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To prepare croutons, brush bread with oil and broil until golden brown. Turn, brush with oil, and broil until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and rub one side with garlic. Sprinkle with cheese and set aside. To prepare shellfish nectar, put ingredients into a shallow saucepan over medium high heat. Add mussels and clams, cover and boil for 5 minutes, until they open. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put shrimp into the same water, cover and boil until the shrimp turn pink, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Squeeze lemon juice over the cooked shellfish, and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Strain the nectar into a small mixing bowl, and discard residue. To prepare stew, put oil, onion, and fennel seed in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the onion is translucent and softened, 3 - 5 minutes. Add garlic and bay leaf, and cook for 5 more minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add nectar and remaining ingredients, excep! t seafood, turn heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add all seafood, and simmer for 3 more minutes. While the stew is simmering the last time, broil the croutons long enough to melt the cheese. Serving Ideas : Serve immediately in heated bowls. NOTES : Like traditional Italian cioppino, this version is a thick, rich tomato-based stew, but it features seafood found in my neighborhood. If Cioppino is made ahead, cool it as quickly as possible to prevent the fish from overcooking as it cools down. Transfer the stew from the cooking pot to a large bowl covered loosely with plastic wrap. Set the bowl on a bed of ice in a larger bowl and refrigerate. To reheat, transfer it back to the cooking pot and heat it over high heat until it simmers, then turn the heat down to medium high to finish heating it through.To serve, ladle the Cioppino into heated, shallow soup or pasta bowls, taking care to divide the seafood among the bowls evenly. Make room in the center of the bowls and place a crouton in the center of each Cioppino. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the stew, and serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings. Nutr. Recipe by: Copyright c 1995 by Heidi Rabel Posted to recipelu-digest by "Valerie Whittle"
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