by Cat, August 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Growing up in inland Montana in the 50s, 600 miles from an ocean shore, I’d not had much opportunity to have clams or mussels except for the tough things in a can. So it was with some trepidation that I tried my first fresh-caught, fresh-cooked steamer clam. Oh my God! How heavenly!
Since then, I’ve been a fan of both clams and mussels, and in fact cite mussels as one of my top 5 favorite foods (lutefisk, lefse, salmon, mussels, & huckleberry pie).
One of my favorite ways to eat these small animals is steamed in the shell with a marinara sauce over pasta, as in this recipe. Their broth lends their sea-flavor and vital minerals to the marinara. Spanish Paella and bouillabaisse (or cioppino) are other favorites.
This recipe includes a simple marinara with garlic, fennel and vermouth, tossed with pasta.
Steamed Mussels with Pasta & Veggies
My local rural grocery got in a fresh batch of mussels yesterday (May 25, 2011) – the first I’ve seen in a long time – and I just had to have some. I had an idea what flavors I wanted (tomato, garlic, vermouth, fennel), and I had some zucchini I needed to use up, so I found two recipes on the web to help me with the order of things (All Recipes: Mussels Mariniere (1) and Inn Cuisine: Steamed Mussels with Pasta, Tomatoes & Garlic (2)), and voila! a new favorite! The combination of fennel, tomato, onion, garlic and vermouth is essential to the flavor of this dish.
You could use any dry white wine, but I think vermouth is the most excellent complement to the fennel and mussels. And you could add fresh asparagus, too, or blanch some to grace an accompanying salad.
This recipe serves 1 but you can easily multiply it for more people.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- ½ – 1 lb fresh, live mussels, clean and debearded
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
- ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (or for larger tomatoes, diced) to make 1¾ – 2 cups
- ¼ – ½ small fennel bulb or 1 large bulb crescent, sliced, plus some fine leaves, chopped
- 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 10 slices)
- 6 spears asparagus, cut in 2” lengths (optional)
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- ⅛ – ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 oz linguini (weighed dry)
- saucier or cast iron skillet
- saucepan (for linguini)
- Prep: Inspect and clean mussels, tossing any that are dead or damaged; see Storing Live Clams & Mussels for how to test for life. Brine 15 minutes to remove sand and grit from inside the shells, using 4 tsp Kosher salt per quart water (or 1 tsp salt per cup water); see Brining Live Clams & Mussels. Rinse.
- Meanwhile, mince garlic and chop onion. Cut or dice tomatoes; slice fennel bulb and zucchini. Cut asparagus.
- Cook: Heat olive oil in skillet; saute zucchini 1 minute per side; set aside. Add onions and fennel to pan and saute until soft; then add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute a minute more.
- Add wine and bring to a boil; add tomatoes and fennel leaves, stirring. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until tomatoes and fennel are soft (5 minutes or more), adding veggie broth or water if pan gets too dry. Adjust seasoning. NOTE: if you brined the mussels, use less salt.
- Meanwhile, add linguini to boiling water to cook (about 4 minutes).
- At same time, add mussels to tomato saute (and asparagus, if using), cover pan and steam until done (about 5 – 10 minutes), adding zucchini for about 30 seconds at end, to warm.
- Serve over linguini cooked al dente and tossed with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
Dec 2013: made as above except used only ¾ lb fresh mussels (brined), broccoli florets instead of asparagus, and bow tie pasta. This is very good, but I think asparagus is better than broccoli. It made too much for one, but not enough for two. I had used the two large, outer crescents of the fennel bulb; perhaps only 1 large crescent or 2 small ones. The tomatoes were about right but perhaps decrease to 1 ¾ cup. And only ½ lb mussels.
- AllRecipes.com Mussels Mariniere recipe: allrecipes.com/Recipe/mussels-mariniere/Detail.aspx
- InnCuisine.com Steamed Mussels with Pasta, Tomatoes & Garlic recipe: inncuisine.com/happy-hour-specialities/steamed-mussels-with-pasta