Sunday, October 18, 2009

#11: Mussels with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

Roasted red peppers are wonderful things. They're easy to make and hot damn they are delicious. Four peppers and a particularly fragrant bunch of basil helped me make one of my tastiest recipes yet. Roasting the peppers brings out their sweetness, which I accented with garlic and a small amount of cayenne pepper. The sauce was not spicy, nor was it incredibly rich. It's flavor was just subtle enough to allow the mussels to shine through. Per my friend Carl's suggestion, I drank a Fontana Candida Frascati with this dish. Like the red pepper sauce, the wine was slightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly. It was a nice pairing. A whole wheat loaf from Sarcone's did a nice job of sopping up the sauce that was left in my bowl.

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
4 Red bell peppers
1 Small yellow onion, chopped fine
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup Frascati (or other not-quite-dry white wine)
1 cup Fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper

1) Preheat broiler. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast under broiler, turning every few minutes to blacken on all sides.

2) Place roasted peppers in cold water for a few minutes, then remove skins.

3) Remove seeds and stems from peppers, then puree in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4) In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

5) Saute onions for 6 minutes.

6) Add garlic and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes

7) Add red pepper puree and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. This should allow the puree to thicken.

8) Increase heat to high, add wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

9) Add mussels, cover and steam for 5 minutes.

10) Stir in half of basil and save other half for garnish.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Red Pepper's Revenge

Red bell pepper came close to winning my last poll, so I plan to feature it in my next recipe. But what else will I use? Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

#10: Mussels with Carrots, White Onion and Dill

I posted a poll a few days ago in order to get input from my loyal readers. Each of those readers apparently voted about 5-6 times, as I got 11 votes total. I asked whether my next dish should feature red bell peppers, fennel bulb or dill, and dill was the victor. After seeing dill take the lead, I started to wonder why I had given it as an option. While I like dill just fine, I hardly ever cook with it. The idea of dill with mussels just didn't appeal to me that much. But I have to make 50 damn recipes, so it was inevitable that I would have to use a less-than-desirable ingredient at some point.
I was racking my brain for other ingredients to use in the recipe. My lovely girlfriend Tiana has been very supportive of this project, and she decided to search online for dishes with both dill and mussels. She rattled off descriptions of different dishes until she mentioned one with carrots. I realized instantly that this was the ingredient I was looking for. Carrots, onions and dill make for a tasty combination. I picked up some salmon heads to make a stock with, as well as some dinner rolls from Sarcone's Bakery and a bottle of Ruffino Orvieto. The Orvieto was probably not the best pairing for the dish, but it wasn't too bad for its price.

4 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
3 Large carrots, chopped fine
1 Small white onion, chopped fine
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup Dry white wine
3 cups Fish stock (recipe below)

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.

2) Add carrots and onions (salt and pepper to taste). Saute for 6 minutes.

3) Add garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes, then increase heat to high.

4) Add wine and 1/4 cup of dill. Let wine simmer for 1-2 minutes.

5) Add stock. When stock begins to simmer, add mussels and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until mussels open.

6) Stir in the remainder of the dill.

For simple fish stock:

2 Salmon heads
1 Large carrot, diced
1 Small white onion, peeled and halved
4 cloves Garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Fresh dill, chopped

1) Place fish heads in large pot. Add cold water to cover.

2) Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the remainder of the ingredients, along with salt and pepper to taste.

3) Simmer for 1-2 hours, or until 3 cups of stock remain.

4) Strain stock to remove solids.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Check out this awesome blog!

My buddy Tom has started a blog where he will be posting recipes for meals from every country in the world. It's located at Check it out!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

