Mussels with Tomatoes and Garlic

Thanks to all who have contributed their favorite tomato recipes! All have been wonderful and I’ll be posting some of them over the next few days. and I was surprised to see how many of my Jewish friends emailed me some decidedly un-Kosher tomato recipes involving shellfish. Perhaps when Hannukah comes around, I’ll have to reach out to my religious Christian friends and ask them to stop planning Christmas dinner and help me out with some tips for the perfect latke.

But yes, tomatoes seem to go very well with shellfish. There are lots of recipes out there for red clam sauces and even Portuguese stews with clams and tomatoes. Some have hot pepper and sausages and other delicious things but the simplest seems to be the one that my sister and her husband made recently. They were even so kind as to email me some pictures. So, I think I’ll steal from the various recipes that people have sent and come up with a good general game plan. The important thing though, is that this time of year, many of us have access to local shellfish and much of it is sustainable. Shellfish brought in daily to the farmers market is simply one of the best foods we have available to us at any time of year. The farmers markets are also full of tomatoes right now and even if they aren’t as perfect as the ones from the middle of August, they are ideal with the briny taste of fresh shellfish. Don’t do too much and make sure you make extra for the next day. And also, after church on Sunday, start thinking about what you might want to eat at your Hanukkah party this year.

Mussels with Tomatoes and Garlic (Serves 4)

Mince 4 cloves of garlic and chop a pound of farmer’s market tomatoes (the type of tomato is not important here and you can even use ‘seconds’ that might be a little bruised. You can take the seeds out if you like but it’s not necessary)

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan (one that has a cover) and add garlic

Saute for 4 minutes or until fragrant

Add tomatoes and a cup of white wine

Increase heat to medium/high and add a small pinch of salt, some ground pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes

Bring mixture to a simmer

While tomato mixture simmers, rinse or scrub 2 pounds of fresh mussels

Add mussels, increase heat to high and cover

Check in 3 minutes. Mussels are ready when they are all open. Discard any that haven’t opened after 5 or 6 minutes.

Taste sauce for seasoning. The liquids from the mussels will add a wonderful briny flavor but if you feel it needs more salt, go ahead

Serve with some slices of crusty bread

3 Minute Meals

I really enjoy 30 Minute Meals on Food Network. In fact, I like almost any task that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. I would have gone to law school if there had been a 3o minute version and I don’t mind getting my teeth cleaned if I’m certain it won’t last more than 30 minutes. But like most of you out there, I feel 30 minutes is far too long to be in the kitchen. Yes, if 30 minutes is great, 3 minutes must be 10 times more enjoyable. That’s indirect variation which can be solved by finding the value of the constant k but that’s not the point of this post.

Scallops cook faster than almost any other main course that I like to make. When you come across scallops as fresh as the ones I’ve been getting at the market, you’re best bet is to cook them in a very hot pan for around 90 seconds per side. I’ve found wonderful scallops from both Pura Vida and Blue Moon. I also found some local pickled veggies that I diced up and served on top of each scallop along with some sauteed arugula. They are nice looking when they come out of the pan and they have a sweetness I’ve never tasted even from scallops from a high end fish market. They’re wonderful and they take only 3 minutes out of your precious day.

Seared Scallops with Arugula and Pickled Veggies

Drizzle olive oil in 2 frying pans and set one to high and one to medium

I wait until the hot one is smoking before adding the scallops

Season Scallops with salt and pepper and place in the hotter pan for 90 seconds

While the scallops are cooking, add a few handfuls of arugula (or other green) to the medium pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper

After 90 seconds, turn scallops and stir spinach

Cook another 90 seconds. Cut into one of the scallops. It is best when it’s slightly pink in the inside

To plate, place scallops on plate and top with a spoonful of sauteed greens.

Chop up a pickled cucumber, string bean, or whatever you can find and put a small piece on top of each scallop. (You can skip this step but it adds a nice acidity and crunch).

Eat well.


The Breadcrumb Diaries Part II ($3.50/Serving)

So after talking about how lots of American dishes like stuffed mushrooms and baked clams use too many breadcrumbs, I got an intense craving for, well, baked clams. I mean the kind with lots of breading. I’m not talking about a brief, passing hankering either. I mean an intense obsession. When my wife asked me if I had dropped off the dry cleaning, I replied “I like baked clams. The kind with lots of breading.”

