1.23.15 Shakshouka with Feta and Cucumber Herb Salad

I’ve always been intrigued by this dish known as shakshouka. It’s a middle eastern dish of eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. And besides sounding delicious, is really fun to pronounce. I’ve seen versions of it pop up in various food magazines and food blogs, and every time I can’t help but think how amazingly good it looks. Let’s be clear, I am always down for any sort of dish that involves soft cooked eggs, and well, when you throw in a nice spicy tomato sauce and some cheese, it only sweetens the deal. I always meant to make it, but for some reason or other, never seemed to get around to it.

Finally, I decided it was time to give shakshouka a try. Or at least my version of shakshouka. I threw some peppers, onion, and garlic in a pan, added some jalapenos for heat and some cumin and paprika for a nice smoky flavor. I threw in some tomatoes, cracked in some eggs, and before long, I was digging into a big warm bowl of the stuff. Obviously, I topped it with some briny feta and a sprinkle of z’atar, because, as we all know, adding cheese makes everything better. And of course, having some warm pita bread on hand to soak up the extra sauce was a necessity.

It was delicious, and yet, I felt there was something missing. It needed something bright and green to round it all out. In about two minutes, I had whipped up a super quick salad of cucumber and fresh herbs. A squeeze of lemon, a dash of olive oil, and a pinch more z’atar (I can’t get enough of the stuff), and we were there. It was perfect. All that was left to do was devour it.

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Shakshouka with Feta and Cucumber Herb Salad

serves 3-4

Z’atar is a middle eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, and salt. I picked some up at Penzeys on a whim a few years ago, and since then have not been able to get enough of it. Besides sprinkling it on shakshouka, it’s amazing on roasted chicken, in salads, and on pita chips. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other delicious uses for it as well. You can buy it from Penzeys of course, or mix up your own (2 Tbsp sumac, 1 Tbsp thyme, 1 ½ tsp white sesame seeds, ½ tsp salt).

shakshouka:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 28 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ tsp z’atar
  • warm pita bread for serving

salad:

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber (preferably a seedless variety, such as English or Persian)
  • ¼ c fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp z’atar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Start by making the shakshouka. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat, and once hot, add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5-6 minutes.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

4. While sauce is simmering, make the salad. Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl and let stand for flavors to develop while you finish the shakshouka.

5. After sauce has cooked for about 10 minutes, make 6 indentations in the sauce and crack one egg into each. Place pan in oven and cook at 400 until whites are set, but yolks are still runny, about 8-10 minutes.

6. Remove pan from oven, and sprinkle evenly with feta and z’atar. Serve hot along with the salad and warm pita to soak up the sauce.

1.20.15 Pork and Fennel Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce is one of those dishes that always makes me happy. It’s hearty and delicious, and is basically the epitome of comfort food. Sure, it takes some time to make, but after putting in a couple of hours to make a big bubbling pot of the stuff, I can say I’ve never been disappointed by the result. And let’s be honest, this time of year, a rich meaty sauce is just the sort of thing we all need. Plus, the added bonus of the aroma this sort of slow cooked sauce is going to impart to your kitchen alone is worth it.

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While most bolognese sauce is made with beef, or a mix of beef and pork, this version is all pork. Wanting to add a healthy dose of fennel to my sauce, I figured (rightly so) that pork would be a good compliment. Besides, pork is delicious. Add some lovely aromatics, fresh tomatoes, and white wine, and you’ve got yourself one tasty sauce.

Making this sauce is one of my favorite ways to spend a lazy winter weekend evening. I’ll slow cook away, enjoying the delicious aroma while watching Godfather movies with a glass of wine. Once the sauce is ready, I’ll devour it in a semi-ridiculous quantity atop pasta with plenty of parmesan cheese. And more wine. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Pork and Fennel Bolognese Sauce

serves 4-5

If you end up with leftover sauce, never fear. In fact, lucky you! I recently discovered that if you use bolognese as pizza sauce, you will end up with quite possibly the best pizza ever. Just spread the sauce evenly over your crust, top with some fresh mozzarella, and bake. You’ll end up with one amazing, deliciously messy pie.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 lb roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Cooked linguine or fettuccine pasta and grated parmesan cheese for serving

1. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, then add the ground pork and cook, breaking apart with a spoon, until no longer pink. Remove from pot and set aside.

