Monday, May 07, 2007

first timer- Mussels with Cilantro Chutney Cream sauce

We're visiting my parents for the first time this year. When I was younger, I grew up on the east coast near the water, fresh seafood, beach, delicious sushi (this has nothing to do with east coast, I just like to throw it in the mix) and other wonderful east coast things. It's really hard to come by fresh seafood in the Midwest so when I visit my parents or visit DC/Va, I eat as much seafood as one can cram in a weekend trip. It's plenty to last me a while.

My seafood fascination mostly includes salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, shrimp and crab cakes. However two weekends ago when I visited DC, I went out to a delicious French restaurant with a friend's family. It was her birthday dinner, a treat from her dad. Her family had just returned from a trip to Paris and was craving good French food. There, we ordered mussels for appetizer. Now mind you, prior to that evening I had never tried mussels. The mussels were prepared in a butter/parsley sauce. And they were delish, a new fascination to add to my seafood list! So when the hubby and I planned this trip to visit my parents, I knew I would buy mussels to make as an appetizer.

It was my first time preparing them and I was nervous. Though mussels aren't hard to cook, it was the cleaning and preparing the sauce I was worried about. I knew my parents wouldn't try them because they don't like seafood. (Don't ask) If they didn't taste great, the hubby wouldn't try them either, that’s a lot of pressure! I thought to myself, I must come up with an appetizing recipe that'll keep him coming back for more. From much research I saw recipes with wine, garlic and butter sauce and/or a Thai version with coconut, ginger and lime sauce. But I wanted a cilantro and lemon juice based sauce so I combined multiple recipes to make my own version of mussels with cilantro cream sauce.

I love cilantro. I can't get enough of its flavor, aroma and fresh color when cooked in a dish. A lot of people believe cilantro is strong but I think it's a good form of strong. Because it's the main ingredient for this recipe, this is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cooking with Rinku. Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen started weekend herb blogging many weeks ago and it's been a huge success. She as well as some guest hosts have been hosting this weekly event for 81 weeks. Long time right?

Mussels with Cilantro Chutney Cream sauce

2 lbs mussels
olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cilantro chutney (recipe follows)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper
Lemon juice

Mussels should be closed, and shells should be unbroken or uncracked. If mussels are open tap them to close; if they don't close they are dead, discard.

Soak mussels in cold water for 20- 30 minutes. This will allow excess dirt and grit to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Take the mussels out of cold water and leave in a strainer to drain. Do not dump the dirty water over the mussels. Scrub mussels with a clean toothbrush on both sides (multiple times). Debeard the mussels with your fingers or kitchen tweezers by pulling the fibers toward the hinged point of the shell.

In a large sauté pan (big enough so mussels can be cooked in one layer), heat olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add cilantro chutney to the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Stir the mixture so garlic and chutney combines with the oil. Add cream, stir, and cook until the mixture bubbles. Add salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and add mussels. Cover and cook for 5- 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, take out mussels onto a serving platter. Any unopened mussels must be thrown out. Continue to cook the cilantro cream sauce until it thickens, 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle over mussels. Squeeze lemon over the mussels and sauce and serve.

First time but really worth it. If I can find fresh mussels around here, I’ll certainly make it again. I may even try it one of the other ways, with a lemon/butter sauce or with a thai twist.

Yields 2 servings for appetizer or 1 serving for main dish

Cilantro Chutney, this is from an Indian recipe. We use this as a dipping sauce for fried vegetable fritters, samosas and chaat papdi. It’s a versatile chutney so I always have it on hand. With an addition of olive oil, I recently started using chutney to make my own salad dressing.

1 bunch cilantro
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup small fine sev, yellow dried noodles found at any Indian grocer. (sev comes in small, medium and large size) If you can’t find sev, boiled potatoes or peanuts are a great replacement. It is used as a binding agent for the chutney.
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Serve as is with a favorite dish or use to make an exceptional sauce for mussels.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

summer time

It's such an amazing feeling to know that summer is here, almost. Though here in the midwest we didn't get a spring season this year; summer is certainly something to look forward to. Their are farmer's markets, picnics in the parks, short walks in the evening, fresh fruits and vegetables and most importantly fresh tomatoes and basil sauce for my gnocchi.

Speaking of gnocchi, I had left over gnocchi from my first attempt that I had to use before I forgot. The first thing that came to mind was tomato basil sauce. Though the hubby wanted a bechamel sauce with the gnocchi I wasn't convinced on the idea. And if I am cooking, what I say goes. Ha! Not really but I'd been craving a tomato and basil sauce for some time. Because he isn't a fan of tomato sauce, tomato curry, tomato anything for that matter; we don't cook it as often. This time, it would be nothing but.... Unfortuantely my local market didn't have fresh basil that day so I used dried. (I know, not good but I made an exception)

Gnocchi: use this previously posted recipe.


Olive oil
1 small onion or shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 tomato, diced
1/4 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon dried basil or 3-4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt, divided
Red pepper flakes
1 cup stock or water (cooking liquid)

Drizzle saute pan with olive oil and turn on the heat to medium-low. Add chopped onions and garlic to saute for few minutes. Then add salt to the mixture and cook until onions are translucent. Add diced tomatoes, increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture starts bubbling. Add sugar and wine and allow to cook until alcohol evaporates. (the sugar breaks down the tomatoes' strong acidity.) Lower heat to low, add basil, salt, red pepper flakes and cooking liquid. Cook for 20-25 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Add gnocchi to the sauce, cook for few minutes and serve. We had this with a salad and it was the best way to have gnocchi and tomato basil sauced combined. Even the hubby agreed.

note: this recipe yields 1/2 cup of sauce, perfect amount for the amount of our gnocchi.

Since gnocchi is a form of pasta, this post is my submission to Ruth's exceptional pasta cooking event, Presto Pasta Night. Go check it out and join the pasta cooking fun. The weekly event is fun to read and offers great pasta recipes. It's a great resource for me, as I hope it is for you.