Category Archives: appetizers

Mussels & Clams Pastis

mussels pastis

BiRite Market opened up a location a short bike ride from my house, and I’ve made it an excuse to shop in smaller quantities and incorporate the exercise of going to the store as an excuse to make even fresher meals. These beautiful PEI mussels were filled to the edge of their shells with meat, the freshest I’ve seen in a long while and exceptionally tender.

When shopping for shellfish, always make sure your shells are not broken (throw the mussel out if it is!), that they close when you agitate them, are free of debris on the outside (scrub them with cold water), and that you toss any that don’t open after cooking (though a small crack open is perfectly fine!).

In case you have not cleaned or bought bivalves before, here’s what I do to clean them up and inspect them:

How to Clean Mussels and Clams

1) Bring them home immediately, and if you aren’t using them in the next hour, open up their bag and put them in the refrigerator so they can breathe, or set them on ice and leave them out, as they do in the store. Always buy them the same day you intend to cook them.

2) 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking, place them in very cold fresh water and leave them unagitated for at least 10 minutes. They will relax, open up, and use the fresh water, thus rinsing out any sediment, sand, etc from the inside of their shells.

3) Before removing them from the water, inspect each mussel or clam for any missing chunks, major cracks, etc. If it has an imperfection, throw it out. If it does not close when you handle it, throw it out. Even when buying from a quality fishmonger, you’ll likely have 1-2 that get thrown out before cooking.

4) Next, if especially dirty, replace the cleaning water and recover in very cold water. Remove any “beards” or seaweed looking bits that are hanging out the side of the mussels shells. Do this with a quick jerking action down towards the thickest side of the mussel. It will take a little effort, especially if they are very fresh. Strain them and cook them within 20 minutes or so!

Mussels & Clams Pastis Recipe

Serves 2

1.5-2lb of mussels and clams
2 T olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C white wine
1 C Pernod or other anise liquor
2 T fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt & pepper

In a large pan that will fit all of the mussels and clams, add the olive oil and heat to medium. Add the garlic and shallot, cooking until nearly translucent or beginning to be translucent, but not caramelized or browned. Add some salt, the white wine and pernod, and reduce slightly, raising heat immediately to high or medium high.

Add the mussels and/or clams and cover, cooking about 2 minutes before checking. Cover again if they are not all or mostly opened. When all are opened, remove lid and stir well, adding fresh cracked pepper. Remove the mussels and clams and set aside in a warm spot or in a heated bowl (or place into heated individual serving bowls). Change heat to high and reduce liquid by 1/2, then add the parsley and serve over the mussels and clams.

Serve with french fries or bread with butter.

Fava Bean & Blood Orange Salad with Ricotta Salata

Fava Bean & Blood Orange Salad with Ricotta Salata

Spring is a time of transition–Fava beans, along with calcots, ramps & fiddleheads, are some of my favorite in-between spring crops. The hearty fava’s season is a bit longer, and they’re more available across climates and geographies than some of the others, and they pair well with a variety of other foods, and can be really enjoyed both hot and cold.

Blood oranges have a late season this year, so I’m still enjoying them here in California. This is a really straight forward but delicious and loved dish, which serves 3-4 as a side.

Fava Bean & Blood Orange Salad Recipe

1-2lb fresh fava beans, whole
1 medium blood orange, peeled with a knife
1 tbsp (Spanish! buttery!) olive oil
Ricotta salata (or bits of fresh goat cheese, farmer’s cheese, sheep’s feta or shaved pecorino romano)
lots of salt & fresh cracked pepper

Pop the beans out of their pods, and bring water to boil. Boil the beans for about 1 minute, until the color has brightened a bit. Strain, and dunk immediately into a cold water or ice water bath. Once cooled, strain again and begin peeling the beans out of their membrane. You can do this part ahead, stopping at any junction and resuming later. Cut the blood orange into diced chunks. Toss all the ingredients together, topping with shaved ricotta salata (which I clearly managed to get in the photo…) or other cheese as mentioned above.

