Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Pile of Mussels

One of my favorite things to get when eating out is mussels. It’s also one of the few things I love that my husband really enjoys too. So, when we go out together, if mussels are offered, we almost always order them. The best I’ve ever had were from Wildwood here in Portland, many years back – mussels in a lemongrass broth. They were divine!

I’m not sure why I never made mussels myself. I think I had this idea they were too complicated. But, flipping through a magazine recently, I saw a recipe for mussels steamed in saffron broth, and as I read the recipe, I realized it was not at all complicated. In fact, it looked really simple. Why had I never realized this before??

There was one strange thing about this recipe. It called for four pounds of mussels to serve four people. Since this was my first attempt, I was only going to feed the two of us, so I bought the smallest bag of mussels I could get at Costco – just over two pounds. Later, when I was rinsing and sorting them, I realized what a ridiculous amount of mussels this was. We had way too many for just two people – way too many!

I went ahead and steamed them all anyway. (What else was I going to do with them?) At this point, I was still pretty nervous that something was going to go terribly wrong – that I’d screw it up and they’d taste awful or make us sick or something – so, I was thrilled when after eight minutes, most of the shells had popped open and the steam smelled delicious.

We sat down at the dinner table with a mountain of mussels. (I really wish I'd thought to take a picture! Will someone please nag me until I start remembering to take pictures of the food I make!) I can’t say we didn’t put a dent in the giant pile, but it was only a dent.

We gave them a rating of "good" – just good. I wouldn’t repeat this particular recipe, but for my first attempt at mussels, I was pretty pleased.

We made a second meal of them the following night. I removed the leftovers from their shells and gently reheated them in a broth of garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and leftover saffron broth. I tossed it all together with some fettuccine and somehow, this meal was better than the first.

Again, we had leftovers, but I was worried about keeping the mussels for another day, so sadly, we tossed them in the trash this time.

I’ve already found a couple new recipes I want to try – one with lemongrass and chiles and another with shallots and tarragon. I can hardly wait to get going – one pound at a time, this time – and maybe when I find that perfect recipe, I’ll buy the two-plus pound bag again and throw a party. When that happens, I’ll be sure to take a picture and tell you all about it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pile on the Veggies: Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

Dave and I are really digging these grilled vegetable sandwiches lately. I’ve made them a couple times and they’re definitely going to be a regular item at our house this summer, especially since we finally have a new grill – a real one, not a tiny, travel-size grill like we’ve been using for the past few years.

I got the recipe from Cooking Light magazine. It’s so simple, you hardly need a recipe, but I guess the idea has to come from somewhere. I have to say, I don’t do a good job of sticking to the recommended portion size, plus I make my own vinaigrette instead of using bottled salad dressing. So, my version of the recipe may not be all that light compared to the original.

You can do the vegetables on a grill pan on the stovetop or on the outdoor grill with a perforated grill pan or basket (so you don’t lose all the vegetable slices). For variations, I’d try grilling bell pepper, eggplant, or portabellas.

Overstuffed Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 cup sliced zucchini
6 (1/4-inch-thick) slices red onion
cooking oil spray
1 cup grape or mini pearl tomatoes – halved
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper – to taste
1 loaf (16 oz) French bread – halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (about 4 oz) crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat the grill to about 350°.

2. Lightly spray squash and onion slices (both sides) with cooking oil. Place the vegetables on the grill pan and grill for 4 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender and beginning to brown.

3. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil, vinegar, chopped onion, basil, salt & pepper, and toss to coat.

4. Add the grilled vegetables to tomatoes and toss well.

5. Brush cut sides of the bread with a little olive oil. Grill bread 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted.

6. Spoon vegetable mixture over bottom half of bread. Sprinkle with the cheese. Top with the other bread half and press down lightly. Cut crosswise into 6 sandwiches.