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A Wonderful Weekend Meal of Spaghetti and Mussels

I had been looking at the fresh mussels in the market the last several weeks I have gone there but I didn’t buy any because it would have been too many for just Michelle and myself. I decided to break down and bought some yesterday to have for dinner and bot am I glad I did. There were so good, and this recipe is just a perfect way to make them. Make sure you have some good, crunchy bread around to help soak up some of the delicious broth that you get from the meal.

Spaghetti and Mussels with Tomato and Basil

Salt, to taste

6 ounces spaghetti (I used fettuccine, that’s what we had on hand, but anything you like will do)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound mussels

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup slivered fresh basil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and saute until the shallot is almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mussels, wine and lemon zest. Cover the pan and cook until the mussel shells begin to open, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Drain the pasta and transfer it to a warmed large, shallow bowl. Pour the mussels and sauce over the pasta. Add the basil and the extra-virgin olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately.

Just a couple of quick tips regarding the mussels. If you have never purchased mussels before, you want to look shells that are tightly closed or close when they are tapped. Avoid any cracked or broken shells or any that are just sitting in a puddle of water. Make sure they smell clean. If they don’t, you don’t want them at all. You so need to scrub them before cooking, and you may even need to de-beard them. All that is is a little weedy piece sticking out between the shells. You can give them a quick tug out or use a paring knife and cut it off. Very few of those I bought had a beard. Expect a few not to open when you cook them. It’s perfectly okay, it happens in every batch, but if they don’t open, don’t eat them. You don’t need the stomach problems you’ll have later on if you do eat them. I served the meal with a small, simple salad with some balsamic vinaigrette.

I also had a small batch of ground beef so I decided to make a few meatballs to have around since Sean is coming home and loves them with his pasta. I use a very simple recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and they come out great.

Meatballs

2 slices of white bread (use good white bread for this)

1/3 cup buttermilk

3/4 pound ground beef

1/4 pound ground  pork

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 large egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread, then tear the bread into small pieces. Mash the bread pieces and buttermilk to a smooth paste in a large bowl, using a fork.

Add the beef, pork, Parmesan, parsley, yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform. Gently form the mixture into 1-inch round meatballs ( I got about 20 out of the mix)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the meatballs on a wire rack in a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Cook for approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until well browned. Remove them from the oven and either place in tomato sauce or brown gravy and serve.

It’s very easy and simple and tastes quite good. The recipe calls for a mix of beef and pork, but I only used beef this time and they came out fine. Baking them on the wire rack helps keep them from sitting in any fat and they brown nicely all over.

That’s it for today. I got a number of things at the market last week, a lot of chicken, so we’ll see what I can come up with for the week. Until then, enjoy this beautiful day and enjoy your meal!

 

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Seafood

 

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Father’s Day Brunch, Part 2: Crab Cakes and Mussels

Yesterday I posted a couple of the recipes we used for our Father’s Day brunch. Today, I’ll continue with some of the things we made. This time, I’ll cover the seafood we made with crab cakes and steamed mussels. Both are pretty easy to make; they just require some paying attention so you don’t overcook them.

Crab Cakes

1 pound fresh or pasteurized crab meat, picked over for shell pieces

6 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs

4 scallions, green parts only, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil

1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Gently toss the crab, 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, the scallions, parsley and Old Bay together in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise and gently combine using a rubber spatula. Season the crab mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the egg. If necessary, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs as needed until the mixture just clings together. Divide the crab mixture into equal portions and shape each into patties. Transfer the patties to a large, plastic-wrap-lined plate. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until the patties are firm, about 30 minutes.

Spread the flour in a shallow dish. Coat the crab cakes lightly with the flour. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet until shimmering. Gently lay the chilled crab cakes into the skillet and cook until crisp and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

You can make the patties the night before and chill them overnight if you want. Chilling them really helps to firm them up and they hold together much better as they are cooking. I tend to go with the less is more as far as ingredients for crab cakes. So many that you get have way too much seasoning, vegetables, or especially breadcrumbs that you can’t even taste the crab meat. This one recipe seems to work the best to make delicious crab cakes.

On to the steamed mussels. These are great as an appetizer, but would also be great for a main course over pasta or rice with some crunchy bread to help you soak up the broth.

Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Garlic

5 tablespoons butter

3 shallots, minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups dry white wine or vermouth

1 bay leaf

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the wine and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes to let the flavors blend.

Increase the heat to high and add the mussels. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl, discarding any that refuse to open. Whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and parsley into the broth, then pour the broth over the mussels.

A couple of quick notes about mussels. Most mussels and clams you buy nowadays are farmed and pretty clean already, so you don’t have to worry too much about grit. Many are even debearded already, but you want to check them and make sure if they need it. If they do, you can simply pull the beard away with your fingers or a butter knife. When you buy the mussels, give them a smell. If they don’t smell clean, don’t buy them. The shells should also appear to be moist. Don’t use any that have a cracked shell. Store them set over ice in a bowl in the fridge and plan to use them the same day you bought them. Most importantly, if any don’t open, don’t eat it, it’s a bad mussel and not worth the stomach ache you will have after eating it. There are always a few that don’t open, and 4 pounds yields a lot of mussels, so don’t sweat it. (I wish I had gotten a picture of the mussels, but I didn’t sorry.)

Okay, so we’ve covered the seafood, the sausage and the quiche. Tomorrow I’ll go over the coffee cake, banana bread and fruit salad and I think we’ll have covered everything. I am making trout tonight, so I’ll post that recipe on Wednesday. Check back tomorrow for the tasty cake recipes. Until then, enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Appetizers, Cooking, Seafood

 

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Jennifer Probst

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Laissez Faire

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