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Joe Hafner: Get Cookin’ with This Mouth-Watering Mussels Recipe

Word of Mouth has been spending the summer on the East Coast and needed to take a short break. Now that we are back in the swing of things, I have a simple recipe adapted from a dish I’ve been serving frequently as of late.

I’ve been getting back in touch with my New England roots — but missing Santa Barbara. Here’s a recipe you can easily put together no matter what ocean you are looking at.

This simple sauté showcases heirloom tomatoes from the garden — a sure bet in any shellfish dish. Don't let those stragglers go to waste!

It may seem strange to use clam juice in this recipe, but it makes for a fantastic broth and works every time. Feel free to adapt this recipe if clams are available, but increase the cooking time slightly.

Mussels with Fennel, White Wine and Tomatoes

For four to six guests as an appetizer

» 3 lbs of mussels
Debearded and rinsed just before cooking
Try allowing the mussels to soak for about 20 minutes in cold water beforehand

» ½ of a large white onion, diced small

» 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped

» 2 cups of dry white wine

» ½ head of shaved fennel
 
» Fresh chopped parsley, scallions or pea greens for garnish

» 2 medium tomatoes, diced

» Salt and fresh pepper to taste (be careful with the salt; wait to season until almost the end of the cooking process)

» ½ lemon

» ½ cup of clam juice (most seafood purveyors have this on hand, but you can use bottled in a pinch)

To taste, fruity excellent quality extra virgin olive oil.

In a large sauté or sauce pan over medium high heat, just cover the bottom with olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and fennel. Sauté until translucent. Add white wine and clam juice — reduce by one-third. Add shellfish and squeezed lemon (whole half).

Cover with a lid or smaller sauté pan and allow the shellfish to steam open. Add tomatoes, stir and cover for two additional minutes.

Check seasoning and adjust. Top with a bit of olive oil and garnish. Serve with crusty bread, grilled or baked with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.

— Chef Joe Hafner writes the weekly Noozhawk column Word of Mouth and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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