2. Add the chopped bacon to the pot and cook until the pieces are just beginning to crisp up.

3. Add the celery, carrots, onion, fennel, garlic, crushed red pepper, fennel seed, salt, and pepper, and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-6 minutes.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, and continue cooking until tomatoes soften and begin to break down, another 5-6 minutes.

5. Add the pork you browned in step 1 back to the pot, along with the tomato paste and give everything a good stir to mix it together.

6. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the chicken broth, whole milk, and balsamic vinegar, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until sauce is rich and thick, about 1 ½ -2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Serve sauce atop freshly cooked pasta, with a generous sprinkle of parmesan.

1.13.15 Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s been one cold week, and in addition to that, I’m facing that sort of scratchy throat feeling that pretty much always means a cold is on the way. In this sort of situation, one of the best things to be done, besides drinking a few too many of these (with or without a generous pour of brandy), is to cook up a big, warming pot of soup. We all know that when one isn’t feeling one’s best, chicken noodle is generally the soup of choice. And while I’ve got nothing against this old standby, sometimes it’s also nice to change things up a bit.

The inspiration for this particular soup is the Khao Soi I had at Sujeo last month. I ordered it on a whim, and shortly thereafter, found myself unable to stop thinking about it. The rich, spicy, coconut red curry broth, chicken, noodles, and loads of toppings (and we know how I feel about toppings) - it was basically perfection in a bowl. The more I thought about it and craved it, the more I knew I needed to try to recreate something similar at home. You know, so I could have some whenever I felt like it.

I did some research to find that Khao Soi is a dish from Northern Thailand, made by cooking a curry paste in coconut milk to form a broth, and then adding noodles (usually both boiled and fried noodles) and meat such as chicken. It seemed slightly complicated, and in the interest of getting said soup into my belly as quickly as possible, I devised a slightly less complicated version. Sure, you still need to make a curry paste, but it only takes about 20 seconds in the food processor. Also, I opted for light coconut milk instead of the full fat variety, simply because it made the dish seem less overly heavy (read - you can eat way more before being overpowered by the richness of the broth). And, well, who has time to fry noodles? I just went with regular boiled noodles, and saved myself the trouble. The result may not be exactly authentic, but it is one big bowl of pure deliciousness. Not to mention, it’s ready to eat in about 30 minutes. Sounds pretty good to me.

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Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

serves 3-4

This soup is an easy way to use up any leftovers from that chicken you roasted last weekend. If you don’t have any leftover chicken on hand, simply roast a couple of chicken thighs, and you’re good to go. The noodles I used here are thin dried egg noodles you can easily find at any Asian market.

  • ½ cup cilantro leaves with stems, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 medium shallot, roughly chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp ancho chile powder (or other milder chile powder)
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 thai chile, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp canola or peanut oil
  • 1 14 oz can light coconut milk
  • 1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken (preferably dark meat), shredded
  • 3-4 oz thin dried chinese egg noodles (or in a pinch, sub angel hair pasta)
  • fresh cilantro, thai basil, thinly sliced shallot, sliced thai chile, chile oil, and lime wedges for serving

1. In a food processor, combine the cilantro, water, shallot, garlic, ginger, chile powder, cumin, turmeric, and thai chile (if using). Process until a paste is formed.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the paste you made in step one, and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, lime juice, fish sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.

4. Add the chicken and dried noodles, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked.

5. Divide soup between bowls and top with fresh cilantro, thai basil, sliced shallot, sliced chiles, a drizzle of chile oil, and a lime wedge. Serve immediately.

1.6.15 Black Beans and Rice Bowl with Crispy Plantains

Welcome to 2015! It’s been a few busy weeks, filled with holidays, traveling, family and friends. Throughout it all, I must admit I’ve been hard pressed to find time to do anything, let alone cook. But at last, I think I can safely say that we’ve made it through the holiday craziness, and can once again begin the process returning to our normal routines. While 2014 was definitely one delicious year, I feel pretty sure that 2015 is going to be pretty darn tasty as well. Especially when it starts out with something as delicious as this.

As a kid, black beans and rice was a meal my mum would make on a fairly regular basis. It’s easy to make, and was one of a handful of meals that my often picky siblings and I would eat without complaint, usually in some sort of delicious burrito form with salsa and cheese. In college, I realized that besides being delicious, black beans and rice was wonderfully inexpensive to make, so it became a frequent college staple as well.

