gnocchi tinged memories

When I was a little girl nothing would please me more than a trip to the local G. Fox & Co. department store. I’d talk my mother into taking the escalator upstairs to the housewares department and that’s when the fun would begin. I would wander around the department reading the little bridal registry cards attached to each place setting, imagining which espresso machine or serving platter I would choose and dreaming of the day grown-up me would finally be able to register for all the housewares my little heart desired. I wasn’t dreaming of being a bride mind you, I was dreaming of having a fully stocked kitchen. Funny right? But true none the less.

My love of housewares hasn’t diminished at all over the years, which would explain why I own: Five sets of dishes (we had a yard sale a few years ago and I sold my two “extra” sets), enough serving pieces to easily set a buffet for a hundred, a ridiculous number of tiny antique aperitif glasses, a crazy collection of water pitchers, just about every size and shape cocktail glass imaginable, a huge variety of pots, pans and steamers, a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven and griddle, a kitchen scale, stand mixer, potato ricer and several sizes of box graters, not to mention an array of blenders and hand mixers, a waffle iron, espresso machine, regular coffee maker and a set of individual serving ice cream makers, plus all your standard whisks, spatulas, spoons and whatnot. (Yes I realize my love may border on obsession. We all have our vices.) However, believe it or not there is actually one cooking implement that I do not have but have seriously considered… a pasta maker. I thought more than once about buying an attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, but one thing always stopped me. What if I found making pasta to be just as frustrating and disastrous as my attempts to make bread?!? Those attachments can be quite pricy and that just wasn’t a financial (or emotional) commitment I was ready to make. But that didn’t mean I was willing to give up my desire to make fresh pasta— come now silly reader, you know me better than that! No instead I decided to approach pasta making in the simplest fashion possible, one that required limited special equipment and with a recipe that seemed nearly fool-proof. My recipe of choice— gnocchi.

I first discovered gnocchi in college when my boyfriend (now husband) took me to dinner at Louis Seafood on E. Tremont Ave. in the Bronx. The restaurant has been around since the 40’s and it was and still is the epitome of good Italian comfort food with a side of Bronx attitude. I had considered myself fairly well versed in pasta (being half Italian and all) but somehow gnocchi had never made it on my radar. The gnocchi at Louis Seafood was unlike anything I had ever tried, it was dense and filling (especially with the Bolognese sauce he always seemed to order) but at the same time I couldn’t stop myself from snitching forkfuls off his plate. For years the term gnocchi make think of college, the Bronx and Louis Seafood. Then we traveled to Florence, Italy and my perception of gnocchi completely changed.

We arrived in Florence late one afternoon after a long train ride from Rome, and we were starving! So hungry in fact that once we physically found our hotel we didn’t even step foot inside it. Instead we dragged our luggage to the little cafe next door in hopes of getting something to eat. “Oh, mi dispiace signora.” the waiter said “La cucina è chiusa.” We looked at him in disbelief, we were starving and the kitchen was CLOSED?!? This was Italy for peat’s sake, they were soposta feed us till we popped! Thankfully the waiter sensed our desperation and decided that he could in fact offer us a few limited selections off the menu. We collapsed in our chairs, ordered a few glasses of vino rosso, looked over the menu and placed our lunch order. I’ll be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea what I ate that day. The only thing I remember of the meal is my husbands gnocchi. It was like air, little puffs of loveliness, amazing and unlike anything I had ever imagined gnocchi could be. It’s been quite a few years since that trip to Florence yet every so often one of us still wistfully mentions that gnocchi.

When I decided to try my own hand at homemade gnocchi I truly didn’t anticipate stellar results. It seemed like the opportunity for heavy little lead sinkers was just too great. So imagine my delight when they turned out light, airy and delicious. There not quite Florence quality gnocchi, but then nothing could ever possibly be, they are however the closest we’ve ever come to replicating that amazing Italian meal. Buon appetito!

