Camping Cioppino

Every summer, on the Labor Day weekend, we go camping somewhere along the Northwest coast. One year it was in Oregon, south of Seaside, another year at Cape Disappointment, and this year at Deception Pass. We are joined by my husband’s parents, grandparents, sister, brother, and a friend from the good-old-days without kids.

It is something we come to look forward to, a way of bringing our summer to a close. Usually we have to rush off the last day to make it back to LA in time for the first day of school. But it is all worth it. One last chance to enjoy the beauty of the great northwest outdoors.

We always have a great time camping with our group and have started to make our own traditions around it. My father-in-law always takes charge of cooking the meals, getting more and more fancy with it as the years pass. My brother-in-law, Jacob, and I started making cioppino as our own tradition. I am not sure how it started, but this was our third year and we seem to be getting better and better at it each year.

Last year we had the advantage of fresh local shellfish but made the mistake of putting precooked sausage in it, giving it the taste of seafood stew with hotdogs. This year we planned to shop a little smarter.

Camping on the ocean, I figured we would have access to some fresh local seafood but had some difficulty finding a fresh source. We asked around town but no one had a clear answer. Out of desperation, we headed to the local Safeway. The fish was all frozen and from places far away. How can that be? With fish right at their doorstep, not more than 500 feet away from the marina? Frustrated, we bought some things that looked okay; a bag of frozen mixed seafood, fresh scallops, fresh italian sausage, fresh basil and parsley. I refused to buy the frozen fish from distant waters, when I knew there had to be some nearby. There was another megastore in town, and we stopped there only because we were running out of choices. It looked pretty ghetto but we gave it a go anyway. What a surprise! They had local fresh fish and shellfish by the boat-full! And at great prices! Who knew! So we got some clams, mussels, more basil, and a nice piece of wild salmon.

Back at the campsite, Jacob cleaned the shellfish and I chopped the onions, garlic, and sausage. We got the onions and garlic going, adding the sausage and then the tomato sauce. We cooked that for about 30 minutes and then started adding the shellfish bit by bit. Along the way, we decided to add small cobbettes of corn, just because it sounded good. The herbs, corn, and clam juice went in next, followed by the bag of seafood, salmon, and fresh scallops.

It was done in a snap and we couldn’t wait to taste it. It didn’t need any seasoning, as the seafood and sausage gave it just enough salt and spice. Perfect! It had a wonderfully rounded flavor, with just the right amount of sauce and seafood, not to mention the nice touch of corn. Everyone raved over it. But as always, we chefs find something we can improve on. Maybe next year we will source the seafood ahead of time. Maybe we’ll use andouille sausage instead. And more scallops and maybe cod instead of salmon…

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Categories: travel


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