Almost a fool-proof dish, and very healthy. Low in calories, high in potassium and, most importantly, very tasty. Also flexible. If you don't have olive oil, butter works. If you don't like fennel (though you must at least try it) skip it and add tomatoes, basil and shallots instead. I've even used red or rose wine in a pinch. Whatever you do, don't throw out the liquid. Serve this with bread, the traditional "frites" or pasta to soak up every last bit.
2-3 pounds of mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thin
1 large onion, sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs such as Italian Parsley
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Long gone are the days of soaking mussels to get rid of the sand, most are line grown and grit free by the time they reach your kitchen, especially if you get them from a great place like the Southold Fish Market. Be sure to rinse them well, however. You can gently rip off the beards if you find any. Make sure to check closely for open or cracked ones, those you can discard. Once clean, cover with a moist towel and keep cold until you are ready to use them.
Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add fennel at let cook about 5 minutes until soft. Add onions and garlic, cook until softened about 4 more minutes. Add a pinch of salt to prevent browning if you'd like.
Add mussels to pot with herbs, scallions, white wine, a dash of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir, cover and let cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any that are not open.
Grab a crusty loaf of bread, a cold bottle of Chardonnay (Paumanok Festival, 2009) and a big bowl for the shells. Enjoy!
The key ingredient here, of course, is seasonally ripe and delicious tomatoes. Use the amounts below as a guide, no need to be too exact. Absolutely nothing beats this dish on a late summer day.
2 large and ripe tomatoes, yellow, red or both
1/2 onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped herb such as parsley or chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, peeled
Heat grill (or oven to 300F.) Get two bowls. Cut tomatoes in half, through the "equator". Gently squeeze out seeds into the first bowl and discard. Chop tomatoes into a small dice, add to the second bowl. Add minced onion, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well, taste and adjust ingredients to your liking. Set aside.
Meanwhile, brush the bread with olive oil. Grill or toast in the oven until the bread is lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes on the grill, and about 10 in the oven. Remove and let cool slightly. Lightly rub cut side of garlic on one or both sides of the bread, depending on how much garlic you like.
Top toasts with tomato mixture and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Serve with a dry Rose. A delicious appetizer or light lunch.
Talk about a good day. A few Saturdays ago I was invited to not one, but two glorious home cooked feasts here in Brooklyn. And let me tell you, restaurants have nothing on my friends!
The first spread, a block party in Boerum Hill on what must be the city's foodiest street, featured an entire pig that was roasted to perfection under hot coals in a specially designed box. The neighbor-chefs brilliantly served it with grilled tortillas alongside homemade red and green salsas. It. Was. Spectacular!
The second feast, in Sunset Park, featured a succulent (oven) roasted pork dish, but it shared the spotlight with an generous array of Caribbean inspired dishes, including a gorgeous Roast Chicken, Christophene with Red Onions, Beets with Carrots & Goat Cheese, Plum Upside Down Cake and a Sweet Plaintain Gratin.
As tasty as it all was, the company at both events way out-shined the food. Big Fun! Thanks Tony & Lynn and Felix & Christine for the invitations!
Of course I still think New York is the center of the universe, but imagine if Brooklyn had a year round growing season like Cali? They are so lucky! Yes, I know we have lovely parsnips and turnips in the cold months, but last Saturday I went to my Farmer's Market and rose into heaven. What bounty and abundance. Herbs, corn, tomatoes, red onions, scallions, and zucchini everywhere. I'm still slicing them into my dishes and it's Thursday.
Yesterday I mixed up a big handful of chopped local parsley, canned tuna, mayo, capers, and put it on top of a leftover toasted sesame baguette. It tasted so good I had to twitter it. (follow me at twitter.com/sogoodtv)
For my pasta lunch today I'm sauteing shallots, zucchini, bell peppers, and chives in a bit of butter as I'm still feeling quite Julia Child. Not sure whether to add a little leftover chicken or some of that delicious goat cheese I nabbed. Why choose, maybe I'll use both!
Of course, I can get the similar non local items year round from my supermarket, but that's so ordinary and drab. Now I get to feel virtuous, vibrant and in the know! I may have to get a wicker basket and a big hat to match all that produce. ("big hat" takes you to a true NY experience from the NY Times greatest fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham.) Please visit your local farmers market and get caught up in the drama!
You think you've been to the Caribbean? Well, think again because last week I spent 4 days in "De Heart Uh Barbados" near Welchman Hall Gully in St. Thomas, and experienced a whole other thing. While on the 2008 UN City Farm Tour, I met a delegate from the Barbados Ministry of the Environment who shared my interest in not only sustainability but also good food! He and his team generously invited me along with 20 other participants from throughout the southern Caribbean and the U.S. to a "Workshop on Rethinking Environmental Sustainability, Local Gastronomy and Rural Tourism." Under a wide tent on a hill with tropical breezes and a lovely views, I participated in discussions, powerpoints, and endured only a few longing moments for the beach (never got there).
I took a lot of video, and over the next few posts or so, I'll be featuring Barbados. I can already say, however, that my A+-number-one-top-of-the-line-favorite thing was the "Grapefruit and Molasses Foodies." My gracious host and one of the groups founders, Stacia, made a chicken soup that was my very own version of Proust's Madeline. Took me right back to my Jamaican grandmother's, only the flavors here were richer and more vibrant from the extraordinary quality of the ingredients (not to mention Stacia's easy skill.) Every thing was local, fresh, ripe and seemingly effortless. It's just the way it is down there. Amazing to my industrialized mind.
I'll make no attempt to replicate the recipes. Like fine wine, good authentic cuisine brings a flavor that comes from the place and the people, a terroir if you will. Plus the Grapefruit and Molasses Foodies will have their own cookbook one day, so I'll leave it to the experts. But I have many other goodies to share: the pepper sauce, the rum, the people, the natural wonders, and...the very serious business of sustainability. It was, after all, not a vacation, though the pleasure was all mine.
In the meantime, many thanks to all the wonderful people who made it possible for me to enjoy this journey. A kinder more generous group I have yet to meet. Much more to come soon!
Now that it is fall, here's one last shout out to summer. I use sea scallops, the larger ones, for this recipe, but bay scallops work well too. Should you use the smaller bay ones, just remove them after browning and then add the shallots. Enjoy.
1-2 pounds sea scallops 1/2 tablespoon canola oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 shallot, minced 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons wine (optional) juice of 1 lemon
Clean scallops by gently removing muscle at the side. In large skillet, heat oil. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to hot pan in a single layer. (You may need to do more than one batch.) Brown about 1-2 minutes. When the edges start to appear opaque, flip them.
Add shallots and continue cooking until scallops are done, but not overdone, no more than 2 minutes. (If doing more than one batch, don't add shallots until the last one.) Remove and place on a warm platter.
Add butter to shallots, and let brown slightly. Take care not to overcook the shallots. Quickly add lemon juice and wine. Heat 1 minute longer, spoon sauce over scallops and serve. Serve with an unoaked Chardonnay and something to sop up the sauce!