Eat , Pray,Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderfully crafted book about life changing experiences when she trades in her previously perfect life to travel the world "to find herself. " After a heart wrenching divorce she spends a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. Each word in the title Eat, Pray, Love is expanded by her experiences in three countries. In Italy she indulges in the fabulous food and language. In India she finds new meaning in her life on her personal journey of self-awareness and enlightenment spending time in an Indian ashram. Then as a climax to the book she finally finds love in Bali, Indonesia.
If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know that I have been creating personal challenges based on a theme to infuse new life into my own cooking adventures. At the moment I am not travelling the world on my own personal journey as the author of Eat, Pray Love did but I can infuse new life into my own kitchen. Since this is a food blog I am going to concentrate on the EAT part of the book so my next personal challenge will see me create an Italian menu from "antipasti to dolce" to celebrate the opening of Eat, Pray, Love the movie starring Julia Roberts. The movie opens August 13th. Won't you join me in this challenge?
We began our Italian adventure with an antipasto of Toasted Bread with Burrata and Basil . An "il primo", or "first course" usually consists of pasta, minestrone, risotto, or zuppa (soup) in small portions. For our primo course in this challenge we are travelling to the Italian coast. Mussels (cozze) are extremely popular in Southern Italy and on the islands. Italian mussels are known mainly for having an extremely smooth texture and sweet flavour that makes an attractive addition to many pastas and fish dishes.You may not think to cook mussels when you think seafood but they're very easy to prepare, even for a novice chef.
No Italian mussels for me, but, off our coastal waters in British Columbia fishermen harvest mussels. The blue mussel is the most common mussel found along the Pacific coast. Its shell is dark blue and usually 5 cm (2 inches)to 7.5 cm (3 inches) in length. The meat ranges from creamy-tan to brownish-orange in colour with a texture that is tougher than that of a clam or oyster. Their flavour is rich and sweet.
To ensure that mussels are alive and fresh, look for tightly closed shells or shells that snap shut when tapped. Avoid mussels that have broken shells, feel heavy (they are usually full of sand) or feel light and loose when shaken (they are usually dead). Shucked mussels should have plump meat with clear liquid. Smaller mussels will be more tender than large ones.
If you would like to join me simply prepare an Italian dish from antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno to dolce and send the link with photo to eatchallenge(at)gmail(DOT)com before the opening of the movie. The possibilities are limitless!!!! On or around August 13th I will round up your recipes and post this journey we have all been on together. There is not much time before the movie release so join me if you can!
Italians are very passionate about their food. Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means something as simple as making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market. With these personally imposed challenges I am finding my culinary skills to be rejuvenated and back on track. This is the perfect time of year to pump up my kitchen into high gear! By creating this challenge what better way to emulate Elizabeth Gilbert's sojourn in Italy than to create a menu based on local ingredients, as the Italians do, and her own adventures in Italy. I hope you will feel my excitement as I travel on my own personal journey for the next few weeks leading up to opening night.
Italian cuisine is all about the freshest, most flavourful ingredients prepared simply yet exquisitely. The food of Italy places a big emphasis on regional specialties and artisanally produced products. Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Tuscan olive oil and wines up and down the peninsular boot are famous the world over. Gilbert's time in Italy is spent immersing herself in the romantic language and cuisine of Italy that we all love. My menu does not concentrate on just one region in Italy but embraces the entire country in my own culinary adventure to celebrate the release of the movie.
The two secrets to great Italian flavour in this dish is to use fresh herbs whenever possible, and only cook your garlic until it sizzles (longer will make it bitter). Cook up this fresh tomato sauce, add a little wine and lastly the mussels and you will have a pasta dish your friends will devour with gusto!!!Simple, fresh ingredients like your Italian nonna would serve.
I am sending this recipe over to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast the "pasta queen" for her popular event. I try and join in on the fun whenever I have pasta over at Presto Pasta Nights. My cupboards are always full of pasta in countless shapes and sizes. It is too hard to resist at our local Italian grocers, especially since they have expanded!!! I want to have pasta every day of the year!!!! Presto Pasta Nights event has been the baby of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast for over 3 glorious years. Whenever we feel the urge for some pasta we can go over to her site and have 3 years of entries from all over the world to choose from from pasta salad to lasagna to Pho. So head on over there on Friday and soak in the pasta dishes.
**Spaghetti con le Cozze**
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
10 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup mint, minced
pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups vegetable broth or 1 cup white wine and 1 cup water from pasta pot
3 lbs. fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded (buy only unopened mussels at fish market)
1 lb.pasta, cooked in salt water "al dente" and drained
garnish: chopped fresh parsley
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and saute until soft; then add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat for 30 seconds, stirring often. Add tomatoes, herbs and salt pepper. Cover; simmer for 10 min or until tomatoes are softened. Add the broth or wine and water and mussels. Cover; cook on medium heat for 5 min. or until all mussels have opened. Discard any unopened ones at this time. Pour pasta in large serving bowl. Top with half of the mussels and all the sauce. Place remaining mussels in a separate large bowl. Pass pasta bowl and extra mussels garnished with parsley.
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