Simple Potato Gnocchi
These were as wonderful as the ones we always reminisce about eating in Florence, as evidenced by the nearly clean plate below.

gnocchi3

4 cups riced russet potatoes, (about 2 large)
4 egg yolks
2 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
sauce of your choice, for serving
optional special equipment: potato ricer, gnocchi paddle

  1. Place potatoes (skin on) in a large pot of salted water and boil until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes, let them cool just enough to handle and then peel. Cut each in half and place in a potato ricer. Rice into a large bowl. Stir in the egg yolks and salt, then add the flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Knead gently until a smooth but slightly sticky dough forms.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Lightly flour a work surface and roll each piece into a 3/4-inch-thick rope, then cut each rope into one-inch pieces. Place each piece against the gnocchi paddle and gently roll with your pointer finger to make ridges on one side and a small indentation on the other; drop onto the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the other ropes.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the raw gnocchi, 36 at a time. Allow to cook until they rise to the surface, then simmer for another 2 minutes longer. Add to a bowl with you’re favorite sauce, sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

To Make Ahead: The uncooked gnocchi pieces can be frozen on the prepared baking sheet, then transferred to a resealable plastic bag and frozen for up to 1 month. Boil without defrosting.

*adapted from food & wine

Advertisements

a winter’s night turkey burgers

Theres nothing like a classic all beef burger to make you feel indulged and satisfied. I’m not talking about some slapped together fast food number (blech, never!) but a nice juicy hand-formed burger cooked medium, with just the right meat to bun ratio and topped off with a delicious bit of cheese. And I love the way burgers taste when they’re cooked outside on the grill, it’s a flavor I’ve never been able to duplicate in my kitchen. (Grilled blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard happens to be one of my all time favorite indulgences!) All that being said, in our house good ‘ol classic grilled hamburgers are strictly warm weather fare. There’s no way I’m standing at the grill on a cold dark winter’s night just for a couple of burgers (not even blue cheese ones) and that goes double this Winter. Imagine if for some crazy reason I did decide to brave the cold darkness in an attempt to grill up a few burgers— I would still need to climb over and trudge through three feet of frozen snow just to get to the grill! Nope. Sorry. Not happening… However, since burgers are such a great hectic weeknight meal I realized I had to find a solution to my weather-bound limitations. I happen to love Salmon burgers and would happily eat them on a regular basis, but my family— not so much. I like veggie burgers as well but try as I may to get my recipe perfect, they always seem to wind up a big crumbly mess. And frankly, I’m not so sure my family would be knocked out by the “perfect” veggie burger either. They do however happen to be fans of turkey burgers, which is quite fortunate since I just happen to have a killer turkey burger recipe that actually works better in a skillet than on the grill.

Let me begin by saying that a turkey burger will never satisfy the way a beef burger does. I know this. I acknowledge this. I agree with this. But… What turkey may lack in decadence it totally makes up for in versatility. Ground turkey is a bit like tofu in that it really takes on whatever flavors you add to it beautifully. In fact ground turkey is my go-to protein for many of the dishes I make; Turkey Shepherds PieTurkey & Bean ChiliTurkey Meatloaf with Salsa and Old School Turkey Sloppy Joe’s just to name a few. So the idea of a souped-up turkey burger seemed like a no-brainer to me, particularly one that incorporated all the cool weather flavors I love most; Tart apple, aged cheddar cheese, fresh garlic and sage with just a hint of maple syrup. Sounds kinda crazy, right? It is, in the most wonderful and yummy of ways. And while it won’t ever replace the taste of a freshly grilled beef burger, it has quickly become a Greco family favorite.

Apple, Sage & Maple Turkey Burgers
These burgers totally taste like cool weather to me. A bit of tart apple, aged cheddar and fresh sage with a hint of maple syrup. Yup, frosty winter nights all the way…

replacement

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, minced (about 3 large leaves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1/2 a medium green apple, finely grated
1 lb. ground turkey
4 brioche rolls
4 slices cheddar cheese, for garnish
sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach, for garnish
Maple-Dijon sauce (see recipe below)

  1. In a small bowl mash together the garlic, sage, salt and pepper to form a paste. Add the apple cider, maple syrup and grated apple and mix well.
  2. Knead the garlic mixture into the ground turkey and form into 4 patties (they will be very soft and kinda wet, not to worry). Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld.
  3. Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat, lightly oil and add the burgers. Carefully transfer the burgers to the griddle and cook until firm, cooked through and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, fresh spinach leaves and a schemer of maple-dijon sauce.

Maple-Dijon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. real maple syrup

  1. While burgers are resting mix together the yogurt, mustard and maple syrup and chill until ready to use.

take comfort with a shepherd

I love leftovers, perhaps I’ve mentioned that before. Another delicious meal with half the effort… yes please. In fact sometimes I intentionally cook more than I know we’ll eat in a single meal just to insure there will be something yummy leftover. Mashed potatoes are the perfect example. Why mashed potatoes of all things you may ask… Well for shepherd’s pie of course!