So Pura Vida at the Union Square Greenmarket has had some of the most delicious clams I’ve ever tasted. Maybe others can weigh in on whether this has something to do with the season or something like that. They are sweet, fresh and not at all fishy. They are much like the clams I sometimes get on the Maine coast in the summer but lately, I think they’ve been even better (sorry New England roots).

Here is a simple and inexpensive way to enjoy these yummy mollusks. You don’t need much water in the pot because the clams themselves will release a fair amount of liquid when they open.

Baked Clams with Lots of Breadcrumbs (6 per person)

Farmers Market Bill $7 + leftover breadcrumbs /2 servings = $3.50 per serving

Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees

Bring a cup of water to a boil in a large stock pot

Rinse or scrub 12 clams and add them to the pot and cover.

Steam for 5 minutes or so and take them out of the water as they open.

Melt 3 tablespoons or so of local butter (pastured if you can get it) and add a cup and  a half of breadcrumbs and mix together

Remove the tops of the clams and detach the clam from the bottom shell (not hard to do)

Lay the clams out in a baking dish and spoon a heaping tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture on top of each one

Bake in oven for 6 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.

Take these out when they look good to you. Everything is already cooked so there’s no need to worry about cooking everything through. You could also prepare them earlier and throw them in the oven later on. If you want a fun variation, you could add some diced slab bacon to the breadcrumb mixture or an egg and some chopped herbs (parsley or whatever you have around). I would also squeeze some lemon on top at the end or even drizzle a little vinegar. I’d love to hear some other variations that you guys like.


Happy Locavore Valentine’s Day ($6 Per Lobster Dinner)

Valentines Day is not very many people’s favorite holiday. Even romantic saps don’t seem to be that excited about February 14th unless they have just fallen in love. For many, the holiday even brings back unpleasant humiliating memories of not having received any Valentines in 3rd grade. But as an adult, you can take control over the holiday and spend the night in and enjoy a romantic and elegant meal without using ingredients from far away.

How about a parsnip soup followed by grilled lobster and a salad of spicy greens?

Parsnips are plentiful right now and they tend to get sweeter as the winter progresses. When you go to the farmers market, try asking how sweet they are. That’s the nice thing about buying from the people who actually produce the food; they tend to know a lot more about it. You could also buy from a few vendors and do a taste test at home. The soup is a great way to use leftover chicken or vegetable stock from the freezer too.

We talk a lot about how to stretch your local food purchases so the cost per meal comes down to about what you’d spend at the supermarket. With seafood however, the fish at the market is often the same price or even much less than what you might find at a fish market. Not only that, most of us know that fresh fish is almost always superior to fish that has been sitting around so if you’re lucky enough to find dayboat fish at your local market, buy it up with confidence. The lobsters at the market were selling for around $8/pound. This recipe includes a half a 1.5 lb. lobster per person which means you’re only spending around $6 a serving for what might be one of the most luxurious proteins. You could even double the portion and serve a full lobster per person and you’d still be well under Red Lobster’s per person cost of $31.99 for their lobster dinner.

This is a nice looking meal. It’s delicious and nice in the cold weather. It may not heal the scars from Valentine’s Days past, but it will certainly be yummy.

Parsnip Soup (serves 2)

Boil a little over a pound of parsnips for around 15 minutes in salted water

When parsnips are tender, remove them from water and transfer to a blender or food processor.

Puree while adding a steady stream of vegetable or chicken stock (hopefully made with market ingredients!).

Plan to add around 1.5 cups of stock but stop if they soup starts to look too thin. You can always add more later.

When the soup looks to be ‘soupy,’ pour it in to a saucepan over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste and for an even more elegant soup, add a shot of cognac or brandy.

Just before serving, add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream and then taste again for seasoning. This is soup can be made entirely with local ingredients, even in the middle of winter.

Grilled Lobsters (serves 2)

Bring a large pot of water to boil

Boil one medium lobster for 4 minutes

Remove from pot and cool slightly either on the counter or in the refrigerator

When cool enough to handle, split lobster lengthwise with a large chef’s knife

Dot the meat with butter (I love the butter from Ronnybrook farm here in NY) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place lobster halves on a cookie sheet and broil for around 8 minutes or until the meat starts to char slightly.

While lobsters are broiling, toss together a winter salad (recipe in an earlier post). Serve on a platter and make sure you have lobster crackers, maybe some extra butter, and lots of napkins!