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Great dishes are often born of memory and whatever ingredients happen to be on hand. Such was the case with cioppino, the emblematic fish stew of San Francisco. During the mid-1800s, the city's immigrant Genoese fishermen used what was left of the day's catch to cook a thick purée of fish and vegetables. They called it ciuppin, a dialect for "little soup."
Over time, Sicilians replaced the Genoese on the fishing boats, and in their cooking pots cioppino as it came to be called, acquired peppers and tomatoes, and the fish was left in chunks. Today cioppino is a sumptuous, garlicky, tomatoey stew brimming with several different kinds of available fish, shellfish, wine, herbs, and olive oil–transcending its origins as a poor man's dish.
Try it at San Francisco's oldest still-operating restaurant, Tadich Grill, which has been making the stew daily since 1849, or make this version from the Sunset Cookbook at home. Either way is worth the effort.