I happen to be a fan of casseroles (well maybe not tuna noodle, but certainly turkey tetrazzini) primarily because of the minimal effort they require to turn simple ingredients into a “May I have seconds please?” dinner. My family seems to agree since one of their all time favorite meals has to be shepherds pie. They can demolish one of these babies in the blink of an eye and even when I double the recipe, the leftovers that remain are often little more than a single serving. But really who could blame them, it is after all one of the most comforting of one pot meals going— snowed in, bummed out or tired beyond belief… shepherd’s pie to the rescue!

Shepherd’s pie could be considered the marinara sauce of casseroles, everyone has their own way of making it and everyone thinks their recipe is the best. My version calls for ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and to make it the perfect busy week night dinner I use frozen vegetables rather than fresh. As a rule I don’t like frozen vegetables primarily because they tend to turn out soggy, however in this case I think frozen veggies work beautifully; perfectly diced, cooked in a flash and as easy as it gets. Throw in some lovely leeks and diced onion, a bit of fresh thyme and a few spices, smother everything in gravy and top it with a lovely crust of mashed potatoes and holy cow deliciousness. So I guess I can’t blame by family for their voracious appetites… I mean seriously, how could I expect anything less?!?

Turkey Shepherds Pie
Depending on my mood I either make one big casserole, two small or several individual ones. The choice is yours but regardless of the size they’re delicious!

shepherds pie4

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peal onions
3-4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the leeks and onions and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large chunks, about 6-8 minutes or until just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the flour, garlic, poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and all the frozen veggies and stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Grease a deep ceramic baking dish and add to it the turkey mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake until browned on top and the mixture is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. If the potatoes have not browned enough turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp them up. (Alternately to really make this a one pot meal you can sauté everything in a ovenproof skillet, top it with the mashed potatoes and slide the whole thing into the oven to bake.)
  4. Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.

st. anthony’s + the spani-queen

As a blogger I work very hard at self-promotion. This doesn’t come entirely naturally to me but, if I want an actual audience to read my weekly type written blood, sweat and tears then I have no choice but to promote myself at every opportunity. However sometimes the audience actually finds me all on their own. And once they find me and read what I’ve been rambling on about they actually contact me to say “We like your sassy style and pithy prose, please join our posse!” And so I do…

I was recently invited to join in the preparations for St. Anthony Orthodox Church’s 37th Annual International Festival. Every November St. Anthony’s in Bergenfield, N.J. hosts a three-day event featuring a variety of homemade Greek, Middle Eastern, Slavic and Eastern European foods. In the weeks leading up to the festival the parish gathers together to make the vast array of foods that will feed hungry festival-goers. I’m never one to turn down a good culinary opportunity, so when invited to join the food prep fun I wholeheartedly agreed. The night I went to help they were making spanakopita, mountains and mountains of spanakopita.

I’ll be honest with you, prior to joining the crew at St. Anthony’s my experience with spanakopita was strictly limited to eating, but Master Spani Chef Jim Bogris wasted no time introducing me to the secrets of the perfect spanakopita. Jim’s recipe is based on his mother Angela’s, who as it happens was the festivals “Spani-Queen” for twenty plus years prior handing the reigns over to her son. She still lends a hand in the assembly but leaves the heavy lifting and stirring of an enormous caldron of spinach mixture to the younger folks. (Smart lady!) According to Jim what sets his recipe apart from others is the amount of fresh herbs he uses and the three cheese; Pecorino Romano, ricotta and feta. Oh and he has a motto that goes something like this “There is no such thing as too much butter. If you think you’ve used enough, use a little more.”

I think I need that printed on a shirt…

Yai-Yai’s Spanakopita
This recipe has been handed down through generations of the Bogris family. I wouldn’t think of tweaking it and honestly, it doesn’t need a thing changed anyway.*

group2

1 lb. #7 phyllo dough sheets
3/4 to 1 lb. clarified butter (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill, minced
1 bunch parsley, minced
1 lb. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 lb grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 lb. ricotta cheese (whole milk)
6 eggs, beaten
3 lbs. frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained and squeezed dry)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large pot heat olive oil, add scallions, onions, dill, parsley, and sauté until soft.
  2. Add spinach to pot and sauté another 10-15 minutes (mixing continuously so it doesn’t stick).
  3. In a large bowl mix crumbled feta, Romano cheese, ricotta cheese and eggs. Add to pot and mix thoroughly.
  4. Butter the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and cover with a sheet of phyllo. Continue layering sheets of phyllo and buttering each layer with pastry brush, placing on the bottom a total of 8 buttered layers of phyllo dough.
  5. Top the phyllo layers with the spinach mixture.
  6. Cover with 8 more layers of buttered phyllo dough (again, buttering each individually while tucking in the sides.
  7. Score the top two layers of phyllo in triangles or squares, being careful not to cut into the mixture.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