Blanched Vegetable Salad with Lemon Ricotta and Shallot Vinaigrette

Blanched Vegetable Salad Blanched Vegetable Salad with Shallot Vinaigrettewith Shallot Vinaigrette

Blanched Vegetable Salad with Lemon-Ricotta and Shallot Vinaigrette Recipe

Serves 4

4 leaves butter leaf lettuce, washed
1 watermelon radish, sliced thin with a mandolin
1/2 C snap peas, trimmed and blanched in salted hot water for 30 seconds-1 min
2 C broccoli and cauliflower in even, small pieces, blanched in salted hot water for 1 minute
1/2 C ricotta cheese, fresh
Zest of 1 lemon
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tsp djon mustard
1 T olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh dill or tarragon, chopped finely (or 1/2 tsp dry and soaked in the lemon juice for a few minutes)
salt & pepper to taste

Set the ricotta out to room temperature. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard together, and add the fresh herbs and shallot, along with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Leave to sit for 5-10 minutes (or store up to three days in refrigerator).

Once you have prepared all of the vegetables (the snap peas, broccoli, and cauliflower not only need to be cut to an appropriate size, but also should be blanched for 30-60 seconds in salted, boiling water), assemble by placing lettuce at one end of plate, or off center on a round plate, and arranging the blanched vegetables from there.

Use a spoon to drizzle dressing over the blanched vegetables, then mix the ricotta with a bit of salt and the lemon zest. Top the salad with a quenelle of ricotta, and a few slices of watermelon radish.

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce

A new favorite, this can be prepared ahead and cooked on a weeknight, it’s healthy and chock-full of vegetables and lean protein. I clearly was lazy in peeling my peppers, but we didn’t mind a bit of charred skin here and there.

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce Recipe
Serves two for main course

The Peppers & Filling
4 poblano peppers, charred over a flame and peeled or cooked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and peeled
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and chopped roughly
2 cloves garlic, minced finely or mashed
2 T fresh cilantro and/or basil, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped finely
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all but the peppers in a bowl, and stuff the peppers with the mixture, closing them again as best you can. Bake in oven at 350 for 8-11 minutes, depending on size of the peppers. Shrimp will be completely white and pink when done.

For the Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce
1 large red bell pepper, roasted at 400 degrees, peeled, seeds removed and tossed into a blender
2 ripe, never refrigerated roma tomatoes or one small can peeled roma tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp chili flakes or equivilent
4 small-medium shallots, chopped finely
2 tsp coconut oil or other cooking oil

In a sauce pan, warm the coconut oil and add the shallots and chili flakes, cooking until shallots begin to go limp. Add the garlic and chili flakes, followed immediately by the tomatoes–slice thinly the tomatoes and add to the pan, cooking at medium heat until they are falling apart, about 20 minutes. Add it all to the blender with the roasted pepper and puree. It will likely be thicker than soup; you can thin it with vegetable or chicken stock, or serve it thick under the cooked peppers.

Lamb & Pork Albondigas in Sherry Cream Sauce

My new favorite party food! I whipped up a small batch of these a week ago as a cozy dinner for two, and last night I served them as host to a St.Louisan reunion over the Cardinals-Giants game at my home; they were a bit hit, and I know they will be for you too.

Sherry Cream Sauce Recipe
Makes about 3 cups of sauce

3 fresh, ripe, never refrigerated roma tomatoes sliced thinly or 1 small can roma tomatoes, peeled
4 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp chili flakes or chopped dried chili
5 medium-large shallots, diced roughly
1 cup good Spanish sherry (olarosa, etc)
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or whatever the next best thing you can find is
2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan or small coquette, warm about 1-2 T olive oil at medium heat. Add the diced shallots, dry chili,  and garlic. Cook until color is changing and shallots are becoming limp, about 5-8 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 15-45 minutes, depending your hurry. Remove the bay leaves and puree at least 1/2 of the mixture (or all of it) in a blender or with a blending stick.  Return to the pan and continue to keep heated on low if not serving immediately, or store for later at this point.

Lamb & Pork Albondigas (meatballs) Recipe
Makes about 30 1-inch meatballs

1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground pork
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
4 T (1/4 Cup) buttermilk, almond milk, or milk
4 T (1/4 Cup) thinly diced white bread or other bread (I used a completely grain free cashew based bread that I make myself)

Combine bread, milk, and spices, stirring gently. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, then forming the mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs and placing on foil, parchment, or whatever item can hold the raw meatballs. In a large skillet (such as a 12″ cast iron), warm coconut oil or another high-heat oil at medium high heat. Cook the meatballs without moving them for the first few minutes as to form a caramelized crust on one side, then flip them over to ensure they cook through without burning. You may need to do this in batches.

Serve the sauce over the meatballs family style or in individual bowls. It is ok to store the meatballs in the sauce for later use, however, they will lose any crispy coating they have developed from the cooking process.