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Dinner Tonight | QUICK FIX

I Love Great Big Mussels

March 28, 2001|MAYI BRADY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the last decade, the number of farm-raised mussels available at local markets has increased dramatically. And that's a good thing when you're craving them, considering what they cost.

Long-lining, the technique used to raise the mussels, has some great advantages. The mussels mature in two years, as opposed to seven in the wild. They have less grit and sand and rarely have "beards," which makes cleaning them a whole lot easier. And because their shells are thinner, they have more meat per pound than wild mussels.

So maybe they aren't so expensive after all, or so I like to think, when making a dish like this. Be sure to pick up a package of fresh linguine.

STAPLES

Butter

Dijon mustard

Garlic

Lemons

Olive oil

Shallots

Sherry vinegar

1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes

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SHOPPING LIST

2 heads butter lettuce

Fresh herbs

1 (9-ounce) package fresh linguine

2 pounds black mussels

Parsley

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GAME PLAN

20 minutes before: Wash, dry and prepare lettuce. Mince shallots, garlic and parsley.

15 minutes before: Begin making pasta sauce. Mince herbs for salad. Make vinaigrette. Wash and beard mussels.

5 minutes before: Cook pasta, dress salad.

Just before serving: Finish pasta.

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MENU

Linguine with Mussels and Tomatoes

Butter Lettuce and Herb Salad

Linguine With Mussels and Tomatoes

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes

2 pounds black mussels

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole tomatoes

Salt

1 (9-ounce) package fresh linguine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup of parsley, chopped

Rinse the mussels well and beard if necessary. Set them aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until they're fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and break them up a bit with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently until the tomatoes have softened, about 5 minutes.

While the tomatoes cook, bring plenty of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the linguine and cook 3 minutes, until al dente.

Add the mussels to the skillet, cover and cook until the mussels have opened up completely, about 3 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and keep them warm.

Drain the linguine and add it to the skillet. Add the lemon juice and the parsley and toss well. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top it with the mussels.

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4 servings. Each serving: 391 calories; 707 mg sodium; 79 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 31 grams protein; 2.17 grams fiber.

Butter Lettuce and Herb Salad

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Use any combination of herbs you happen to have in the refrigerator for this salad. Basil, parsley, thyme and chervil work well.

2 small heads butter lettuce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt, pepper

3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs

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Wash the lettuce, then dry it and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Place it in a large bowl and chill until ready to toss.

Combine the Dijon, lemon juice and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette and the herbs.

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4 servings. Each serving: 259 calories; 92 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 2.08 grams fiber.

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