*courtesy of st. anthony’s church

*According to Jim the spanakopita can be made ahead, wrapped in foil then plastic wrap and frozen for several months. Allow it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes at 350°F.

kicking’ it sloppy + old school

If I say the word “Manwich” and you’re roughly the same age as I am you’ll probably think one of two things; “Oh man, I used to love Sloppy Joe’s as a kid!” or “Ugh, that reminds me of bad school lunches.” I happen to have fond Sloppy Joe memories, although I’m fairly certain my mother never actually bought a can of Hunt’s Manwich. I’m sure it was just another thing on my long list of pre-made, preservative laden, artificial everything foods that 7-year-old me longed for, but that my dearest mother decided to make from scratch instead.

[Fast forward thirty odd years] “Mom, what’s a sloppy Joe?” “Sloppy Joe’s are these great messy sandwiches. They’re filled with ground beef in a tangy tomato sauce and served on squishy rolls. It was one of my favorite dinners as a kid.” “Really?!? Do you think you could make them one day?” “You got it.

A few days later he seems to have forgotten about our conversation, but my husband who overheard it clearly hadn’t. “Sloppy Joe’s tonight?” reads the mid-morning text.

Initially I hadn’t planned on following a recipe, I thought I’d just wing it, tasting as I went until I got it right. But after a quick google search I actually decided to tweak up a Williams-Sonoma recipe. (Yes I know, Williams-Sonoma and Sloppy Joe in the same sentence is an odd juxtaposition, just go with it.) The first thing I did was change the ground beef to turkey, then I bumped up the spices, thickened the sauce a bit and… like greased lightnin’ it was suddenly 1978 again.

Old School Sloppy Joe’s
We totally kicked it old school the night I made these. I served them along with tater tots and frozen mixed vegetables. 7-year-old me would have approved…

sloppy3

1 1/2 cups diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup diced green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
7-8 hamburger rolls

  1. Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and green pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the any large clumps of meat, until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Add the tomato mixture to the nearly cooked meat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Divide the meat mixture evenly between the hamburgers rolls, serve with some old school tater tots and enjoy a nostalgia filled evening.

*adapted from williams-sonoma

salmon with a bow-tie

This week not only marks the start of new school year but also a new soccer season. My husband coaches my sons team and has for the past few years, but this year he’s also going to be assisting on my daughter’s “Little Cleats” team. (Yeah I know, pray for him.) My boy has also recently decided to participate in a skateboard class through our rec department and the girl wants to take an Intro to Sports clinic. So between school activities, soccer practice and games, sports clinics and oh yeah homework— the next couple of months will be busy ones to say the least.

If you’re schedule sounds like mine then I’m sure pasta is part of your typical weekly menu. I like pasta just as much as the next girl but while the kids never tire of having it with simple red sauce and cheese, I grow weary of that combo pretty quickly. I do occasionally switch things up with pesto or garlic, butter and cheese, as a poor man’s carbonara or a quick mac n’ cheese. But not being one to ever rest on my “good enough” laurels, I’m always on the lookout for new recipe inspiration.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about yogurt, specifically cooking with it. I like yogurt and we consume a pretty good amount of it in our house. The kids eat it for breakfast, I add it to my smoothies, swap it out for sour cream on tacos, add it to my blueberry muffins and I’ve even made yogurt from scratch (which was far easier and more rewarding than you would think!) But what about using it as a sauce for pasta? As I considered the idea a dish slowly formed in my mind. I’ve been on a sardine kick lately and while the combination of yogurt and sardines didn’t sound particularly appealing, salmon and yogurt did. And what goes perfectly with salmon but capers, lemon and fresh chives.

Voilà! An easy and fast pasta dinner for everyone and something more exotic than red sauce for me.

