Recipe Source: Milona, Marianthi. Culinaria Greece. H. F. Ullmann, 2007 pp. 58 - 9.
The pediatrician has finally lifted the ban on shellfish, as I'm sure I've mentioned before. This is a truly excellent thing because shellfish are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Sometimes we'll go down to Plymouth and I'll go to the Blue Eyed Crab and I'll just order the mussels, even though it's an appetizer. (It's delicious, but they should really serve it with a spoon so you can eat the broth when you're done. Please.) Anyway, the other great thing about being allowed to include shellfish in our menu planning is that we can use more fresh, local fish for less money. Once the initial euphoria of being able to use the stuff wore off - and I did spend too much on shrimp and scallops - I set about finding ways to use mussels and clams.
The issue of course is that while the child is now permitted to consume shellfish that doesn't mean that it's easy, clean or convenient. I mean come on, she's three. She can't really write her name, or color in the lines. She doesn't have the fine motor control to open a mussel and pry out the edible part. (The part of me that isn't a very nice part wants to see her try, just once. The rest of me, the part that has to clean up, does not.) When I found this recipe I was of course very excited because it requires the cook to remove the shells before finishing the dish. It probably seems perfectly simple to you but I'd never seen something cooked this way, so I was excited to try it.
I made a few changes, like I do. I seriously reduced the amount of cooking fat that I used and I replaced the butter with olive oil. I don't need that much fat in my diet. Whatever the original recipe might call for if it were Lent butter would not be used. (Of course, neither wound cheese. That is beside the point. Don't go introducing logic.) I omitted the sugar, because if my grandmother caught me adding sugar to tomatoes she would rise from the dead and pinch me black and blue. No one needs that, much as I would love to see her again. I increased the amount of tomatoes for the simple reason that I wanted more vegetation in the dish. Tomatoes are an important ingredient for both men's and women's health and we could all stand to eat more of them, especially cooked tomatoes. I added some white wine to the mix just because mussels go really, really well with white wine. My notes strongly suggest that some oregano went in there as well.
The results were pretty well received. I was expecting to enjoy it and I did, and my husband enjoyed it as well. My daughter generally has an adventurous palate and she has always been fond of fish, so I expected that she would like this dish. What I did not expect was that this would become her favorite dish. Every time she sees me enter the kitchen she asks me, "Are you going to cook? Can we have mussels for dinner?"
Mussels with Tomatoes and Feta (serves 4; approx. $4.83/serving)
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-lb jar tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup white wine
8 ounces high-quality sheep's milk feta, crumbled
- Large saucepan with lid
- Dutch oven
- Fine strainer
- Preheat your oven to 350︒.
- Combine the mussels and the water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until the mussels open. Discard any unopened mussels.
- Strain the liquid from the pan into the bowl and reserve. Remove the mussels from their shells.
- Heat the oil in the Dutch oven.
- Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
- Season with the oregano and Aleppo pepper.
- Add the vinegar and wine. Boil until the sauce thickens.
- Add the mussels and stir. Transfer to the oven. I'd turn off the burner if I were you.
- Bake 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the feta and set the oven to broil.
- Broil until the cheese is browned, 5 - 10 minutes.
- Serve in the Dutch oven. Serve. I served this over barley but you can serve this with anything that will soak up all those juices.