Steamed Mussels in Curry

Mussels are a great seafood option to consider -- they're cheap, keep fairly well (for seafood!), and are an eco-friendly choice. They can be farmed easily, so over-fishing isn't a problem. Most stores sell pre-cleaned and de-bearded mussels, so the most you have to do is pick out the bad ones and give them a quick rinse. In fact, some stores even pick out the mussels with broken shells for you. So, don't be scared by them! Chances are, if you like shrimp or clams, you'll like mussels.

I found this recipe for steamed mussels over at Steamy Kitchen, and they are pretty amazing. The whole dish takes about twenty minutes to throw together, the mussels and noodles are delish, and when you're all done, you can sop up the juices with some crusty bread. If you don't like vermicelli noodles, just leave them out. Or add some shrimp and Thai bird pepper chiles.

I made two very small adjustments to the recipe; ginger and lime zest were substituted for lemongrass, and lime juice was added (because tangy is good). If you can't find lemongrass in your area, lime juice and zest would be a perfect substitute ingredient.

Jaden's recipe follows:

Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Coconut Curry

Serves 6 as side dish or starter. Another great thing about this dish - less than $10 in ingredients!

2 lbs mussels, scrubbed & picked through (discard cracked shells and ones that don’t close when tapped)
1 stalk of lemongrass, white part grated with microplane grater (or substitute with 4 wide strips of lemon peel)
2 bottles of clam juice (or substitute with vegetable broth + wine)
1 can (14oz) of good coconut milk, shake the can vigorously to mix the fat with the liquid
1/2 cup of Thai curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or substitute with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt)
1 tsp sugar
3 small skeins of mung bean noodles, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes.
chopped scallions & chili for topping

1. Fry the curry paste: In a wok or large pot, turn heat to medium. When wok is hot but not smoking, add 2 tbl curry paste and the lemongrass (or lemon peel). Fry for 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the clam juice, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Simmer for 3 minutes. If you are using lemon peel, discard lemon peel. Taste the broth. If you want more heat, add more curry paste. In meantime, drain your mung bean noodles. The noodles should still be a little stiff.

2. Steam the mussels: Turn heat to high and add your mussels. Immediately cover with tight fitting lid. Steam on high for 4 minutes. Open lid, scootch the mussels to one side, add mung bean noodles and cook for another minute uncovered. Use a large spoon to redistribute the mussels from the top to the bottom of the broth, cook another 30 seconds and it’s done! Top with chopped chilies and scallions.

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Sweet Hots

Those of you from the Cleveland area might be familiar with Tony Packo's Sweet Hots (correction: Tony Packo's originates from the Toledo area! Thanks to everyone who got here from tastespotting who pointed this out to us.); the pickles are crisp and tangy, sweet and spicy, and there is just a hint of dill. For a while, our local grocery store stopped carrying them so I tried to whip up something similar. It's a pretty close fascimile, although I think I would cut down on the garlic next time. The only bad thing about this recipe is that you have to wait 8 weeks before you can have any!

Sweet Hots
Makes 4 quart jars

2 lbs pickling cucumbers
2 cups white vinegar
8 cups water
1/3 cup pickling salt (or kosher)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 habanero pepper, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh dill weed
3 oz of your favorite hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 lb white sugar

Wash the cucumbers and soak in ice water (with plenty of ice) for two hours. Sterilize 4 quart jars and lids in boiling water.

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, hot sauce and sugar and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place 1 sprig of dill, a few slices of habanero and a half a clove of garlic in the bottom of each jar, and fill with cucumbers. Pour the hot brine over the pickles, make sure the rims are clean, and seal the jars.

Process the sealed jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Allow the jars to cool, and store in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks before consuming. Refrigerate after opening.

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Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes

If you're looking for a cupcake recipe that's a little different, try this one! Lemon juice and zest is added to the batter, so it's nice and citrusy. A crisp lemon-raspberry glaze goes on top, and a dollop of raspberry jam awaits you in the middle of the cupcake (okay, so my jam sank to the bottom -- maybe because I didn't have a thick enough batter?).

Next up, I'm going to try to tackle the ubiquitous strawberry sponge cake that can be found at just about any Asian bakery. You know the kind -- the cake is soft and airy, the icing is fluffy and not too sweet, and the strawberries just bring it all together. Trouble is, I simply can't find a recipe for one. I'm starting off with a Norwegian sponge cake recipe that is supposed to be similar, and working from there. I'll keep you posted.

Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes
Bon Appetit, April 2008

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered suga, and 3 teaspoons lemon peel in large bowl until blended, then beat until fluffy and pale yellow. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in half of flour. Add buttermilk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat to blend. Beat in remaining flour.

Drop 1 rounded tablespoonful batter into each muffin liner. Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry jam over. Cover with remaining batter, dividing equally.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted halfway into centers comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan on rack. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Spoon half of icing over 6 cupcakes. Whisk 1 tablespoon raspberry jam into remaining icing. Spoon over remaining cupcakes. Let stand until icing sets, about 30 minutes. Garnish with raspberries.

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