Get Flirting with Mussels

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Mussels and barnacles in the intertidal near N...

I know, I know…not everyone loves mussels, but personally, I think they are one of the most romantic things to share with your main squeeze.  There is just something about these jewels of black shell filled with little morsels of tasty shellfish that makes flirting with you special lady so easy to accomplish.  Somehow, the act of using your hands to pick them out of a steaming bowl of the broth placed between you, plucking the meat out of the shell, and then dunking crusty bread or ‘frites’ when all the mussels are gone makes eating them an almost sensuous experience.  And of course the shared beer or wine makes it an even more romantic experience.

Almost every culture in the world has recognized mussels as an important part of their cuisine.

 

For example, in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, mussels are often served with french fries or bread.  In Belgium, mussels are sometimes served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine.  Belgian beer is almost universally associated with them in most places around the world.  In the Netherlands, they are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out or at street vendor locations.  In France, you will find baked mussels along some of the beaches in the South of France.

In Italy, mussels are often mixed with other seafood, or eaten with pasta.  I have an awesome recipe for this in my collection.  I’ll share it sometime soon.

In Spain, they are consumed mostly steamed by boiling white wine, onions and herbs, and serving the broth with lemon. They can also be eaten as a sort of croquette using the mussel meat, shrimp and other fish in a béchamel sauce, then breaded and fried.

In Turkey, they are either covered with flour and fried or filled with rice and served cold,  usually with beer.

They are prepared in Ireland by boiling them in seasoned vinegar, serving the “bray” (broth) as an accompanying hot drink.

In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black beans.

In New Zealand, they are served in a chili or garlic-based vinaigrette, processed into fritters and fried, or used as the base for a chowder.

In India, mussels are popular in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka-Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot.

Mussels are just not that hard to prepare well.  Guys! You can do this!  If your lady likes them, and you serve them as an appetizer or as a main course with a fresh green salad, crusty bread, beer or wine or her favorite iced tea, you will have made her day, and I’m guessing yours too!

In Lou’s culture, we keep the recipe simple.  These little mollusks just don’t need a lot of help from heavy spicing or sauces.  And if this takes you more than 10 minutes to prepare and serve, you are over thinking the process or overcooking the mussels.  And if you’ve never had them before, try this recipe because I’m pretty certain they’ll become a mainstay of your eating-out or eating-home menus.

Mussels In White Wine

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 18 min | Makes: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sweet onions, chopped

    Get Flirting With Mussels

  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 cups white wine (prefer Pinot Grigio or Prosecco)
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 pounds live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil.

2. When the oil is hot, saute the celery, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.

3. Add the wine and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

4. Add the mussels.

5. Sprinkle the thyme, parsley, butter and several grinds of fresh black pepper on top of the mussels.

6. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

7. Simmer the mussels for 5 to 8 minutes until the shells open and the mussels are done.

8. Discard any that do not open.

9. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

10. Divide the mussels and broth between two bowls (or share them right out of the pot) and serve with crusty bread and a spoon to enjoy the broth.

Notes:

A. Careful with the salt. It really doesn’t need a lot because the mussels tend to be salty.

B. If desired, add just a little cream at the end of cooking to offer another layer of taste.

C. I’ve also added a jigger of Anisette or Ouzo at the end.  Awesome!! For a change of pace.

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Cooked mussels DSC09244

Properly Cooked Mussels

 

 

“What Comes From the Heart, Goes to the Heart”

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Heart-shaped cloud

What Comes From The Heart, Goes To The Heart“.  This is one of my favorite quotes.  It comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an mid-18th century English poet, romantic and literary philosopher.

In nine simple words it conveys how our best relationships will be touched by a circular connection that is at once intangibly romantic and simultaneously grounded by a positive attitude about how the relationship should be respected, understood, and governed.   It signals there is something special and compassionate between and among the people in a relationship, because it explicitly implies those in the relationship have agreed they are better off together and in the relationship, than they would be apart from it. 

It’s amazing how such a short phrase can so clearly message how we should behave and act towards each other to protect, nurture and grow a relationship.

Here’s a personal story that exemplifies “what comes from the heart, goes to the heart”. 

Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched In White Wine.

When my daughter was about 7 and my son about 5, we lived in Westport, CT where bluefish was inexpensive and available all year-long.  My kids have never been fussy eaters and they loved bluefish, even though it’s a dark, oily, ‘fishy’ tasting fish.  While Kathy normally prepared it, I volunteered to do it this one night because she had been busy with the kids that day.

Westport

At the time, I was still a rookie cook learning the boundaries of reasonable variation from a recipe.   I   remember thinking that if 2 cloves of garlic were good in the recipe, 6 cloves would be even better.  I love garlic.  I also substituted white wine for the fish stock to moisten the stuffing.  I assumed this  variation would ‘cut’ the oil in the fish, making it sweeter and less fishy tasting.  Funny how at the time those sounded like such great ideas, yet today I would think they were about the dumbest ideas ever. 

