Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some like muscles - others like mussels

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Image from Penn Cove Shellfish

One of the greatest pleasures of living in the Pacific Northwest
is having delicious and fresh fish and seafood right at hand.
I wasn't much of a mussel eater until I moved here and had a bowl of

Penn Cove Mussels are those to which all others are compared when it comes to taste!  Harvested by Penn Cove Shellfish in Coupeville, Washington on Whidbey Island.  So very yummy - there are no other words to describe this delicacy.

Being a Northwest girl now, I have an arsenal of recipes featuring these little devils.  One of my husband's favorites is Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Sauce simply served with crusty bread to sop up the juice and a glass of red wine.  Add to it a beautiful pink & purple sunset over the water and past the mountains and you have heaven on earth.

Simple ingredients mostly available in your pantry.

Cook and serve in a paella pan - very festive.

The recipe I use is from one of Lidia's cookbooks. 
If you don't know Lidia, you haven't had real Italian cooking
(unless of course you happen to be lucky to have
dined in my mother's kitchen).
I recommend any of Lidia's cookbooks if you want to learn
authentic Italian cooking.  She also has cooking
shows on the PBS channel.

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

This is my dear dad eating his second bowl of spicy mussels.
He had three bowls in total (over 4 pounds)!
He's an eating machine!  The greatest complement you can
give the cook is to ask for seconds and especially thirds!!

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce
(Source: Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich)

2 pounds mussels, preferrable cultivated from Penn Cove Farms in Washington State
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved) or 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
salt to taste

1.  Clean and debeard mussels as needed.  Remember to discard any mussels that are not closed shut or do not close when tapped.
2.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet - a paella pan is perfect for this dish and presents nicely on the table.  Add garlic and cook, shaking the pan until golden (about 3 minutes).  Slide the tomatoes into the skillet and stir in the oregano and red pepper.  Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down (about 5 minutes).
3.  Stir the mussels into the skillet, then pour in the wine.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and cook just until the mussels are opened (about 3-5 minutes).  Do not overcook or the mussels will be tough.
4. Stir in the basil.  Add salt to taste.
5.  Discard any mussels with unopened shells.  Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juice.

I can hear my grandmother's voice still ringing in my ears. "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!  Mangia!  Mangia!"
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