Two myths that I would like to bust in this dinner tonight blog.
#1: Good food does not have to take hours or a grocery cart full of ingredients.
#2: Mussels are hard to work with and just not a good option for a weeknight meal.
I truly believe that week night meals should be have a limited number of good quality ingredients so that dinner can be on the table without a lot of stress and effort. Save the complex recipes for when you have time on the weekends. Otherwise, week night cooking will become a chore. I guarantee it. And you will resort to less healthy options or going out to eat.
I used to think that cooking clams and mussels was too time consuming and tedious to even think about cooking on a week night. Of course, that was because I believe what I thought must be true and had not tried it for myself. Yes, even us adults can be just like children. We just accept a theory without giving it a chance.
When I moved to the east coast a few years ago, fish and seafood was readily available even in grocery stores. This gave me the opportunity to experiment more with the creatures of the sea. I first tried my hand at clams as they are abundant in the area. I was shocked to learn that they really just take mere minutes to prepare!!
Next came mussels, and I found that cleaning fresh mussels was not really that hard. However, when they are not in season my next unexpected learning was that frozen mussels are simply quite tasty, very inexpensive, and just take minutes to reheat! If fact most restaurants that serve mussels are purchasing them already cooked and reheating them.
So when I am craving mussels now on a weeknight, I reach for a pound or two of precooked frozen ones that you can find at almost any grocery store in the freezer section.
Now back to myth one. A few simple ingredients can result in a delicious and flavorful meal that can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. Mussels marinara is just once such meal provides a great example.A friend of mine and I made this dish the other night during my visit back to Virginia Beach. I started with Robert Irvine’s recipe from the Food Network but we used her Italian heritage to make it our own.
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4-6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup pinot gris or other dry or semi-dry Italian wine
1 tablespoon capers1 large can diced Italian tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley leaves
2 roasted red peppers (from a jar), diced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 pounds of frozen, precooked mussels
1 package of linguine or other pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil leaves
You can substitute dried Italian seasoning 1 - 2 teaspoons instead of the fresh oregano and parsley if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand. We had all the herbs available in the garden. The fresh herbs add brightness to the dish but to keep it simple, dried herbs will work just fine.
Saute the onion and garlic in grapeseed oil until fragrant. Add wine and capers and reduce by wine by half. Add tomatoes and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Add mussels to marinara and toss to combine. Cover and cook until the mussels are heated through about 3 to 5 minutes.
Just before serving season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh basil.Serve over pasta and with garlic toast or crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.
Not only is this dish simple but flavorful, it is also a great dish for weeknight or weekend entertaining. Fresh and frozen mussels are quite affordable. Frozen mussels are going to be around $4-6 per pound and a pound can feed 2-3 people.
I hope this inspires you to try mussels next time you are wondering to yourself, what should we have for dinner tonight?