Orecchiette Con Le Cime di Rapa

Orecchiette is the pasta shape of the Puglia region of Italy and I was lucky enough to watch it being made by hand in Bari.  It’s also the star of the show in this recipe, which also hails from the same area.  I had never had orecchiette con cime di rapa before I went to Puglia, but once I did have it, I was hooked.

orecchiette pasta dish from puglia

And when I’m hooked I try my best to recreate the dish when I come home, knowing full well that my success rate is at best about 70% just based on the availability of the exact ingredients I’ll need (because everything is fresher and better tasting it Italy).  And perhaps reduced to 50% because even though I do pretty well, I’m not a trained chef and I have no Italian nonna to show me the ropes.

So, I’m pretty happy if the dish tastes half as good as I had in Puglia.

Like many Italian pasta dishes, this recipe is relatively easy and the ingredient list short, but it will take practice to make this because it’s all in the timing and technique.  Months later, I’m still practicing.

One of the main ingredients is turnip greens, which is called rapini. You’ll likely have access to broccoli rabe, which will do fine.

I’ve seen many different recipes for this dish and all require cooking the broccoli rabe, which helps to take some of the bitterness out.  This can be done by blanching or sautéing it separately or throwing it in with the pasta while it’s boiling, which is my personal preference for two reasons -1. less pots to clean and 2. the pasta can absorb some of the broccoli rabe flavor while it’s cooking.

One surprise?  The authentic recipe contains anchovy, which I typically don’t love, but couldn’t really detect.  So you can certainly omit it, but experiment with one or two in the recipe – you might like it.

orecchiette 'little ear' pasta from Puglia

Orecchiette Con Cime di Rapa

You’ll need:

1 lb of orecchiette (an artisanal brand from Puglia is best)
2 bunches of broccoli rabe, rinsed well, tough outer leaves and stems removed
4-5 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
a few anchovies packed in oil, mashed
generous pinch of red chili flakes (to taste)

orecchiette pasta and broccoli rabe

Here’s what you’ll do:

While you put a pot of hot water on the boil, prepare the broccoli rabe.

When the water boils, salt it and add the pasta. Stir and cook according to package directions or until al dente.  About half way through the pasta cooking time, add the broccoli rabe to the pot and continue to boil.

As the pasta is cooking, in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Toss in the garlic and chili flakes, cook until garlic is softened, but not browned. Add the mashed anchovy and stir until almost dissolved. Keep warm on very low heat to avoid the garlic burning.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

Add the broccoli rabe and pasta to the sauté pan, turn up the heat slightly and stir or toss gently, just until the ingredients are combined, adding a bit of pasta water if it seems dry.

Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.

pasta dish from puglia

Buon Appetito!

Six Easy French-Inspired Appetizers

Even if we don’t live in France, we can still take pleasure in the wonderful cuisine—and without much fuss!  The French take their food seriously. Eating is an act of enjoyment, of relaxation; it is a time to get together with friends and unwind.  The next time you have a few friends over for cocktails, or if you’re just in the mood to appreciate your food with an apéritif, try some of these French-inspired hors d’oeuvres.  They’re quick, easy, packed with flavor and look impressive, which makes them a perfect option for guests who stop by unannounced.


Ham and Melon brochette appetizers

A brochette is basically anything that is cooked on a skewer (or a toothpick).  An example of one of these bite-size treats is the melon au jambon de bayonne: melon with raw cured ham.  This is one of the easiest appetizers to prepare and is a great choice for a summer night.  Simply use a melon baller to scoop little rounds of the melon (cantaloupe or honeydew).  Don’t have a melon baller? Just cut the melon into small pieces. Then fold up one or two slices of the ham.  Then use the toothpick to hold the two together and serve.

Baked Brie

Baked Brie

Brie is a popular cheese adored by the French (and myself as well), and baked brie is a popular French appetizer that is especially great around the holidays.  Last Thanksgiving, my mother made a baked brie and the whole wheel was gone before the guests had even finished their first drinks.  It seems so gourmet, yet it is quite simple to make.  Spread either a raspberry or fig jam on a wheel of brie cheese (you can even sprinkle chopped walnuts or almonds on top) and wrap in a puff pastry.  Bake it in the oven at 375° for about 25 minutes, then take it out and serve it warm, gooey and oozing with an assortment of crackers and fresh fruit.  You can also do this sans puff pastry and it will still turn out great.



