This was my first try at cooking for others besides myself and Cleve. If it’s just us, who cares if Dinner is Served is late or ugly or burned. Or is a complete abomination, as was Tuna-Cheese-Macaroni Loaf. But it’s different when you’re cooking for guests, especially when your guests have self-inflicted dietary restrictions because they gave up meat for Lent. Based on Dinner is Served, non-meat choices were very limited in the 1970s. For instance, Lentil Soup (something you’d think would be vegetarian) has bacon in it. Just skimming through the cards, I don’t think I’ve found a single meal without meat. Anyway, a fish dish was in order.
I chose Cioppino because the recipe is pretty straightforward, it can sit on the stove unattended, and it enabled me to make substitutions. And of course I had to do substitutions (damn you, Safeway!).
The substitutions were as followed: instead of buying clams (expensive and not available at Safeway), cracked crabs (not in season even if I did want to buy them), and fish filets (I don’t like fish), I used the remaining frozen shrimp from a bag of 25-30 ct. that I had in my fridge, and a bag of frozen ’Seafood Mix.’ It contained tiny shrimp, mussels, cuttlefish, calamari, and squid. It says right on the bag “perfect for soups and stews.” It was perfect and only $4.99.
Anyway, since we were entertaining, I don’t have a very good timeline of what happened when, so I am going to work in broad strokes. The plan was for Todd and Leah to get at our place at six and to eat at seven. FYI, Todd and Leah are a couple we know because, like Cleve, they are native Ohioans and Buckeyes who are now in Baltimore.
At 5pm I started with the prep, chopping the onion, pepper, parsley and celery. I added some extra green pepper because a tablespoon just seemed way too little for an Italian dish. when I cooked the veggies, I scaled back the olive oil from a hefty 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons. The liquid ingredients went in and at about 5:30 it was at a nice low simmer. In the thirty minutes before Todd and Leah arrived I did the following: the baked peaches and the salad.
The peaches were quick and easy. I just followed the instructions. Peach halves were cheap (sadly they only had the halves in heavy syrup, but it is a dessert), the maraschino cherries weren’t priced too high and OH! What is that you’re asking for Stuffed Baked Peach recipe? Is that? No, it can’t be. But it is! SLIVERED ALMONDS. Yes, I’m set with the almonds, thank you very much. So yeah, chop-chop, throw on some sherry, and done. I threw these together in a baking dish and put it aside in the fridge. As for the salad, needless to say, the Safeway doesn’t carry endive. So I bought an ’Italian Blend’ bag o’ salad. Its contents: romaine and radicchio. For the dressing, I combined olive oil, white wine vinegar, chopped parsley, garlic salt, and pepper in a small Tupperware(tm) and went to it like I was holding a Shake Weight(tm).
With the main meal, I was able to let the tomato/wine/veggie base simmer while we had cocktails. About 10 minutes before serving I threw in (thawed) the 9 or so remaining shrimp and the bag of seafood mix. When the shrimp were pink (about 6 minutes) I was able to plate and photograph. Dinner is Served!
We served this in our living room around our coffee table (we do not own a dining set). We served ourselves from the stew pot and the salad bowl and had the sliced bread in the center of the table with butter. Easy to eat. Very casual.
I assume that the Cioppino was a hit since we took down the whole pot. There wasn’t a single bit of leftovers, which I appreciated because since starting this project I frequently have more leftovers in the fridge than I know what to do with. When I served dinner I put the oven on to pre-heat, so shortly after dinner the peaches were ready to be served. They weren’t bad. I myself am not a fan of peaches, fresh nor canned, so I was surprised by this. Or not. Maybe I am just so used to having almonds in my meals that I now like anything that includes them.
The night culminated in On-Demand karaoke sung into wooden spoons and spatulas. Todd did a stirring rendition of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.” Oh, Britney. This brings me to a completely different topic. I am in the middle of a 19-hour block of Britney programming on the FUSE channel, specifically, Britney’s top 20 (TWENTY!) videos in chronological order, and I can’t help but wonder–what does Britney’s hair look like? Her real hair. There are tons of photos of the extension tracts for her dreadful weaves (even in her music videos), but what are those things attached to? Furthermore, Brit has millions of dollars why can’t she get Ken Paves to give her a decent head of hair? Say what you will about J.Simp, but at least her hair always looks good.
Cleveland worked some magic on “The Final Countdown.” But it really makes no sense unless you are familiar with this (I urge you to click on the link).
Long story short: Cioppino: good. Baked peaches: good. Evening as a whole: very fun. Britney’s hair: a sad, sorry, fail.