Wild mussels in spicy tomato sauce

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces. Just good food from fresh ingredients” ~Julia Child

There was a time when I thought cooking fish or any kind of seafood for that matter was some complicated business, unless it came in a form of frozen fish fingers. That was quite a while ago though. The more I cooked and the more I learned about food, the more comfortable I became with ingredients that came from water. As long as you keep it simple and limit yourself to a number of ingredients, it is nothing but easy and satisfying. With one remark here to make it sound a bit more complicated – as long as you don’t overcook it! So a few very simple rules – find a reliable fishmonger and learn to trust your sense of smell and very few simple tricks. Mussels are very easy to prepare. They only need to swim in a bit of sauce, which in my case usually tends to involve a glass of wine and a few other simple ingredients, such as garlic, herbs, tomatoes, salt and pepper.

When I travel to countries that border sea, I am envious of their selection and accessibility to seafood at any time. Now we are not as spoiled (find Lithuania on the map). However it is getting better. More and more fish shops appearing on the scene, which bring in some gorgeous selections a few times a week. Knowing the days the fresh stuff comes in does take some planning for dinner parties, but oh well – we work with what we have.

This week I stopped by one of my favorite spots. They had those amazing, huge wild mussels. Needless to say, couldn’t resist those. Came home with a bag from fishmonger and a bottle of chilled vermentino. Flipped through pages of one of cook books on my recipe book shelf in search of inspiration to add new flavors to the plate. What can I say? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Sopranos’ cook book – Zuppa Di Cozze.

* 1 kg wild mussels
* 250 g cherry tomatoes
* 6 garlic cloves
* Fresh flat leaf parsley
* 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
* Olive oil
* 1 glass of white wine (this is where vermentino came in)
* Pinch of salt
* Optional – ciabatta for toasting (you may want to soak up that liquid with some good italian bread)

Place mussels in cold water bath and let them soak a bit. Drain and scrub them with a brush. Discard any shells that are broken or open ones that don’t shut when you tap on them. Remove the tiny bits of seaweed look stuff sticking out by pulling then toward the narrow end.
Set aside. When I was scrubbing them I was happy I was cooking for two. If you do it properly, it is a bit time consuming. But going through a kilo is not a big deal. Would be cooking for a party though. The cooking itself is so unbelievably fast and easy!
Use a larger pot. Heat a bit of olive oil and cook the chopped garlic, parsley and crushed pepper until garlic softens. Don’t let it brown (it would get bitter). Pour in white wine and bring to a simmer. Add halved cherry tomatoes, salt and cook for up to 10 minutes covered.
Add the mussels and gently stir them in. Cover and cook for up to 10 minutes, until most are open. Discard of those that remain shut.
Et voila! Serve and enjoy!

Now if you are a fan of a more solid dish, cook some spaghetti or fettucine al dente, drain, mix in and enjoy!

Bon appétit!

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