Tapenade gets its reputation for being a savory olive spread from Provence, but it gets its name from the lesser-known ingredient: capers, or tapéno. Serve this spread on toasted baguette slices for a delightful summer hors d’oeuvre.  Tapenade is so tasty that it is even used as an ingredient in many French dishes.  In a food processor, blend 2 cups of pitted black olives, 2 tablespoons of capers, a clove of garlic, a generous drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and pepper to taste.



A canapé is a layered hors d’oeuvre that allows you to be as creative as you wish.  Bread typically serves as the base, followed by a layer of your choice spread, but after that, it is completely up to you!  The French use a “compound butter” or flavored butter.  To create a compound butter, use ½ cup of soft butter and one of the following counterparts: 2 ounces of cheese, anchovy paste, garlic, mustard, smoked salmon, or anything else you desire.  You can even add some fresh herbs from your garden. After you create your flavored butter, you can layer the canapé with shrimp, smoked salmon, sardines, caviar, capers, cucumbers, bell peppers, or whatever else you think would make a tasty combination.


Smoked Salmon Roulade

Roulade is a French culinary term for a rolled dessert or meat dish.  Jambon Chevre, or ham rolls with goat cheese spread, is a quick and simple appetizer that will keep your guests satisfied.  Blend 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, 1 cup of soft goat cheese, 2 tablespoons of assorted chopped herbs, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil using a food processor.  Lay out the ham slices (cooked ham or raw cured ham) and spread the mixture on top. Roll them up and slice them and you have yourself tasty bite-size treats.  You can also try this with other cured meats or smoked salmon.  Experiment with cheese and herb combinations to find your favorite.

Stuffed Endive Leaves

Endive Boats

Endive leaves look dainty and can be paired with pretty much anything. Peel away slices of endive and arrange them nicely on a platter.  Fill each little ‘boat’ with different mixtures of goodies.  A dollop of salmon, crab, or tuna salad work well.  A schmear of cream or goat cheese topped with a few olives is also tasty.  My choice –  blue cheese crumbles and lightly toasted walnuts.  Finish it off with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and voila! I love the combination of the cold crunch from the endive and the warm crunch of the nuts.  The flavor of walnuts and blue cheese marries perfectly.  I think some sliced red grapes with this combo would work well too!  Maybe even a sprinkle of chopped chives.

What’s your favorite French hors d’oeuvres to make? and to eat?

Written by: Laura Photo Credits: PatrickWoodward /  William Couch / Norwichnuts / sushiina / Elin B / The Gifted Photographer / Dorte F

How To Make Homemade Pasta

I have prepared and shared a plethora of Italian pasta dishes in the last three-plus-years on this site.  I have experimented with homemade gnocchi and gnudi before- but one thing that has alluded me was making fresh homemade pasta.

Perhaps because of the time needed.  Perhaps because of the equipment required.  Or perhaps I was just afraid.  Very afraid.

That all changed last Sunday, as I dove in to make my first attempt at fresh homemade pasta at a friend’s house.

First let me say, there are many different types of pastas, recipes, methods and types of equipment. I used a variation of an egg pasta dough recipe from Lidia Bastianich which has been adjusted at my friend’s recommendation.  I also was lucky enough to make use of a Kitchen Aide stand mixer and pasta attachments.

1. Making the homemade pasta dough

sift 1 cup of all-purpose-flour into a bowl or on your countertop {I used King Arthur flour}

form a well in the center
put 3 eggs and 1 egg yolk into the well
add 3 tablespoons of olive oil
add 2 tablespoons of water

making fresh homemade pasta

Using a wooden spoon, incorporate flour closest to the center of the well and continue moving outward. When the dough starts to come together, forgo the spoon and dive in with your hands. If the dough is dry try adding a teeny bit of olive oil to moisten it.

making fresh pasta - knead the dough

Kneed the dough, but don’t overwork it.  Once it forms, shape it into a ball. Your finished dough will look like this:

making fresh pasta - dough ball

Now, wrap this in plastic and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set up your pasta making station:

You’ll need –

~ a large workspace, dusted with all-purpose-flour

~ a few baking sheets lined with clean dishtowels

~ a Kitchen-Aide stand mixer with pasta attachments or a hand crank pasta roller.

