Mussels with White Wine Tomato Saffron Sauce

Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery.  Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables.  Holler.

However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation.  In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy.  This made my husband feel unhappy.

To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious.  (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)

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Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce

  • 2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
  • big scoop of all-purpose flour
  • big pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz  can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
  • lots of chopped parsley
  • fresh thyme
  • about a cup of white wine
  • salt, pepper
  1. Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water.  Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes.  Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off.  Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
  2. Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat.  Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot.  Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up.  You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery.  Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
  5. Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.

 

The Verdict:

More, please!

 

 

 

 

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Cape Cod Stew

This is where my parents live.

the harbor
the harbor

After spending about 20 years in the suburbs of Boston, raising my two siblings and me, they moved full time to the very outer reach of the Cape a couple of years ago.  They now spend time going to yoga and planting in their garden.  They oyster.  Yes, that’s actually a verb (or at least it is out here, where folks buy yearly permits – November to March – for the joy of hunting for oysters once a week in their sandy beds).

harvested by my parents.
harvested by my parents.

My dad still works and my mom chases after the dog after birdwatching gets too exciting and she (the dog, not my mom) decides she must.join.them.NOW.

My parents also cook.

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prep everything beforehand.
(Note: This is not a budget friendly meal.  It’s also not an exact recipe – substitute your favorite seafood, vegetables, etc.  Before you get started, make sure your carrots, onions, garlic, zest, basil, tomatoes, etc. are prepped.  Once the stew gets going, it’ll cook quickly.)

Cape Cod Stew

  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 28oz cans plum tomatoes, juices drained and crushed with your hands
  • 3 cups chicken or seafood broth
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • a dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 3/4 pound (uncooked) shrimp – in their shells will be tastiest, though the shells are a bit tricky to peel off in your stew
  • 1-2 tablespoons Pernod or ouzo
  1. First, make sure your clams and mussels are clean.  If not, soak them in a large pot of cold water and add a few tablespoons of flour; let sit for 1/2 hour.  Discard any mussels or clams that are not tightly sealed closed.  Remove the beards from the mussels.
  2. In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add a few turns of olive oil (about 1/4 cup).  Heat through and add onions and carrots.  Saute a few minutes, until softened.  Add garlic, tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, orange zest, red pepper flakes and some salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add fish and mussels; simmer three minutes.  Add clams and shrimp – cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp turns pink.  (NOTE: depending on the size of the mussels/clams, you may need to adjust the cooking times.)  Add tablespoon or two of Pernod or ouzo; taste the broth and adjust the seasonings to taste (salt, basil, zest, pepper, crushed reds).  Serve immediately, garnished with an orange slice – a squeeze or two throughout the meal is delicious.  Goes well with some warm, crusty bread.

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The Verdict:

This stew showcases the best of the Cape.  Each bite = serious, serious love.  Share judiciously.

catch your OWN dinner.
catch your OWN dinner.

Frost Living: Shrimp “Scampi”

It’s Monday night and our fridge is still full from Friday’s dinner party.  In addition to baked rigatoni, a bit of salad, cheese and some bread, we also have quite a few leftover shrimp (thanks, M!).  Which means tonight, we’re feasting on the frost of the land.

Leftover shrimp means shrimp scampi.  This meal has a special place in my heart, as it was the very first thing I learned how to cook without a recipe.  It was also a serious test of (now) my brother-in-law’s love for my sister: I made this for him and Kathryn one night in a small dorm room kitchen and used probably 6 or 7 times the amount of lemon a normal person could reasonably tolerate.  He ate the whole thing, a smile on his face.  (My sister was less sanguine.)  And now they’re married.

Frost Living Shrimp Scampi

  • pasta – linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined (ideally, they’re the uncooked kind; I had only pre-cooked)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced and diced
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or vermouth – use less of this)
  • Half of a 15 oz can diced tomatoes, juice partially drained
  • greens – we have leftover baby bok choy, but normally I like to toss in arugula or spinach
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, crushed red pepper
  • optional: Parmesan, fresh parsley
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; cook pasta according to directions.  Reserve about a cup of starchy water.
  2. Pat your shrimp totally dry; set aside
  3. Heat butter or olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add shallot and cook down until they start to soften.  Add garlic, and a dash of salt, pepper and crushed reds.
  4. If shrimp is uncooked, add them now and cook until just pink on both sides – 2-3 minutes.  Remove from pan.  If already cooked, skip this step.
  5. Add white wine, diced tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon and either a bit more olive oil or butter.  Add some lemon zest.  Bring to a boil.  Add your greens.
  6. Add shrimp to the pan and heat all the way through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Depending on the amount of sauce, add the leftover starchy water.
  7. Serve shrimp and sauce over pasta.  Top with fresh parsley and/or Parmesan.
frost living chez nous.
frost living chez nous.