Nowadays, I still get a craving for some good old bb&r every once and a while. Of course, these days, I tend to jazz things up a little. I give the beans a little Cuban spin with some sofrito ( a fancy word for the pure delightfulness that results from cooking down onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and spices into a big gooey mess) and top everything with a generous helping of crispy plantains. And not just any plantains, but sweet and smokey plantains tossed with a sprinkle of ancho chile and spoonful of warm honey. Finish it all with some fresh cilantro, avocado, and a squeeze of lime, and you’ve got yourself one classy bowl of black beans and rice.

Black Beans and Rice Bowl with Crispy Plantains

serves about 3

black beans:

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 large poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

plantains:

  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large ripe plantain, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp honey

assembly:

  • 1 ½ cups cooked rice
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced avocado
  • hot sauce
  • lime wedges

1. Start the beans. Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes.

2. Add the chopped poblano pepper, and continue to cook until vegetable are just beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and cilantro, and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes are very soft, another 2-3 minutes.

4. Add the black beans, water, and lime juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until liquid is mostly reduced. Season to taste with additional salt if needed.

5. While beans are cooking, heat 3 Tbsp canola oil in a large, high sided skillet. Once oil is very hot, add the plantain slices to the oil. Plantains should be in a single layer, and not touching. You will likely have to cook plantains in two batches.

6. Fry plantains until the bottoms turn a nice caramelized brown, then flip and repeat on the other side. If your oil is nice and hot, this should only take a few minutes per side. Keep a close watch - plantains have lots of sugars and can quickly go from caramelized brown to burnt black if you aren’t careful. Place fried plantains on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil, and repeat process with remaining plantains until all have been fried.

7. Toss fried plantains in a bowl with the salt and chile powder. Heat honey until very liquid (about 15-20 seconds in the microwave). Pour the warm honey over top and continue to mix until plantains are evenly coated.

8. To serve, divide rice, beans, and plantains evenly between bowls. Top with fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, and hot sauce if desired. Serve with fresh lime wedges, and an ice cold beer.

12.31.14 Wisconsin from Scratch Best of 2014

Another year has come and gone, and what year it’s been. In 2014 we did some pretty outlandish things, like travel halfway around the world to India, and kayak with icebergs in Lake Superior. We survived a polar vortex, made a wedding cake, and met some other awesome Madison food bloggers. And most importantly, we cooked. A lot. There were a ton of seriously delicious things coming out of the Wisconsin from Scratch kitchen this year, and as 2014 draws to a close, it seems only fitting to share with you our favorite recipes from this past year. After much deliberation, Forrest and I have narrowed down the list to our top 14 (it was a tough job, but someone had to do it). And now, without further ado, we bring you the best of the best!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

On a chilly day, there are few things better than a big bowl of tomato soup. Except when your regular old tomato soup is replaced by this thick creamy version chock full of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Fantastic? I think yes. It makes the stuff from a can pale in comparison. Your grilled cheese will thank you.

Baklava Baked French Toast

I love baklava, but I’m not always in the mood to fiddle around with phyllo dough. But then I was struck with a marvelous idea - baklava...in french toast form. Not only is it far easier to pull off than actual baklava, but you can get away with eating it for breakfast. Sold.

Blackened Salmon Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Spicy-sweet blackened salmon, tangy pineapple salsa and creamy avocado all wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla. Serve them up with a side of black beans, a slice of lime, and a cold beer, and you’re in taco heaven.

White Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits with Hot Sauce Butter

A good biscuit is a beautiful thing, but these biscuits in particular are exceptionally wonderful. Besides the tasty addition of sharp cheddar and fresh farmer’s market scallions, they’re also topped with the most glorious of condiments - hot sauce butter. When you’ve spent your life trying to choose between hot sauce or butter as a biscuit topping, the pure genius of combining the two into one übercondiment is utterly mindblowing.

Banana, Chocolate Chip, and Walnut Blondie Bars

An experimental bar cookie I decided to try out for Memorial Day weekend, this banana, chocolate chip, and walnut blondie bar, was obviously inspired by my favorite ice cream flavor of all time, Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. And yes, they turned out to be fantastic (but really, being chock full of bananas, dark chocolate, and walnuts, how could they not?).