2.   Making the Pasta Sheets

Set up the Kitchen-Aide stand mixer with the pasta attachment which rolls the dough into flat sheets.  Set the dial to thickness #1 and turn it on.

Unwrap the ball of dough, flatten slightly and cut the dough into six equal triangles, like you are cutting pizza slices.

Take one triangle, flatten slightly with the heel of your hand and feed one corner through the rollers.

Let the pasta sheet come through, gently supporting each end so that the dough feeds through smoothly – be careful not to pull it.

making fresh pasta - sheets

Repeat this process another 4 times with that sheet, each time adjusting the rollers to positions 2, 3, 4 and finally 5.

Place the finished sheet on top of the flour dusted workspace.  Trim the pointed edges off of each end.  If your sheet is very long, cut it in half as it will be easier to work with later.  Flip pasta sheet over a few times until lightly covered in flour on each side.  This is to help dry the pasta out and to prevent sheets from sticking together.

Repeat the process with the remaining five pieces of dough, until all of the dough is now drying in sheets.

At this point, you can decide what shape of pasta you would like.  Prepared sheets can be used as-is for ravioli, lasagna or other types of pasta.

We chose to make fettuccine, which required further cutting.

3.   Making the noodles

Switch out the pasta attachment for the one that makes fettuccine and turn it on.

Using the same motion as before, guide the pasta sheets through the attachment, being careful to feed it through straight and to keep your fingers away from the inner mechanism.

making homemade pasta - cutting noodles

Let the cut noodles fall to the counter, scoop them up,  toss them in some semolina flour until lightly coated and place each pile on top of the towel-covered baking sheet to dry further.

making fresh pasta - tossing noodles

Repeat this process with the remainder of the sheets until all the noodles are cut.

Leave the pasta in nests to dry for a bit before cooking or freezing.  Freeze pasta in tupperware or refrigerate if you plan to use it within a few days.

making fresh homemade pasta - drying nests

4.  Cooking the Pasta

Fresh pasta cooks very quickly. Much faster than dried pasta.  I’d recommend preparing your sauce first. Have it done and ready to go, and throw the fresh pasta into boiling water at the last moment. Cook the pasta, until al dente, just 2-3 minutes and add it right to the sauce.

We had prepared a simple, yet delicious sauce using a base of soffritto with canned San Marzano tomatoes, pancetta, red wine and herb ricotta.

The results were rich and flavorful.  Just look at those gorgeous fettuccine noodles!

5.  A Few Quick Notes

~ The more you make homemade pasta, the better you will become at adjusting for things like the dough’s consistency, the humidity and how fast you need to  work to avoid the dough from drying out.

~ You dough will probably come out differently every time you make it.

~ Though making dough by hand was fun, next time I will try to utilize modern technology  and use the food processor or Kitchen-Aide mixer to prepare it.  I’ll leave the completely-by-hand-dough-making to the real Italian Mammas.

While making my own pasta was time consuming, it was also fun and rewarding.  The flavor was better and the consistancy was decidedly different from dried pasta.  It certainly wasn’t as daunting as I feared.  I don’t know how often I’ll opt to make my own, but this definitely won’t be my only attempt.

I think I see some ravioli in my future.  Whose coming to dinner?

Now, it’s your turn to share! Have you ever made your own pasta?  What kind did you make?

What was the result?  Would you do it again?

La Cucina Povera : White Beans and Chard

One of the things I love so much about Italy is how Italians cook.  They prepare dishes from seasonal foods while making use of everything they have.  They don’t waste food and they have smart, creative ways to make use of leftovers.

La Cucina Povera is a term that Italians use to describe this type of cooking.  It means The Poor Kitchen.

Some of the best Italian recipes were and still are created this way.

Often, when faced with an empty pantry the day before my scheduled market visit – I need to get creative.  I don’t like to waste food or money for that matter.

Last week, I had some left over chard staring me in the face as well as about 50 assorted cans of  beans picked up at a recent Can-Can Sale.

I figured that someone out in Internet Land must have an Italian recipe utilizing these ingredients.

