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!

 

 

 

 

Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

Every so often, you need to get fancy.  As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing.  I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets?  When are we going to use these things?  And you give him a look that says: this is already done.  You know what I’m talking about.

Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish.  You can even wear red lipstick.

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Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

  • olive oil
  • two white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful fennel seeds
  • small handful saffron threads
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
  • 1 lemon
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
  2. Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes.  Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone.  No really.  No stirring.  Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice).  Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.

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 The Verdict:

This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5).  Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those.  Get really fancy.

Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup

Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style.  (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.)  In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia.  I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go.  Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.

Then:

  1. Zika virus.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund.  Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women.  And then causes massive birth defects in babies.  Remember: St. Lucia.  Babymoon.
  2. Winter Storm Jonas.  If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow.  My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows.  Seriously.

So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert.  (Take that, mosquitoes.)  Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.

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Then, we came home.  One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring.  Only Ina could fix this mess.

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Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
  • 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
  • large handful parsley
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them,  to reconstitute them.  Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes.  Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
  3. If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them.  Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot.   Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
  5. At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously.  Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.

The Verdict:

Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance.  Not only good, but good for you.  Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.

 

 

Smoky Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables

Last week we spent four glorious days in Burlington, Vermont with our family.  In addition to hiking, eating, and puzzle-ing, this included one of the most epic LNDPs in which I’ve ever participated.  Lesson learned – the power of an LNDP is heightened through 1) a straight T. Swift soundtrack and 2) your mom/mom-in-law.

I also think the universe is trying to tell me something about New England.  The Husband and I got caught on “flypocalypse” on our way home – meaning we spent an extra two days in Vermont (there are worse places to be stuck).  And…this weekend I head BACK to Vermont for my BFF’s wedding.  I’ll just let that marinate.

Given our quick three days at home, not a whole lot of fancy cooking going on in our kitchen this week.  I bought some fresh herbs, veggies, and fruit – but other than that, we’re making do with what we have on hand.  Like this chicken, inspired by Bon Appetit.

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Smoky Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables

  • olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 handful smoked paprika
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 (small) handful cumin
  • 1 (small) handful crushed red pepper
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes
  • **2-3 portabello mushrooms, sliced (see below)
  • arugula
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix olive oil through salt/pepper in a small bowl, whisk together.  Pour about half of the oil mixture into the yogurt, mix thoroughly, and set aside.
  2. Rub the oil mixture into the chicken on both sides and then place on a baking sheet.  Toss the remaining oil with the tomatoes, chickpeas, and mushrooms and spread alongside the chicken.  Season again with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast everything for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Serve on top of arugula with yogurt and parsley.

The Verdict:

I got creative here with the addition of the mushrooms, but truth be told, this would probably be better without them – the roasting makes them release a lot of liquid, which then means the chickpeas don’t roast quite as well.  However, for a one pot meal, this is healthy, tasty, and easy.  The yogurt, says the Husband, is key.

Lemon and Vegetable Ricotta Pot Pie

Getting packages is obviously the best thing ever.  Usually it’s something I really had no business buying, but it was on sale, and Banana Republic has kindly remembered my credit card number, and whoops, here it is, right on my doorstep, 7-10 business days later.

The only thing better than getting packages I’ve ordered is getting ones I haven’t ordered.  Especially from my mom.

Sometimes, it’s a big package of spices, because she bought too many.  Sometimes it’s a bag of spaetzle.  One time it was an electric toothbrush.  Another time, 4 boxes of Brita filters and paper towels.  Recently, two mugs and a reusable bag from the Human Rights Campaign.

The only consistent thing about these packages is that 1. they show up without warning (i.e., we have not previously discussed a need for any of the things contained in said packages); and 2. there is no note and no explanation for why, or from whom, we are receiving these packages.  You just accept them and call Mom to thank her.

Sometimes, though, my mom outdoes herself.  Like when a few days ago, the UPS man brought A Modern Way to Eat, a new cookbook from Anna Jones, a vegetarian cook from the UK.  Of course, I’m taking some extreme liberties with these recipes, as they’re mostly vegan and slightly too healthy for my tastes.  For example, the below listed cheese as optional.  Not in my book.  But the recipe concepts are awesome.

(And thanks & I love you, Mom!)

 

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Lemon and Vegetable Ricotta Pot Pie

for the dough

  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can obviously do this with white flour)
  • large handful parsley
  • zest from one whole lemon
  • pinch salt
  • about 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 5 tablespoons cold water
  • optional: 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

for the filling

  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks, washed, trimmed, sliced length-wise and then across
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed & chopped
  • about 8 oz frozen peas
  • about a tablespoon flour
  • about 1 and 1/2 cups veggie stock
  • 4-5 large spoonfuls of whole fat ricotta (honestly, you might as well skip it if you’re going to use the non-fat kind.  just being honest.)
  • a big handful parmesan cheese
  • juice from the zested lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees F.
  2. Make your dough: Put the flour, parsley, lemon zest and salt into a food processor.  Pulse and then slowly add the olive oil.  Add the water – slowly- and pulse until the dough forms a nice round ball.
  3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out until you have a nice round circle.  Press into a 9-inch pie plate & trim the sides.  You’ll use these scraps later. (Or, I did, and felt very proud of myself).  Prick the dough in the pan with a fork and bake it for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Prepare your pie filling.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a large, deep pan.  Add leeks, salt, pepper, and red pepper and cook down for about 10-15 minutes over low heat, until the leeks are nice and soft.  Add asparagus & cook another 5 minutes.  Add peas and then a spoonful of flour – give it a quick stir – and then add the stock and simmer until you have a nice veggie gravy.  You will likely have to add a bit more flour.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Off the heat, add ricotta and parmesan cheeses and the lemon juice.  Give the whole mixture a big stir and allow to cool for a moment.
  5. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust.  Now: here’s where you can get genius.  Roll out the pie scraps and then slice them into strips.  You can use these to lattice them over your pie.  Gently brush the lattice and the crust with the egg wash, pop a crust shield over the pie, and bake the whole thing for about 20 minutes.  Serve with a little more parsley and a side salad.

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The Verdict:

This thing falls apart the second you serve it, which reminds me of Thanksgiving and my favorite dish: my mom’s leftover turkey pot pie.  Only this one is all vegetable.  And if I weren’t such a dairy freak, it could even be made vegan.  Then again, it probably wouldn’t make it to the blog without a few tweaks…