MUSSELS ITALIAN STYLE
We're happy hereabouts tonight, having scored a big bag of fresh, live mussels -- a family favorite -- unfortunately a rarity hereabouts.
I did a very basic, quick Italian-style pasta preparation, going heavy on the tomatoes and garlic to make it friendly to a red wine (Laurel Glen's REDS) that we really didn't want to wait to try. The whole dinner took well under an hour.
Wash and remove the fibrous "beards" from 2 pounds live mussels in the shellm and place them with 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan; cook over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes, just until all the mussels open. Lift out the mussels with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl. Reserve the liquid. After the mussels cool a little, remove them from the shells, being careful to catch all the liquid and add it to the reserved cooking liquid. Set the mussels aside and strain all the liquid through a strainer lined with a paper towel into a measuring cup; it should come to a cup or so, more or less.
Slice three or four cloves of garlic very thin and reserve in a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes. Chop enough fresh parsley to make 1/2 cup and reserve.
Start enough spaghetti for two cooking in a pot of boiling, salted water.
In a sautee pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, and cook the garlic slices and red pepper flakes in it until the garlic starts to brown and become very aromatic. Stir in 1 cup tomato sauce and bring to the simmer; then reduce heat and add the reserved 1 cup of mussel liquid. Let it cook up and thicken while the pasta cooks. About 1 minute before serving time, stir in the parsley and reserved mussels, and reduce the heat to very low, so the mussels will warm through but not overcook.
When the pasta is ready, drain it, place it in bowls, and top with the mussels and sauce. With Italian bread and a green salad, this is an ample (and delicious) meal for two, and as I said, it goes as well with a dry red wine as a white.