And I was correct.

Enter Joe Bastianch and Food and Wine Magazine.

I used the recipe as inspiration for my dish, but since I rarely follow a recipe to the T while cooking I just winged it.  I’ll give you an overview, but you can find the actual recipe here.

This is a simple, quick, healthy dinner – a perfect cold-weather meal for vegetarians.  And it’s very budget friendly, which is so important these days.

I was also very surprised that this tasted as good as it did.  It just goes to show you that you don’t need a complicated ingredient deck to wind up with a hearty, delicious dish.

Quick White Bean, Chard and Tomato Stew

What you’ll need:

Swiss chard, larger stems removed, and leaves roughly chopped
a few glugs of extra-virgin olive oil
a few thinly sliced  garlic cloves
a pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup canned chopped or diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan

What to do:

1. Throw the chard in a pot of boiling water.  Turn the heat down and simmer till nicely wilted.  Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile,  pour olive oil in a Dutch Oven and turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about a minute, making sure it doesn’t burn.

3. Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat . When mix reaches a boil, toss in the beans. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.

4. Reduce heat again to a simmer and add the wilted chard. Cook for 5 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve in bowls topped with a good amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

Buon Appetito!

No, Vegetarians! – You will not take my French Onion Soup!

French Onion Soup

I have been accommodating my pseudo-husband’s vegetarian lifestyle for the better part of 13 years.  It hasn’t always been a pleasure, but I do it because it is the right thing to do.  Just like he doesn’t blink an eye or give me grief if I want to devour a steak.

Many a risotto has been adjusted. I have substituted my fair share of fish (he became a pescetarian 5 years ago) for chicken in a recipe, without complaint.  Family and friends always shift plans to include a ‘special’ dish just for him.  My mother spends time doting on him like he is starving and undernourished.

But some things have gotta give.

Perfection should not be messed with.  There are some recipes that just won’t carry over well if deviated from.

And French Onion Soup happens to be one of them.

Last week, I found the holy grail of French Onion Soup recipes.  And being the dutiful, accommodating psuedo-wife that I am, my brain immediately went to work – converting the recipe to something HE could enjoy as well.  After all, who wants to go to the trouble of making an entire batch of French Onion Soup  just to eat it alone?

And as I slaved over the stove, gaining layer after layer of flavor – caramelizing, stirring, deglazing the pot 2, 5, 50 times- as soon as I added the vegetable stock, I just knew it was all over.

That soup would never live up to what it was meant to be.  What it should be.  And all because that veggie stock is just too weak.  It doesn’t have the deep, hearty flavor that French Onion Soup begs for.

So, next time I’m not budging.  It is my right after all, as a carnivore.  I don’t suggest you add beef broth to your tofu cubes, do I?  No, of course not. So, don’t expect me to vegetarianize my French Onion Soup.

And while I realize that I did this completely to myself because I was being thoughtful, next time thoughtful takes a back seat to authentic and delicious!  In fact, thoughtful won’t even make it in the car next time we are driving to the land of French Onion Soupness.

Rant over.

So, while we certainly ate the soup and it was better than I expected, it just wasn’t up to my standards of a proper French Onion Soup.

But I think it’s fair to say Chris enjoyed it immensely.  Probably because he knew it would be his one and only opportunity.  At least in this house.

French Onion Soup Crock

The recipe I used can be found at Cookography.  For the best flavor, I prepared the soup and followed the recommendation of refrigerating for a day or two before reheating and serving.  It really did impact the flavor.

What are you favorite recipes that will remain unaltered for vegetarians?

Roasted Tomato & Basil Penne


Roasting tomatoes is so very easy- and it gives them a delicious sweet flavor!  

The process couldn't be simpler, really.  And roasted tomatoes make a perfect pasta topping when you are looking for something quick!

Start with a container of grape or cherry tomatoes.  Wash, dry and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, lined with foil.  

Douse with a few splashes of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, toss and roast in the oven on 400°, just until they burst open- about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I boil whatever pasta I have in the pantry- this time it was penne.

Throw the cooked, drained pasta in a large bowl- top with the hot tomatoes right out of the oven, making sure to scrape all the juices, oil and ever morsel of seasonings over top as well as a few more splashes of olive oil.

