I need help

No one reads this blog. But if they did I would ask your help on making a moderately important decision. There are a few things I want/need and since I can only afford one I need to choose.

Option 1: a new camera (I never really learned how to use the fake-SLR camera I had and then the flash burnt out). There's a couple I had in mind, the affordable Canon Elph $199 or the not-in-my-price-range, beautiful Olympus Pen-e1 $700-$800.
Option 2: a Wi-Fi radio. My alarm clock sucks and with this I could presumably listen to radio stations in Africa! Below is the Sanyo for $155-$190.Option 3: an external hard-drive. Boring and every one I've had has died or been lost in short order, but I have nothing backing up my computer, yikes. I was thinking the Iomega 1 pterodactyl.
Option 4: new wheels for my bike (I have a great frame just waiting to be fixed up as an awesome summer ride but it starts with wheels and then goes to chain, crank, pedal, seat, grips, etc. - it's a project). $170 for the wheels and then another $250-$300 for everything else.I guess I'm leaning towards the camera right now because it would be nice to share actual pictures of the dinner I made last night:

Cioppino - an Italian seafood stew.

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red or green bell peppers or 10-12 red and yellow tiny sweet peppers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white or red wine (I used 3/4 Lillet for the broth and 3/4 dry red to steam the mussels)
  • 1 (28- to 32-ounces) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 1 cup water (optional)
  • 2 dozen mussels (looked over and just beards pulled)
  • 1 pound skinless red snapper or halibut fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and seasoned with salt (Halibut was $18.99 a pound! So I used Mahi-Mahi at $15.99 a pound - not great but a little better)
  • 1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment of shells left intact) and deveined (optional)
  • 1 to 3/4 pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • Garnish: shredded fresh basil leaves and small whole leaves (I garnish with parsley. It's also good with lemon wedges and Tabasco)
  • Accompaniment: sourdough bread. It's absolutely necessary to have the bread for dipping
Cook garlic, onions, oregano, and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add half the wine, canned tomatoes and clam juice and simmer, covered, 15-30 minutes. Add fish, shrimp and scallops and cook over medium low for 5-6 minutes (if scallops are small add 1-2 minutes after the fish). Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile in a separate pot heat remaining wine on medium to easy simmer and add muscles. Cook covered for 5-6 minutes being careful to avoid boiling over. Discard any unopened mussels and transfer to pot and stir.

Serve cioppino immediately in soup bowls.
And for dessert...

Churros with Spiced Hot Chocolate

Cinnamon Sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Churro Batter

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups canola oil (for frying)
For cinnamon sugar:
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
For churro batter:
Bring first 4 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add flour; stir vigorously with wooden spoon until shiny dough mass forms, about 1 minute. Transfer to large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs, 1 at a time; continue beating until smooth, shiny, sticky paste forms. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat to 350°F. Working in batches, spoon batter into pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe batter into hot oil in 3 1/2- to 4-inch-long ribbons (use knife if necessary to cut batter at end of star tip) and allow batter to slide into oil. Fry churros until brown and cooked through in center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels. Cool 5 minutes, then toss in cinnamon sugar to coat.
Spiced Hot Chocolate

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 15 whole cardamom pods, crushed
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring first 9 ingredients to simmer in heavy large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep 20 minutes. Add cocoa powder and vanilla. Bring to simmer, whisking until blended. Strain hot chocolate into 8-cup measuring cup; discard spices. Divide hot chocolate among 6 mugs.

P.S. I happen to have all of the spiced at my house (which made it so easy). I got them from the Spice House in Old Town and Mitsuwa Market in Arlington Heights. Both really fun places to shop at in/near Chicago.

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One Response to I need help

  1. Rabbit, I am going to help you choose a camera. I LOVE my Sony DSC-W290. I bought it last winter. My SLR has been gathering dust ever since; prior to that, the SLR went everywhere with me! Then, in my opinion, your next purchase should be the hard drive. That way you can back up all those beautiful photos!!

    I will be expecting a dinner invite next time you prepare Cioppino!!

    Ciao, ciao!
    Your favorite Italiana ;)


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