Saturday, October 24, 2015

Easy Steamed Mussels

Despite living near the ocean for the past decade or so, until recently I had never tried to cook mussels at home.  They're one of my favorite restaurant dishes, but I was always too intimidated about the cleaning process!  I recently finally had a friend show me how to do it, and it was way easier than I realized -- I've linked to a description below, but if you have a friend willing to show you the ropes, that works too!  This is my friend's super simple "recipe," which you can of course vary by adding different herbs or flavors.  It makes for perfectly cooked mussels in a delicious broth -- plenty for dipping with crusty bread, which is a must.  The bonus is that mussels are so affordable that this dish can definitely be a regular in the dinner rotation.

Easy Steamed Mussels
Serves 2-3

2 pounds mussels
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 to 1 cup white wine or sherry (depending how much sauce you want at the end)
Fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, minced
Crusty bread, for dipping

1. Clean and debeard the mussels - this part is easier than it sounds and this is a great guide.
2. Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic, and season with a bit of salt.  Cook for 5-7 minutes or so, until the shallots are softened and just starting to brown.  
3. Pour in the wine or sherry, and bring to a boil.  Add the mussels, give everything a very quick stir, and then cover the pot.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat, gently stir, and sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

SRC: Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club is Josefine of The Smoothie Lover.  I was immediately impressed with the gorgeous photography on her website, and it kind of made me want to make everything!  I was seriously tempted by her many varieties of granola, honey-fig scones, ricotta-asparagus quiche, and pumpkin-ginger soup.  Um, is anyone else hungry?

Eventually I settled on one of Josefine's pizza recipes.  This one swaps the usual tomato sauce for a puree of roasted red peppers and fresh basil -- it's so simple yet full of flavor, and it makes for a great twist on your typical sauce.  Thin slices of fresh mozzarella top the sauce, and they bubble up so beautifully in the oven.  Then everything gets topped off with more fresh basil and very lightly dressed greens.  You can use whatever greens you like here -- Josefine suggests arugula, which would be really tasty; I had a mix of mesclun and baby spinach in the fridge, which was also delicious.  The greens wilt ever so slightly on the hot pizza so that you get your main dish and salad all in one!  The flavors here are killer -- I will definitely be making this one again for a future pizza night!

Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce (adapted from the Smoothie Lover, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
8-10 ounce jar roasted red peppers
8 leaves fresh basil, plus more to top the pizza
Salt and pepper
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo if you can get your hands on it
Salad greens (i.e. bably spinach, arugula, etc.)
A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray or grease with oil.
2. Press the pizza dough out as thin as you like it. Pre-bake for about 5 minutes or so, until the top surface of the dough is dry.
3. Puree the peppers and basil along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. I used an immersion blender, but a regular blender or food processor will work as well.
4. Spread the sauce over the pizza dough in a thin layer.
5. Thinly slice the mozzarella and spread over the red pepper sauce.
6. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.  Timing will depend on how thick you made your crust.
7. Meanwhile, thinly slice more fresh basil and set aside.  Toss the salad greens with a little balsamic vinaigrette.
8. When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle with the fresh basil and salad greens.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Strawberry Gin Sour

This cocktail is so pink and so delicious, and the color is all natural. I was surprised at how vibrant the color was just from fresh strawberries -- the drink almost looks like Kool Aid!  And, it's the perfect combination of sweet from the berries, sour from the lemon juice, and slightly floral from the gin.  The amount fits pretty perfectly in a champagne coupe, and looks super classy, but of course you can use any glass you have around.

Strawberry Gin Sour (adapted from A House in the Hills, original recipe here)
Serves 1

Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 strawberries
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 ounces gin

1. Muddle the lemon juice, berries, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add the gin and a few ice cubes, and shake well.
3. Strain into a coupe.  Taste and add more lemon juice or simple syrup (and keep track so you know how you like it for next time!)