Cioppino is seafood comfort food.  While the name may impart notions of complicated haute cuisine technique, the reality of preparation could hardly be more simple. Traditionally this is a fish stew made from the catch of the day,where the fishermen's extra bits were tossed into a wine and tomato based stock, served shells and all with a thick piece of bread to sop up every drip of the tasty stock.

Since we do not have the luxury of standing dockside, our version relies on what we can afford from the supermarket, which typically comes flash frozen in our part of the country. Even with these limitations, this cioppino really hits the spot, no matter which combination of seafood bits we can find to fill the pot. Leftovers...well, I wouldn't know what you do with those, we never have had any, but I'm sure they would reheat well on low.

1/2 cup margarine
2 onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 ounce cans stewed tomatoes
4 cups water
3 Tablespoons Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon basil (dried or fresh) chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup clam juice
1 1/2 cup white wine

Seafood of your choice (but this is what we can usually get):
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and  deveined
1 1/2 pounds bay scallops
1 1/2 pounds crabmeat
1 1/2 pounds cod fillets, cubed
may also add 18 small clams and/or mussels, cleaned and debearded

In a large stockpot over medium heat saute onions and garlic in margarine until soft.  Add tomatoes, breaking up chunks as possible, and all remaining ingredients except the seafood to the pot.  Cover and simmer on low to bring flavors together for approximately 30 minutes.  Increase heat and add the seafood, bringing the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 5-7 minutes until clams open and seafood is cooked through.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a warm crusty bread.  Makes 8-12 large servings.