When the fish came out of the oven, I opened the packet.  I remember thinking it smelled a little more garlicky than I had expected, but it looked great and the fish was cooked perfectly.  I placed a portion of the fish and vegetables on four plates, called everyone to the table and proudly served our favorite family dinner.  I remember wondering if anyone would notice the strong aroma of garlic in the kitchen.

Kathy came into the kitchen and immediately turned the exhaust fan on.  That was the first sign of a problem. 

We all sat down and began to eat.  When I took my first taste, I was immediately disappointed because it was nowhere near as good as Kathy’s.  The stuffing was soggy, reeked of raw garlic, and the wine had overpowered the entire dish.  All I could taste was the acidity in the wine and a double kick of rawness from the garlic.  Of course, I was too proud to admit we had a disaster on the table [remember, I’m Italian], and assumed the peanut gallery would start chirping at any moment.  Bewildering as it was, Kathy and the kids were quietly eating what had to be the worst thing ever served in our home.  But I caught Kathy nodding her head a couple of times to the kids, as if saying:  “Don’t say anything!  Not a word.”

Kathy knew how sensitive I was about my evolving cooking skills, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t want this total failure to discourage me.  She also knew I had prepared the fish “from the heart” because I was trying to give her a break that day.  So she was simultaneously suffering through the meal, and silently managing the kids reaction to this awful meal, mainly to protect me from embarrassment and heckling from the kids. 

I knew something was ‘fishy’ (pun intended) when Kathy and my daughter began having a discussion about school, which was not in session at the time.  I was just about to admit failure and suggest it wasn’t too late to call in Chinese, when all of a sudden, my innocent and totally honest 5-year-old son blurted out, “Mom, I think Daddy’s fish is not feeling good.  Should we take it to the hospital?” 

Well, that unleashed the dog from the chain, and all of us began laughing uncontrollably.  And the comments began fly.  “Dad, this is the worst fish we’ve ever had!  This stuffing is awful.  What did you do?” came from my daughter.  My son was sticking to his assessment that the fish was sick and needed a doctor, which made us laugh all the more!  Apparently, Kathy’s silent management of my son hadn’t worked so well, and his ‘from the heart’ innocence had called me out as only a 5-year-old can.  And of course he was right, the fish needed emergency transport to the garbage disposal. 

Anyway, we ended up having breakfast for dinner that night—cereal, fruit and milk.  And we laughed and joked about Daddy’s cooking disaster and my son’s hospital comment at every meal that week.   To this day, when one of my cooking efforts goes sideways, the family always tells me nothing will ever be as bad as that Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched in White Wine back in Westport, CT.   And my son asks if we should call the hospital.  Some quotes never go away in a family.

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember apologizing to Kathy and the kids for the spoiled fish dinner, and promised to make it up to them the next weekend.  I’ll never forget what Kathy said: “Honey, I loved your fish tonight because it came from your heart, and anything coming from your heart tastes good to me.”  Nevertheless, I was crestfallen by the colossal failure of my attempt to cook our family’s favorite dinner. 

Later that night, I made my rounds to say good night to the kids.  They had obviously talked with their mother before going to their rooms.  When I reached down to kiss them, they both wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me my cooking wasn’t perfect yet, but I was already a perfect Dad.  And they made me promise to be careful with the garlic and wine in the future!! 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve thought about that night many times. Life is full of imperfectly executed recipes because people are not perfect.  I’ve messed up several dinners over the years, and as a human being, I have several flaws just like everyone else. But what I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate our differences and flaws—is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

In the context of this blog, you may assume I am trying to set a good example for you.  Therefore, I will urge you to say and do only things that are intended to  cause a positive and compassionate reaction from the people around you.   I will try to not suggest acts that could be interpreted as emanating from self -interest or hurtful sentiments.  I will also assume you will be all about creating the confidence that you will consistently behave that way as often as possible.  I will not be perfect in any of this, but I will try hard to achieve improvement on the journey.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What comes from the heart, goes to the heart”.   What this quote says most to me is that no matter what you do or say, the special lady in your life will gracefully forgive your mistakes and miscues as long as they come from your heart, with an intention to please and from a caring attitude.  If you can remember this quote and live it, I guarantee you will have a long-lasting, loving, caring and respectful relationship with a soul mate that thinks you are her ONLY Hot! Guy.

The Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever!

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Ok Hot Guys, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.   In today’s world of high technology gadgetry, romance is frequently  played out in sexting and steamy YouTube minutes.  And to keep things lively and interesting, by all means indulge in those pleasures every now and again.

But, here’s a Top Secret:  most women will never settle for that kind of romance for very long, and its less time than you think!  Yeah Guys, it’s called a ‘relationship’ for a reason.  And take my word for it, Advanced Stage Relationships (ASRs) are a nearly impossible quest using your IPhone or Blackberry. 

Here’ the thing.  ASRs are where you want to be.  When you have an ASR with your lady, you have graduated from the transactional one-date-at-a-time relationship to the rare but valuable position of “trusted” relationship.  Why is this trusted relationship valuable? You know…that’s the place where special perks lie dormant in your lady’s imagination until you have earned that ever so elusive place on her Hot! Guys list–and it’s a very short list indeed.