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam

This delightful, slow roasted strawberry jam is beyond easy to make (only 3 ingredients!!!), requires very minimal participation on your part during cook time, and the results are - dare I say - even more delicious than regular stovetop jam. Not to mention, when you strain the roasting liquid from your berries to achieve that perfect, jammy consistency, you'll end up with a surprise bonus - strawberry balsamic syrup! As if you needed an excuse to mix up a cocktail.

Black Tea Vodka and Lemon Balm Porch Sipper

If an Arnold Palmer is great on its own, then this version, made with black tea-infused vodka, fresh lemons, and lemon balm is practically sublime.

Blueberry Skillet Cornbread with Maple Butter

We all know cornbread is one of the best kinds of bread (probably because it’s basically a cake disguised as a bread). And if you add blueberries, some lemon, and top it with maple butter, well, you’ve just taken cornbread to the next level.

White Russian Popsicles

As we all know, the Dude is a major fan of the White Russian, and well, really who isn’t? Especially a White Russian in popsicle form. Get ready to be very, very happy.

Chicken, Leek and Wild Rice Casserole

Sometimes, you just need comfort food. And for me, chicken and wild rice casserole is just the thing. Like a lot of casseroles, this version consists of a delicious saucy filling topped with a layer of crunchy crumbs, which become a beautiful golden brown crust when baked. But unlike most casseroles, this version isn’t held together with lots of processed things from cans. Just lovely homemade goodness.

Brussels Sprout and Ricotta Pizza

This is one tasty pie, topped with copious amounts of lovely, green, garlicky, brussels sprout leaves, delightfully crisped to perfection. Also, bacon and three kinds of cheese! Yes, even someone previously at loathe to eat brussels sprouts, may be able to set aside their differences once they experience the utter cheese nirvana that is this pizza. It’s just that good.

Green Chile Pork

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use it for so many things. Of course, I love to eat it in traditional chili fashion; straight up from a bowl, topped with a drizzle of hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, a smattering of fresh cilantro, and a couple of warm tortillas to sop it all up. But let’s not discount the other myriad uses for this delightful dish - piled atop nachos, stuffed into quesadillas, rolled up into enchiladas - really the possibilities are endless.

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Bacon Vinaigrette

Crispy roasted delicata squash is delicious in its own right, but toss said roasted squash with some greens, crunchy walnuts, creamy blue cheese, and a warm sweet/salty maple bacon vinaigrette, and you’ve just made one seriously tasty fall salad.

Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup

This soup is hearty and warming with just the right amount of spice. But where it really gets going is in the toppings. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for toppings. In this case, I went with some lovely bright cilantro, dangerously addicting crispy fried shallots, and homemade red chile paste.

 

12.16.14 Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Stew

My sister got married a few months back, and as a result of her many wonderful wedding presents, now has a kitchen stocked with pretty much every kitchen tool, utensil, and dish imaginable. I’m only slightly jealous. Amidst all of the regular things one would expect - plates, baking pans, spatulas, knives, etc. - my sister, being the creative one in the family, also registered for some pretty awesome unique kitchenware as well. Case in point, a large earthenware tagine.

You may be thinking that a tagine is a name for a stew, not a piece of cookware. In fact, both are correct. A traditional cooking vessel of North Africa, a tagine is made of clay and consists of a circular base with low sides, and a cone-shaped portion that sits atop. This is designed to redirect any condensation back into the base, thus conserving liquid. Confusingly, the food cooked inside of a tagine, usually a delicious fragrant stew, is also called a tagine. Are you confused yet? It’s okay; I was too.

My sister has recently been using her tagine fairly often and was describing to me some of the delicious tagine stews she has been cooking. It made me a little jealous. Not having a tagine of my own, I decided to make my own version using the cookware I had readily available. So, while this recipe is maybe not a true tagine stew, I used a lot of the flavors one might associate with one. The result is a delicious, spicy vegetable stew, replete with carrots, chickpeas, golden raisins and warm spices. Served over a bed of fluffy couscous, it’s one fantastic meal. Not to mention, healthy enough to justify binging on a few extra Christmas cookies. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself...

Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Stew

serves 3-4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¾ lb carrots, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • couscous and fresh cilantro for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook until just beginning to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the chile powder, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt and cinnamon, and continue to cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes more.

