I wasn’t really the camping type when I lived in LA. Before I moved to Israel my camping experiences could be counted on less than one hand. So when I went on my first Israeli camping excursion back in 2000, I asked my camping partner/then boyfriend/now husband what I should bring. He told me he would take care of everything and that all I had to bring was a change of clothes and a bathing suit. We were going camping with another couple, one of Assaf’s best friends and his American girlfriend.
We arrive at the campsite to unload. There it was standing in front of me: the friend’s tent, large enough to fit all four of us, with all the bells and whistles one (girl from LA) could ask for. He brought pillows, a down comforter, and mattresses. The works. There was our tent, directly across from their nature manor, a two-person tent bought from one of those gas station specials. No mattress, no pillow. Just me, him and my change of clothes.
No matter how camping gear-less we were, something really clicked with me and I got the camping bug. Lucky for me, one of my best friend’s family, the Kuperstein’s, organizes a major beach camping trip twice a year, in October (Sukkot) and April (Passover). They set up camp on the beach for a week, bringing with them a full kitchen, shower with hot water, and a bedroom (custom made from a trailer, with beds, shelves and a mini-fridge). We join for a night or two bringing still our little two person tent.
My ritual for those camping trips is always the same-stop by the local Arab fishing village (Fuyadis) just before getting to the site to buy the freshest seafood possible. We get to the site, set up our little tent, and then I get to work cleaning the shrimp, calamari or fish while there is still enough light outside. Every time I make a different variation of grilled seafood, but mostly stick with a marinade of olive oil, fresh herbs, chili pepper, salt, pepper and then a squeeze of lemon when fresh off the grill.
Last month we were invited to the Kuperstein’s house for Hanukah, and Freda, the matriarch of the family, had made a delicious seafood soup that automatically brought me back to the days of our camping on the beach and that fresh seafood from the Arab village. I sat with Freda to get her recipe, and later on that week I found myself at the fishmongers shop in Yaffo, searching for the freshest seafood, on a cold winter’s day.
I made it and it came out spectacular. And eating it brought me back for just a second to my favorite moment of all time: waking up to the beating of the early morning sun, next to my man and son, in our two-person tent, to an flawless front row view of the bluish-green Mediterranean.
The soup is based on Freda’s recipe, but she used frozen seafood, which tasted really just as good. I love to touch, feel and work with seafood, and for me it was totally worth it. You don’t have to use all of the fish I used here; if you’re not into anyone of the seafood ingredients, just skip it and add more of the stuff you do like.
Ingredients for 6-8 servings:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large can (800 grams/28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups seafood stock or water
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup heavy cream
½ pound/225 grams calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
½ pound/225 grams uncooked shrimp, cleaned
½ pound/225 grams fresh mussels, soaked in cold water and strained
2 small blue crabs
1 small white fish (we used sea bass), fileted, skin removed
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook on medium heat for about 7 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, cayenne pepper, potatoes, stock and thyme. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes have softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the heavy cream and stir to combine. Add the calamari, shrimp, and mussels and cook for an additional 15 minutes and then add the crab and white fish and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning as needed and serve warm, with fresh bread.