Monday, September 3, 2012 / 19 Comments /

Mussels with Fennel, Garlic, and Tomatoes

        Friday afternoon the girls and I met some of our friends for a beach playdate. The kids dug holes in the sand and splashed in the waves, but their favorite part of the afternoon was looking through a big piece of kelp. 
B (4.5) was ecstatic to find a tiny brittle star, some sand crabs, and a mussel. (excuse the iphone photography) She was completely fascinated by the mussel and wanted to take it home and cook it.  After much discussion, she agreed it would be better to get some local mussels from Whole Foods the next day. And she didn't forget about it either. Saturday morning she woke up and the first thing she asked was, "Can we get my mussels NOW?" We got our mussels and decided that we would steam them in a broth with garlic, fennel, and the super sweet cherry tomatoes we can't get enough of right now. 
  I had forgotten how easy, quick, and economical mussels are to cook. After a few short minutes steaming in our flavorful broth the shells had opened. It's kind of a magical thing for a 4 year old who has tried and tried to pry mussels open to watch. 

Now for the bad news: B took one bite and said, "Yuck! I don't like mussels!" My exasperation was cut short however, by L (2) who had fun pulling the meat from the shells and loved them.  I felt even better when Yummy Hubby, who has been working 24/7 all week and weekend, came home for lunch and enthusiastically devoured the mussels tossed with spaghetti. Even if B isn't a fan of mussels (yet) cooking them was a great learning experience for her, and was a delicious lunch for the rest of us.

Mussels with Fennel, Garlic, and Tomatoes 
 
Serves 4 when tossed with spaghetti, or 2 just in the broth 

1 cup fish or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter 
1 cup thinly sliced fennel
1 cup cherry tomatoes, or diced red tomatoes 
4 cloves garlic, minced  
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 pounds live mussels
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

In a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium high heat, bring stock, buttter, fennel, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, to a simmer. Add mussels, toss with the broth mixture, and cover. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve alone with some crusty bread or garlic flatbread, or tossed with 1lb spaghetti cooked al dente in salted water.

More great mussels recipes:

Mussels in Tomato-Wine Broth by Cooking Light
Healthy Mussels Recipes from Eating Well
Spicy Coconut Mussels from NY Times
Steamed Mussels Trieste Style from Lidia's Italy



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