Farfalle with Salmon & Yogurt Sauce
I served this pasta dish warm, but I imagine it would totally work as a chilled salad as well.

salmon pasta6

3/4 lb. farfalle pasta
1 6 oz. can boneless/skinless wild salmon
3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. Spanish capers
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh chives, snipped small
lemon zest, for garnish

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. While it cooks break up the salmon and place it in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix.
  2. When the pasta is al dente, drain it extremely well and add it to the bowl. Gently fold the pasta into the yogurt sauce. Adjust the seasonings, garnish with lemon zest and more chives and serve.

flexing my mussels

Around this time every summer my children spend a week with my parents in Connecticut, and while I miss them (stop snickering I do miss them) I also enjoy having a week free to do, see and cook all the things I don’t ordinarily get to. You would expect the overwhelming quiet, greatly reduced laundry and lack of sibling bickering to be what makes they’re absence feel so profound, but in fact it’s the little things. The way I can walk from the front door to the kitchen without stepping on or tripping over anyone’s shoes, the way a gallon of milk can actually last for more than two days and the way I can go a week without uttering any of the following phrases: “stop yelling” “would you like me to treat you like that” “leave the dog alone” “turn down the tv” “no you can’t play video games” and last but not least “go to bed…go to bed…go to bed…GO TO BED!…” Yeah, I miss them. Terribly.

I consider my kids to be fairly adventurous eaters (for an 8 and 4 yr old) and easy to please when it come to meals. Yes my daughter would eat pasta for every meal if she could and my son could live on turkey and cheese sandwiches; but they also happily eat things like sushi, smoked ribs, grilled asparagus, shrimp stir-fry, sautéed grouper and garlicky hummus without complaint. What they won’t eat is anything too spicy, which is of course exactly how I like things. So while they’re away enjoying New England I get the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and cook the spicy dishes that make me most happy.

Given the freedom to make whatever floats my boat is actually a bit more daunting than you would think. To quote the charming Miss Veruca Salt “I want the works, I want the whole works…” There are so many recipes I tuck into my “just for me” file that when the time comes to actually pull one out, its tough to narrow it down. I really want to try to replicate the spicy ceviche I had at dinner the other night, there’s a chicken vindaloo recipe that looks easy whose ingredients I happen to already have on hand and a spicy West African peanut soup that sounds incredibly good. But in the end the dish I ultimately decided to kick my week of freedom off with was a is a dish of spicy steamed mussels.

I have a weakness for mussels, they happen to be one of my all-time favorite foods. I eat them whenever the opportunity arrises and can’t eat them without thinking fondly of the night my husband and I spent in Honfleur, France so many years ago. We sat for hours at a little table alongside the Vieux Bassin in the center of town, sipping rosé and enjoying the sights, the sounds and a steaming pot of mussels in a curry cream sauce. It was sheer perfection. Honestly, if you know my husband or myself then you have no doubt heard our story of Honfleur. Perfection! However, as big as that build up was and as much as I love that classic French preparation of mussels, I love the combination of coconut, chilies and lemon grass even more. So the decision was made and Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemon Grass was the winner.

It was delicious and something the kids totally wouldn’t have appreciated, which made it all the tastier. They’ll be home tomorrow and I’ll have to start cooking to please their palates again, but I’ll always have the memories of these spicy mussels…

Spicy Coconut & Lemon Grass Mussels
These are perfect as an appetizer or as a main dish along with a tossed salad.

mussels2

4 tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, outer layers removed, cut into 3 pieces and smashed with the side of a knife
1 tsp. garam masala
2-3 small hot chiles (I used a fresh cayenne), finely chopped
3 cups unsweetened light coconut milk
4 lbs. fresh PEI mussels*, scrubbed
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
2 tsp. Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
sliced and toasted crusty bread

  1. Heat the coconut oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, lemon grass, garam masala and chiles and cook over medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and mussels. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the mussels have opened, 5 to 7 minutes (discard any mussels that remain closed).
  2. Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large bowl, leaving the liquid in the pot. Fish out the lemon grass and stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, fish sauce and cilantro. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce and/or lemon juice if desired.
  3. Slice and toast several pieces of crusty bread. Place the mussels in four wide bowls, ladle the broth over them and serve with the sliced bread.

*adapted from NY Times

*You should always try to use any fresh shellfish the same day you buy it. However if you have to keep it for a day or two before cooking here’s what to do to keep it fresh: “Remove the mussels from the mesh bag and put them in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel to keep them moist. (Never store them in an airtight container, they’re still alive and will suffocate.) To check for freshness, tap a slightly opened mussel on the counter. If it doesn’t close shut, toss it. Store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator. The mussels will release a small amount of liquid every day, make sure to drain this often.” —@NoshOnIt