishments of the great cosmopolitan city by the bay.
Cioppino enjoys a deep red stock best made from fish heads and bones slowly infused in boiling water. San Marzano tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, basil, fennel, oregano, parsley and other spices give the fish stock some bite. Into the stock are added shellfish, such as clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops, as well as chunks of fish. The presence of clam and mussel shells in the soup makes it a messy meal to eat. Hence, one finds bibs at the fine restaurants that serve this fisherman’s stew to a well dressed clientele.
A great deal of love and patience go into the preparation of cioppino. There is, however, hope for the cioppino devotees who crave its addictive allures. Carrabba’s Italian Grill has its own version of cioppino which you can readily enjoy. It comes with clams in the shell, mussels in the shell, bay scallops, shrimp, and white fish in a rich red stock. It is served with baked ciabatta for mopping up the stock that escapes one’s spoon. The flavor profile is exquisite with multiple flavor notes and textures.
Carrabba’s started in 1986 and has 244 restaurants in 32 states and Brazil. Since I’m not a great fan of mussels, I request extra clams instead. My wife and I have eaten at Carrabba’s since 2002 and have found virtually no variance in the same high quality dining experience in some dozen restaurants in four states. I had never had cioppino before savoring the recent addition to Carrabba’s menu, but I’m hooked and now rarely stray from this “little soup” when we dine there.
RECENT APPEARANCES: In March, Naomi spoke about The Witness: The Book, the Backstory, and the Writer’s Life to the Book Review Club at the Bent Tree Country Club. In April, she addressed the Adult Book Review Club at the McKinney, TX Public Library. In May, she spoke to the Dallas Woman’s Forum at the Alexander Mansion.
If you would like Naomi to speak to your book club, church group, or other social group, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org