So you ask?  How do I earn an ASR with my lady?  Bad news, it’s Top Secret! More bad news!  Every lady seems to have a different lock and key to her secret.  The Solution: Hot! Guys need to search for the key by having frequent in-person contact with your lady.

Take hope though.  There are a couple of universal keys to look for.  For example, one thing I know for sure is that an ASR will only grow and develop when it’s not crumbling under the weight of boredom, neglect and the lack of imagination on your part.   Another thing I know is that INTIMACY  (Whoa! A Very Scary Word!) is one of the keys to acquiring the secret.  In fact, I’d go so far as to share that without multiple sessions of talking with her in soft tones in private conversation, the key will be forever in a secret hiding place.  And by ‘talking’ I really mean the Hot! Guy is listening more than talking.  Yeah!  This is really hard stuff!

Therefore, it’s important, really, really important, for you to create imaginative situations where conversation is a main event for the date.  So it’s time for us to venture into the simplest of all ‘cooking’, and turn it into one of the Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever!  You can do this!  I know you can!

It’s called a Picnic!  I don’t know a lady who doesn’t love a picnic, particularly if the Hot! Guy has handled all the preparations, chosen the perfect day, and selected an intimate spot in a park or near a water feature.  And if you make it a surprise, I guarantee you’ll be earning Bonus WOW! Points.

And Hot! Guys, this is a piece of cake.  Just remember the food is not the main event–this is all about getting closer to her heart and gaining some intimacy.  Stay focused on the end game!!

For the ‘cooking’, use your imagination to create a great Menu!!  Stay with me now–I know you’re getting confused but hang in there!!

Go to the local deli, Whole Foods or upscale grocery store and buy 2 or 3 small pieces of ‘romantic’ cheeses like a soft Brie, a piece of Jarlsberg, or a nice chunk of Parmesan-Reggiano.  Buy a few thin slices of really good Parma Prosciutto or Honey-Baked Ham.  On your way over to the produce section to get a mixed selection of berries, grapes or ripe peaches, find some Greek green or Italian black cured olives for the cart.  Next on the list is a fresh-baked French Baguette or loaf of Rustic Italian Bread.  Finally, if you don’t already have them at home (which all Hot! Guys should) buy some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), a high quality balsamic vinegar and the secret weapon for this picnic–honey.  Stop at the bakery section and look for something sweet you know she’ll love—brownies or chocolate chip cookies are always a hit!! One last thing–and most importantly–buy one YELLOW rose.  Yellow is the color for friendship– trust me –this will be an over the fence home run!

Listen up! Guys.  If your main squeeze is a vegan, not much of the above menu is going to  work.  PS-honey is not vegan.  No problem!  Most stores have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan offerings in their prepared food section.   If she has other food preferences–again  no problem.  Just buy some of her favorite foods, keep it simple and improvise.

On the way home, go to the wine store and pick up a couple bottles of Italian Prosecco.  Don’t worry, it’s not expensive.  It comes in bottles and pops the cork just like champagne.  It’s a sparkling white wine, easy to drink, not high in alcohol and shows you have Hot! Guy imagination and class.

Now go home, get out your cooler to keep the cold things cold and a picnic basket or canvas bag to carry some nice plates (no paper!!) some silverware, a good knife, cutting board and some nice (preferably cloth) napkins.  You’ll need three or four small saucers for the honey, balsamic and olive oil and olives. Come on Hot! Guy…Man up and Just Do It!! Don’t forget a couple of champagne flutes or wine glasses.  Then grab a nice blanket for you and your lady to share, and you are good to go!

Pick up your lady in a clean car or freshly washed bicycle and head out to the selected location to find that special spot.

I know you are proud of your preparations, but don’t pull everything out at once.  Pace yourself. You have all afternoon.

Start with some Prosecco.  Talk a little.  After awhile, pull out some of the cheese and fruit and put out the bread, and saucers of honey, balsamic and olive oil for dipping.  Cheese dipped in honey is an amazing taste, and strawberries dipped in balsamic vinegar is impossible to describe.  Talk (Listen) some more. OOPs, you just answered a call or checked your IPhone—lost some WOW! Points there.  Try a bit harder!!

Now’s the time to pull out the rose, and from your heart, tell her how special this day has been for you, and how much you cherish the friendship you have with her.  If you made it this far, you have put some serious WOW! Points in the bank!! with More yet to come. 

A little later add the meats and olives to the board.  Keep the Prosecco flowing, but only gently.  We are looking for ‘memorable moments’ here, and if she’s ‘tipsy’, she’ll forget about your Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever, and you won’t get the key to her Top Secret either.

Finally, when things are beginning to wind down, pull out the sweets you brought and finish off the last of the Prosecco.  By now the heart has been warmed up but it’s getting a little chilly out there.  If the blanket gets wrapped around the two of you, well…I’m thinking you can take it from here—you Hot! Guy you!!