Monday, June 25, 2012

Soup & Stew--Cioppino, Bouillabaisse, Caldo de Mariscos

I had the good fortune of going out on a real date with my husband this past weekend. We joined a group of adults and enjoyed unobstructed conversation. I adore my kiddos, but it is quite a treat to enjoy a dinner out every now and again. The hosting restaurant was cosmetically unremarkable, but many in our party are regulars, so I had high hopes for the food. I selected Caldo de Mariscos, a dish that I had never before tried, and I found that I had chosen wisely. Mussels, clams, shrimp, and various vegetables laced the savory, light tomato broth, which was a perfect repast on a rainy Seattle evening. I decided that this would be a dish worth learning.

Latin soups are so interesting to me. There is a surprising number of them for a region where the temperatures are generally quite warm. I've heard theories about how it is easier for the body to keep cool if it is not heating up to counteract the effect of icy drinks, ergo, the popularity of soup. Whether or not that is true, it seems that soup is just as ubiquitous in the cuisines of warm countries as it is in the colder climes.

These three soups, cioppino (hailing from San Francisco), bouillabaisse (Southern France), and Caldo de Mariscos (Veracruz, Mexico), have quite a bit in common. Their primary focus is the fruit of the sea in one form or another, which underscores and deepens the broth with characteristic brininess. What I find interesting about this is that the same fundamental ingredients in distinct cultural cuisines seem to be consistently combined to yield remarkably similar dishes. And this is certainly not the only example of cross cultural similarities in food. It is merely one of the many aspects that can make cooking interesting.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

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