+ My Grandma Ann, myself and my Grandma Donna at my high school graduation in 2008+
Wow. I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. For some reason time seems to go so much faster in Boston than it did back home in Ohio. In just a few months, it will have been 1 year since Ross and I made the 13 hour drive here and moved into our very first apartment together, yet it still feels like it all just happened yesterday. Since my last post family issues came up and no matter how many times I sat down with my laptop I couldn’t seem to focus enough to complete an entire post. Whenever I struggle with something my mind always seems to wonder. Thoughts seems to just pop up out of the blue and I find myself midsentence lost in a thought that has nothing to do with what I am writing. But as time goes on I can’t shake the feeling that it’s important that I get my thoughts out and begin to move forward. So this is my way of honoring the past.
A little less than a month ago my grandmother passed away unexpectedly and, as if that wasn’t enough, less than two weeks after her death Ross’s grandmother lost her battle with cancer. During this time, Boston has never seemed further from home. It can feel so isolating, but through it all Ross has been my rock. I don’t know what I would have done without him here. Together we were able to remind one another that although we hurt now, it is more important to honor the lives of these tremendous women and all the wonderful things we have because of them rather than focusing on how we’re feeling in this moment.
+ Cannoli, cookies and pizzelles from Corbo’s Bakery in Cleveland’s little Italy (where my grandma used to live as a girl) set out for memorial service +
We already had a trip back to Ohio planned to attend the wedding of one of Ross’s best childhood friends, and (through God’s grace) it worked out that my grandmother’s memorial service was held on the same day. Before we left Ross got news that things were not looking good for his grandmother so he made arrangements to extend his stay and go home for a few days before returning to Boston. After flying into Cleveland, I spent most of the day with my extended family trading stories and celebrating my grandmother’s life (Ross had already committed to being a groomsmen in the wedding so he had wedding obligations throughout the day) and then that evening I joined Ross for reception. It was actually that night, following the reception, that Ross got the message that his grandmother had passed away. What a whirlwind!
I still struggle to put into words the overwhelming emotions of this past month. To say it felt like being hit by a 12-ton Mac Truck would be an understatement. Between the guilt of not being there for my parents and sister and the longing for just one last moment together with my grandmother, it feels like my mind has been on overdrive. I find myself going through my normal day to day stuff when memories of my grandmother suddenly flood my mind. Being so separated from everyone it feels like I’ve been living in a bubble. No matter how much I know that it isn’t true, it still feels like the next time I go home for some holiday celebration she will be there leaving her signature rosy red lipstick kisses on my cheek.
+ Time to get cooking. Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino, here we come +
I see so much of my grandmother in me, from my complete inability to disguise my emotions at any given time, my unbelievably
childlike small wrists, my love of all things that sparkle, my inescapable need to please others, and my unending loyalty and love for family. So in honor of her and the tremendous legacy she left behind I wanted to share with you one of my absolute favorite dishes of all time, Cioppino. No matter when or were I’m dining if I spot Cioppino on a menu I stop reading immediately. I already know what I will be ordering. No two Cioppino recipes are the same so feel free to play around with this recipe and incorporate your favorite seafood, spices and flavors. The basic backbone to any Cioppino is fresh fish in a tomato/wine broth (and don’t forget lots of crusty bread to soak up every last drop). I generally prefer broth based soups to have a little kick to them. It adds so much depth to the soup and just warms you from the inside out. The ultimate comfort food. This recipe makes a huge pot of soup, but be careful because it is nearly impossible to stop eating. Stopping after a single bowl is completely unheard of (at least in my apartment)!
Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, remove stalks and chop bulb into 1/2-inch pieces (make sure to cut out and discard the core of the bulb, save frons to use as a pretty garnish)
4 garlic cloves, smashed (just lay blade of a large kitchen knife flat over clove and apply moderate pressure, making sure to peel off and discard outer coating)
2 shallots, chopped (I used 2 small shallots but the recipe originally called for two large so feel free to use up to 4 small shallots if you prefer a stronger onion taste)
1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
2 cups dry white wine (I used a semi-dry Riesling because that’s what I prefer to drink, just make sure to use something you would drink by the glass)
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth (I always use low-sodium chicken stock)
1 dried bay leaf
1 pound peeled shrimp
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh basil, chopped (I didn’t have fresh basil on hand so I used about a tablespoon of dried basil)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Crusty bread (I used fresh ciabatta from a bakery down the street, phenomenal!)
- In a Dutch Oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add fennel, shallots, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
- Add sausage, breaking into bite sized pieces using a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add wine to deglaze pan, using wooden spoon to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add tomato paste, chicken stock and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer then cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
- Uncover. Add shrimp, beans, basil and thyme. Simmer until shrimp are pink and cooked through, between 2 and 4 minutes depending on size of the shrimp.
- Discard bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread. Sit back and enjoy.
*When reheating the soup the shrimp can easily become overcooked, so I remove shrimp until soup is hot and then add them back into the soup right before serving. The soup will heat them through and prevent overdone shrimp.
Recipe Source: Giada at Home Cookbook