#9: Mussels with Shrimp and Salsa Verde

I should have learned my lesson after the SuperFresh debacle, but I did not. I thought that I could trust Whole Foods a little more than SuperFresh, as least where mussels are concerned. I suppose I was correct, in that Whole Foods sold me a bag of mussels that were only 82% dead, as opposed to SuperFresh's perfect score. Fortunately, I also purchased a pound of shrimp to round out the meal. Only ending up with 9 live mussels, I had to stage the photograph shown above to show the proportions I had intended (and to make the mussels feel like they were still the star of the show). I find it very disappointing that businesses are willing to sell spoiled shellfish like this, particularly in that it shows a lack of concern for their customer's health. But I didn't take on this project to bitch about big grocery store chains.
Sometimes I like to make dishes with a ton of green ingredients, and this turned out to be one of those. Tomatillos, poblanos, jalapenos, limes and peas all ended up on my plate. Along with the pink shrimp and black mussels, it made for a nice presentation. While the jalapeno that I included in the salsa did not end up being particularly spicy, I went with a relatively sweet beverage to help with the heat. Terrapin Beer Company's Gamma Ray wheat wine was a pretty good pairing. Gamma Ray is a very big beer at 11% abv. However, it's as smooth as the large amount of honey that it's made with, and one of the best wheat wines I've had. I was only introduced to Terrapin's beers recently, but they're quite good. I served the mussels and shrimp over saffron rice with peas (the saffron did not seem to provide the same amount of color and flavor that it usually does, so I'm not going to bother to post the recipe for the rice).

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 lb. Large shrimp
2 cups Salsa verde
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped

1) Heat salsa in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. When salsa begins to simmer, add mussels and shrimp and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.

2) Stir in chopped cilantro.

Serve over saffron rice with peas.

For Salsa Verde:

2 lbs. Tomatillos (husk removed)
2 Poblanos
1 Jalapeno
1 small White onion, peeled
5 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Cilantro
Juice of one lime

1) Preheat broiler.

2) Place tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeno on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast under broiler for 4-5 minutes. Turn fruit over with tongs, and broil for another 3-4 minutes or until desired degree of roasting is achieved.

3) Place fruit in a bowl full of cold water. After a few minutes, remove the skin and stems.

4) Place all ingredients in a blender and puree. Add salt to taste.

I really liked this dish, and I will be using this salsa recipe again in the near future. I'll also try to post a new recipe soon, as I seem to be lagging a little behind schedule. So check back frequently. Cheers!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

#8: Mussels with a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce

Things don't always work out as we have imagined they will. All but the most tenacious and lucky of us have dreams that will never be realized. I have had dreams, mussel dreams, that have crumbled apart like so many rotten castles made of sand, eroded by the sea. But sometimes things work out really well, like my recipe for mussels with a mustard tarragon cream sauce.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to get me some of that good round crusty bread from Sarcone's. I was planning on drinking a dry white wine with this dish, but things did not work out as I had planned. The only exciting beverage on hand was a large bottle of Meantime London Porter. One might not expect a porter to go well with shellfish, but it actually worked out nicely. Oysters and stouts are a traditional pairing, so why not mussels and porters? The Meantime London Porter is a good porter. It is rich in roasty, nutty flavor with a creamy body that has just the right weight to it. It did not overpower the mussels, and made for a nice combination of flavors with the mustard and tarragon.
It's been too long since I've posted a recipe, so I'll go ahead and do it right now:

4 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
2 Shallots, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 tsp. Dry Mustard
12 springs Fresh Tarragon, chopped fine
1 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 pint Heavy Cream
2 tbsp. Olive Oil

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2) Add shallots and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.

3) Add dry mustard and stir well. Saute 2 minutes

4) Add wine and dijon mustard. Stir well to incorporate the mustard into the wine. Increase heat to high, and let wine cook off for 2-3 minutes.

5) Add half of the tarragon and all of the cream. Bring to a simmer.

6) Add mussels and cover pot. Steam for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

7) Stir in the remaining tarragon and serve immediately with delicious crusty bread.

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Bless the Italian Market

I love Philadelphia's Italian Market. It is one of my favorite places in the world. As our weekends started today, Tiana and I were able to make it over to the market by 1:00pm. Generally this would already be too late to take full advantage of the market's offerings. However, it's raining today, and the streets are pretty empty. I was able to get a loaf of Sarcone's round, crusty bread. This bread is fantastic, and I've only made it to the bakery in time to get it on one other occasion. We hit up Claudio's to pick up some Pecorino Toscano, Parmagiana Regiano and Petit Basque. The next and most relevant stop was at Darigo's, my seafood vendor of choice. Darigo's clearly puts plenty of effort into keeping their seafood clean and well organized. They also have fantastic prices. Unlike the mussels I purchased from SuperFresh, these new mussels do not smell like death. No, they smell like the sea. As they should. And I will cook them soon.