The Verdict:

Well…not sure it was a good sign that the Husband picked out all the shrimp.  I think (I hope) that was more a referendum on the seafood (he’s not a number one fan) than the dish.  On the bright side, I got to eat twice the amount of shrimp!

Barefoot with Ina: Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables

This weekend has been a busy one in the kitchen.  Part of that it is due to our effort to save “mo’ money” in November, and part of that is the pure joy of having a kitchen and the ability to cook again.  Sometimes, there comes a point  – usually when you’re traveling – when you just cannot order one more meal out.  (Did I really just write that?)

While, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, weeknight meals tend to be quick or one-pot affairs, the weekend allows me a bit more time.  Enter our girl Ina.  As my sister talked about a couple weeks ago, there is a serious love for Ina in our households, that began with my mom and trickled down to both of us.  With a little more time on my hands to cook, I chose this particular recipe as part of my ongoing bid to get the Husband to enjoy fish (um, it has prosciutto!).  Because if Ina can’t get the husband to tolerate it, who can?

Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables, adapted for 2

  • 2-3 cups peeled & diced butternut squash (tip: the pre-diced at Trader Joe’s will save you loads of time)
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • optional: 1 potato, peeled and diced (unless they’re fried or mashed, I am generally not interested in potatoes, so I skipped this part)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 8 oz. fish skinless white fish fillet (recipe calls for bass, I used snapper, which was on sale…and forgot to ask for skinless)
  • 2-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a jelly roll pan, toss the diced vegetables (except for the garlic) together and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Ensure everything is nice and coated; spread out in a single layer and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. While vegetables roast, line another sheet put with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top of the foil (I don’t have one of these, so I skipped this step.)  Brush the fish fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap the fish in prosciutto, all the way around.  Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Back to our roasting vegetables.  After the 30 minutes or so, toss the garlic in with the rest of the vegetables, stir them around a bit, and roast for about 10 minutes more.
  4. While the vegetables and fish finish up, melt the butter over medium heat  in a saute pan and add the rosemary sprigs.  Cook over low heat until the rosemary is crisp and the butter browns a bit.  Stir in some lemon juice and set aside.
  5. Depending on your oven, and whether you used skinless fillets or not, your fish will be done at about the 12 minute mark.  Plate it with roasted vegetables and spoon the rosemary butter over the fish.  Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies...yum.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies…yum.

The Verdict:

The recipe clearly calls for skinless fillets, which I neglected to buy.  I also have a strong suspicion the baking rack roasting method is designed to keep an even flow of heat around the fish, so that it cooks quickly without being overdone.  That being said, the fish still turned out beautifully, if potentially slightly overdone. The prosciutto was crispy and added both a texture and a saltiness to the sweet, roasted vegetables.  The best compliment was the Husband’s empty plate, and his pronouncement that he’d “definitely” eat this again.

Also – I’m going on record now: parsnips are to 2015 the way kale was to 2014.  I’m going to start a parsnip watch.  Join me?

A slight change in plans: Simple Baked Fish with Mushrooms and Onions

Instead of a healthy fish dinner on Wednesday night, I went to happy hour and ate fried shrimp. They were delicious. Je ne regrette rien.

But this meant we had Thursday to redeem ourselves! Bluegrass was postponed until Friday, football was cancelled, and so we had the evening to ourselves to make supper. My mom gave me this recipe to try out – it’s super simple and super delicious. We tried it with Whitefish, which is a Great Lakes fish, but you could use any flaky white fish for this recipe, such as cod, halibut, tilapia or hake. We served this with sauteed kale and pilaf! (Does this make up for pizza night?)

Baked Fish with Mushrooms and Onions

  • 1lb fish
  • 1 large onion – sliced thinly
  • 10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1Tbs butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley and/or lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 F

2. Sprinkle bottom of pan (my mom recommends an all clad pan with 1.5″ sides) with olive oil.

3. Put sliced onion and mushrooms in pan mix with olive oil sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you’re using a thinner fish like tilapia, prebake the vegetables for 20 minutes or so as they will take longer to cook than the fish.

4. Put the fish on top, use salt and pepper on fish.

5. Dab a couple of little pieces of butter on top and stick that baby in the oven! Depending on the thickness of fish, it takes 30-40 minutes until it’s done. To finish you could use also broil the pan for 5 minutes.

6. Optional additions: using a New England recipe, you could sin and add some breadcrumbs onto the fish before baking or even sprinkle it with some shredded cheese. You can also add some lemon and parsley.

Guten Appetit, as the Germans would say!