Toss in a handful each of roughly chopped (or julienned if you are extra-fancy!) fresh basil and Italian parsley and a good helping of freshly grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano.

Toss together and serve.  


Buon Appetito!


Mushroom Gorgonzola Risotto with Red Wine

Fall is upon us and so is my desire to eat earthy, stick-to-your-ribs dishes.  And that means cooking with mushrooms.  Mushrooms in stew, pasta, soup or even sauteed in a gravy to pour over steaks.

Today we are cooking them up in a delicious risotto.

Anytime I cook with porcini mushrooms and red wine- my risotto comes out, well, earthy looking.

But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

This mushroom risotto recipe was inspired and adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis.

Mushroom Gorgonzola Risotto with Red Wine

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the porcini mushrooms. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Strain the mixture, reserving the liquid.  Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Reheat the stock to a simmer and keep warm over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook until the onions are tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add half the wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. 

Add 1/2 cup of warm stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue with remaining stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and allowing each addition to be absorbed, until the rice is tender to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 30 minutes. Add the other half of the wine and let it absorb.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, Gorgonzola, chives, salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Serve immediately.


Buon Appetito!

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto from Bell’Alimento


Take one look at that mouth-watering photo, or as I like to refer to it : Food Porn– and you can tell we are dealing with a professional here folks.

I met Paula on Twitter, and eveytime I saw one of her recipes (and delicious photos) I knew she was the real deal.  I knew that whatever contribution she made as a guest blogger here, would be simple, delicious, and of course, Italian.  And I knew that my readers would just gobble her up!

So today, I am very excited to welcome, Paula and her contribution, Roasted Red Pepper Risotto.

Here's Paula…

I am so honored to have been asked by Robin to do a guest post on MyMelange. I met Robin on Twitter earlier this year and have loved her blog and, of course, her, ever since. She is one of the funniest tweeps out there. 

We have many things in common but the biggest of them is ITALY! We both are crazy for L'Italia. Oops, how rude of me, I'm so sorry I didn't introduce myself, silly me, I'm Paula and I am a food writer & recipe developer for bellalimento.com 


Bell'Alimento is Italian for “beautiful food.” My food philosophy is simple…beautiful food doesn't have to be complicated. But just because it's not complicated doesn't mean it has to bland or boring. Oh no! At least not on bell'alimento.


I am so happy to stop by with a recipe to share with you. Naturally it had to be Italian! No brainer there & with Fall upon us I thought a good Risotto recipe would be perfetto.

I am unashamedly a Risotto Lover. I have many Risotto recipes on my site and know there will be many more to come. Once you have the basic recipe down the varities of Risotto are endless. If you haven't made Risotto, fear not. It's not as complicated as you would imagine or might have heard. Yes, you will have to mind the pot while it's cooking & stir fairly often but the payoff will more than make up for it.


A few things to remember: If you'd like to use a fresh red bell pepper instead that's fine. Be sure to clean it & chop it into bite size pieces. You'll need to put it into the mixture a little earlier on in the cooking process. At about 15 minutes in would be fine.

Keep your heat low & slow. When the liquid levels get low, add more stock (even if it's more than what's recommended). When the rice is done, taste and season with salt level to your taste buds. If you're as crazy about Risotto as I am, you can easily double the recipe!


Buon Appetito!




What you'll need:

1 cup of Arborio rice

2 cans of chicken broth

1 small onion – minced

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 jar of roasted red bell peppers – chopped into bite size pieces


What to do:

Pour olive oil into sauce pan & heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onions, stir & saute until slightly translucent. Once onions are translucent, add rice & mix thoroughly until rice is coated well with onion & oil mixture. 

Stir constantly so as not to burn your rice or onions. When rice is sufficiently coated add in about 1/4 can of chicken broth. Stir constantly! It is very important to not leave this unattended. Once chicken broth has reduced add more broth. Continue this process until both cans of your broth have been added. This process will take about 30 minutes. 

At about 20 minutes into the cooking process add in your chopped roasted red bell peppers. Once your rice is creamy and soft to the taste it is ready! Take off of heat & add butter, stir, taste & add salt if necessary. Serve immediately.


Buon Appetito!


Easy French Vinaigrette

French Vinaigrette

For the better part of the last 5 years I have not used store bought dressing. 

