Steamed Mussels + Wine

Steamed mussels might be the easiest one pot dinner possible. A little wine, some tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil go into a Dutch oven or stock pot large enough to hold the mussels.  After a few minutes of simmering, the mussels are open and ready to soak up the sauce.  French fries are a traditional side accompaniment.  But, so is a Belgian beer.

PS: this piece of paper should accompany the bag of mussels; it is usually attached to the bag. The paper tells the harvest location, harvest date, type of shellfish, and shipping date. It also tells the name of the seafood distributor and where the shellfish was sold. I bought these mussels from a farmer's market.

Steamed Mussels
yield: one (entree) or two (first course)

Note: mussels that do not open after cooking should not be eaten.

2 pounds mussels, washed and free of any black fibers or beards
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red or white wine
1/4 tomato sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste if needed

Pour the olive oil into a medium size stock pot and heat until the oil shimmers.  Add the wine and tomato sauce and heat until simmering, 2-3 minutes.

Add the mussels to the pot and cover with a lid.  Increase the heat to medium high. Cook the mussels for 4-6 minutes. Stir them once or twice during cooking. 

Remove the mussels from the pot and transfer to a bowl. Pour the wine and tomato sauce over the mussels. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy immediately. Use a second bowl for the empty shells.

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Salmon + Spaetzle + Charmoula

Ever have a craving for two entirely different things yet putting them together on the same plate just makes sense?

That is what happened when I found two separate recipes from two web sites that I wanted to make.  My spaetzle craving was long over due mainly a result of a memorable meal almost a year ago at a Portland, OR restaurant called Gruner.  This would be my second time to make spaetzle (first being in culinary school three point five years ago) and without a suitable colander I used a food mill.  The trick is getting enough batter into the mill for the spaetzle to drop into the water.

Part two of this meal includes salmon and a pesto-like sauce called charmoula (other spelling chermoula).  It's origins are a bit of a mystery, but the flavor profile is similar to harissa, a sauce from Tunisia.

Salmon & Charmoula
yield: 1 -2 servings
adapted from Serious Eats

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 salmon steaks or fillets, skin removed

In a small food processor combine cilantro, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Process to thoroughly mince garlic and herbs. Add spices and olive oil and process until thoroughly combined into a paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season salmon with salt and pepper, and spread half of the charmoula paste onto the fish. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400°F.

On a baking sheet, lay salmon on aluminum foil. Cover with remaining charmoula and add a small amount of wine or water before folding fish up into a pouch. Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, then uncover and continue roasting until fish is cooked through, another 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve with spaetzle.

yield: 1-2 servings
adapted from Gourmet Cookbook (2004) & Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup (2 ounces) milk (whole or 2%)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. 

Stir together the flour and salt in a medium size bowl.  Whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl, then whisk into flour until batter is smooth.

With a rubber spatula, press batter through a colander or pour batter through a food mill into simmering water.  Cook spaetzle until firm, about 2-3 minutes.  Use a strainer to remove spaetzle and shock in a bowl of cold water.  Once cooled, drain and toss with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Once butter is fully melted and beginning to turn golden, add the drained, cooled spaetzle and let it heat for a minute in the pan before starting to saute. 

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to cook it until each piece has toasty brown edges. Off the heat, toss with 1 tablespoon minced herbs (parsley, chives, and dill work well.) Eat immediately with the salmon.