3. Add the golden raisins, lemon juice, and tomato paste, stirring until well combined. Cook another minute, then add the carrots and chickpeas. Give everything a good stir to ensure that everything is well mixed. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes.

4. Remove cover and cook an additional 5 minutes to allow stew to thicken slightly. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Serve stew atop couscous with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top.

12.13.14 12 Days of Christmas Cookies!

We all know that one of the best parts about Christmas is the cookies. At least, it is for me - I take Christmas cookies very seriously. To be honest, I take cookies in general very seriously, so you can imagine my excitement when Christmas rolls around and presents me with the perfect excuse to bake batches and batches of cookies. Normally, this would seem slightly crazy, but during Christmas cookie season, all bets are off.

And I’m not alone. I’m sure plenty of you are going Christmas cookie crazy as well, and rightly so. As Christmas approaches, we want to see what sort of Christmas cookie concoctions you’re cooking up! Up until Christmas, Wisconsin from Scratch will be sharing one delicious Christmas cookie recipe a day via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Tag your cookie posts with #WFS12daysofcookies for a chance to have your favorite cookie recipe showcased. And just in case you needed some inspiration, here are a few Wisconsin from Scratch favorites to get you started. Happy baking!

12.9.14 Steamed Mussels with Fennel, Tomato, and Saffron Broth

I must admit, I made it pretty far in life before I ate my first mussel. The day I did though, I was sold. It was a cold wintry day a few years ago, and at a local restaurant, I decided to order a bowl of steamed mussels. A big, giant bowl, chock full of hot, fragrant broth, and shiny black mussels, with a side of crusty bread. It was heavenly. Based on their utter deliciousness, and my limited knowledge of shellfish cookery at the time, I assumed that mussels were either incredibly expensive, or incredibly difficult to cook, or both. Turns out I was very wrong.

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Not long after my first mussel experience, I decided to try making some of my own. Forrest absolutely cannot stand mussels (what? I know), so I decided to make some with a good friend who is also a big fan of these delicious bivalves. This was also smart, because she, unlike me, had some previous experience with mussel cookery. We made a delicious broth, threw in the mussels, and in just a few minutes, our delicious mussels were ready to eat. I remember thinking, wow, can it really be this easy? Yes, actually it is.

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So now, mussels are a thing I make much more frequently. They’re relatively inexpensive, and so simple to make. The end result is a warming, rustic dish, ideal for cold weather. Really, it’s hard to think of any reason why one shouldn’t make mussels more often. Unless, like me, your husband won’t go near them. But honestly, that’s not a huge problem either - more mussels for me. Seriously though, they are absolutely delicious; swimming in a broth of fennel, white wine, tomatoes, and a pinch of saffron; topped with fresh parsley with some crusty bread to sop up every last bit of broth, it really doesn’t get much better, does it?

Steamed Mussels with Fennel, Tomato, and Saffron Broth

serves 2

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1-1 ½ lbs mussels*
  • chopped fresh parsley and crusty bread for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and saffron, and cook until vegetables soften, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add the wine, cook 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

3. Add the mussels, cover pot, and cook, shaking pot occasionally until mussels are cooked, and their shells open, about 3-5 minutes. Discard any mussels whose shells do not open.

4. Place cooked mussels into 2 large bowls, and taste the broth in the pot, adding any additional salt to season if needed. Pour broth other mussels, and sprinkle liberally with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with warm bread.

*Mussels are incredibly easy to prepare, but there are a couple of important things you should know when cooking them:

  • First off, before cooking, throw away any mussels with broken shells; these are likely no good.

  • If the mussels you got have not already been cleaned, you may need to debeard them, which is less exciting than it sounds, but really not difficult at all. Here’s some detailed info on how to do this.

  • Mussels are actually alive when you cook them! In fact, you should only cook mussels that are still living. Here’s how to tell: The mussels’ shells should be tightly closed; if any are open, tap on the mussel shell, and it should clamp shut. If the shell remains open, it’s no longer alive - throw it away.

  • After cooking your mussels, only eat the mussels whose shells open up. If, after cooking, a mussel is still tightly closed, throw it away.

  • In general, a good mussel should be tightly closed before cooking, and nicely opened up after cooking. Any mussels that don’t follow this rule should not be eaten.

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