Nope.  Not when healthy, delicious dressing is so easy to make- and so much better for you!

And no Franco-Italophile expat-wanabee would be caught dead using store bought stuff, right?

I have both a favorite French vinaigrette as well as an Italian dressing that uses balsamic vinegar.  They are both staples in my house.

Today I'd like to share the French Vinaigrette.

Keep in mind- I despise recipes, especially for something so simple.  Frankly, it would take longer to read the recipe than it would to prepare the dressing!

French Vinaigrette

  • good quality olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • small shallot, minced
  • dijon mustard
  • honey
  • salt and pepper

In a large serving bowl, pour a little of the vinegar- a few tablespoons perhaps.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a big dollop of dijon mustard, followed by about half that amount of honey.  

Stir with a wire wisk until combined.

Now, add about three times the amount of olive oil as you did vinegar.  The trick here is to whisk briskly as you s-l-o-w-l-y stream the olive oil into the bowl.  When emulsified, add the minced shallot.

Leave the dressing in the bottom of the large bowl, place salad greens on top.

Toss at the table when ready to serve.

Et Voila!  French Vinaigrette!

* Some other alternative for this dressing.  Serve with a Salad Niçoise or over steamed potatoes.

photo credit link

On Moules Mariniére

Moules Mariniére

I love most seafood.  Lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops- all favorites.  But I was never a big fan of clams, especially the raw ones.  And mussels – not so much either.

But, my other half really loves mussels.  I mean really loves them.

He orders them by the trough-full, if we go out to any French restaurant.  And speaking of the French, they do mussels, like the Italians do pasta. Often, with many variations and always good!

So, for some odd reason (which for the life of me escapes me now), I decided I would try making them for dinner.  (Why didn’t I stick to my usual man-pleasing staple of chocolate chip cookies?)

I have never bought, nor cleaned, prepped, cooked, de bearded or whatever else you need to do to a mollusk before eating it.

So, I consulted the BIG book of anything-you-ever-wanted-to know-about-preparing-food.  A little ditty by Jacques Pepin.

And yes Chris, you were right. Quelle Surprise! You told me that even though there were things in that book -like chopping off a ducks head and plucking the pin feathers out- that I wouldn’t use, it would, in fact, come in handy one day.

So, armed with BIG BOOK and an idea of ingredients I had seen in the dish from when Chris has ordered it a thousand times before, we started.

Now, the biggest pain in the ass and time sucking activity is the cleaning.

You basically need to clean and inspect each mussel.  You want only mussels that are alive.  And you want to use them the same day you buy them. If they are closed, that is a good sign.  If they are open, gently slide a knife in to touch the mussel. If the shell closely slowly, that is also a good sign.  If not, toss it – it is dead as a doornail!

Next, you clean.  Scrub the outside, cut off the beard (though sometimes this is done for you already), and soak them a few times.

The first time, throw a few handfuls of flour into the water. This will encourage them too release their sand.  You don’t want gritty mollusks!  Soak for about an hour.

Second soak should be plain cool water, for about half an hour.

Rinse again and you are ready to begin cooking.  Here is what you will need to serve 2:

Moules Mariniére

2 pounds of mussels
about a cup of good white wine
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
few glugs of good olive oil
bunch of chopped parsley
a few springs of fresh thyme
a few threads of saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 bay leaf
3-4 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt


In a large Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat.  Add shallot, cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients(except mussels), stir, turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Then add mussels and stir them gently.  Cover and steam for only about 4-5 minutes, until they open. Not any longer.  It is important not to overcook them- they will turn to rubber.

It is a good idea to shake the pot a few times, so that the mussels don’t stick and burn.

And again, discard any mussels that did not open during the cooking process.


Pour the entire mixture into a large bowl, spooning the broth over the mussels.  Serve in individual bowls with a glass of the white wine used in the recipe and large chunks of baguette to soak up all the delicious juices.  Bibs are also a welcome idea.


You can also pour the entire mixture over linguine for a hardier dinner.

I now look forward to cooking up some variations in the sauce, like pernod and cream or Provençal with tomatoes.  Oh the possibilities…..

Do you like mussels?  What is your favorite way to prepare or eat them?
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