2 August 2010

Il Primo of Spaghetti con le Cozze for Eat, Pray, Love Italian Challenge

Spaghetti con le Cozze

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?

Tropea Courtesy of http://mymelange.net/

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.

Serves 4-6

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Oooh I could eat that right now - What a lovely looking dish!! So colourful.

  2. I think our Pacific Coast mussels are delicious and, as much as I like them, I've never prepared them at home. This looks like a terrific recipe, Val, and I can't wait to try it.

  3. Gorgeous ... just gorgeous ... oops, I'm drooling ...
    Your creativity is awesome.

  4. That looks wonderful! a pity mussels still make me feel uneasy...



  5. I have been reading Eat, Pray, Love and am enjoying Italy. Your pasta dish sounds great. My husband is the mussels eater at our house. He would love it.

  6. Hi Val - it looks awesome. Mussels from BC sound great!

  7. Hi Val - it looks awesome. Mussels from BC sound great!

  8. Val, I absolutely LOVE mussels and used to make them much more frequently before the price went up so much here. This looks gorgeous!
    xoxo Pattie

  9. What a fantastic idea, Val!! I love this book so very much. I read it on the terrace of a villa in Italy where I had gone to repair my shattered heart and spirit. It was just what I needed. Your recipe is GORGEOUS!! :-)

  10. This pasta dish is mouthwatering; I would love to participate in this challenge; I just bought two new types of pastas and pesto this past sunday to try.

  11. I bought the book but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I can't wait to see the movie, too. I have never prepared mussels at home but have enjoyed them in restaurants a couple of times. What a fresh, zesty flavorful dish!

  12. This is a lovely Spaghetti con le Cozze recipe. And I think you really hit it on the spot when you decided to use the movie Eat, Pray, Love as your inspiration in your kitchen, Thanks for sharing. If you wont mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to your post. Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post so it will appear in the Foodista pages and it's all set, Thanks!

  13. Wow, what a nice pasta dish...it sure looks so tasty with the mussels and all the other flavors in it...beautiful picture of the pasta!

  14. We went to dinner the other night at an Italian restaurant and had the CUTEST little Italian waiter who gave us a culinary run down of Italy. He was telling us all about Southern Italy and how they have thick, heavy sauces (as compared with Roma which has the lighter marinara type sauces)

  15. I love mussels but I've never made them at home. Maybe someday I'll get adventurous and try! Your dish looks delicious.

  16. I enjoyed the book and featured it in one of my Novel Food posts. This is a beautiful plate of spaghetti you made! I assume that for the challenge you are looking for new posts, right?

  17. Loved the book-very entertaining! I also love a good pasta dish with mussels! Looks very vibrant and fresh Val!

  18. I love that the mussels you used were local...way to get into the spirit of the book! This whole dish is making my taste buds rumble...

  19. i've never tried mussels, but with the lovely tomatoes and herbs in this dish, it looks amazing! my grandma wouldn't know the first thing about making something like this, but she'd sure love to eat it. :)

  20. Sorry I've been such a scarce visitor - LOVE the new look!! And eeek, I am probably the last person in the solar system who has not yet read Eat Love Pray... The pasta looks spectacular - like Mediterranean summer in a bowl :)

  21. Val...I think it's great the way you chose to challenge yourself ;o)

    The mussels look amazing...I can't wait for late September to start making these dishes again.

    Have read the book and I'm itching to see Julia Roberts in the movie. I have a date with a few friends...and may even play hookie from my work to go see it leisurely during the day ;)

    Ciao for now and have a great day,

  22. I love the book and food pairing you've got going. What a fun way to challenge and stretch yourself.

  23. Beautiful dish. Anything that makes me think of Italy makes me happy. I'm not a well-traveled person, but Italy was the first (and for a very long time the only) foreign country I ever visited. I had my first kiss in Italy.

  24. An amazing and lovely dish, wow:)

  25. this looks like something out of a gourmet book such gorgeous color ingredients and fabulous picture love this one~

  26. This looks like quite an exciting recipe! I'm not sure if I've had the good fortune of trying Pacific mussels. They sound so much tastier than the average ones.

    This sounds like a great challenge. I'm looking forward to when the movie is released too.

  27. Brava! This looks fresh and beautiful and mouthwateringly delicious. It begs to be tried. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  28. I find the mussel liqueur to be the most flavourful...a lush pasta dish.

  29. What gorgeous photos! The dish looks succulent and fresh and lush and flavourful... soooo yummy!
    I loved mussels until I found out how many calories they were. Now I only eat them if I go to the seaside. Last year, we travelled along the Adriatic coast and they are farmed there and hauled up just before you eat them. I cannot describe the pleasure. There were little mussel "houses" or restaurants all over Paris. I was surprised. Well, maybe that is just the chain of the restaurant. I actually made lasagna while here, in Bijeljina, Bosna. And let me tell you, that was no easy task. The meat is different. The pasta is hard to find (the flat kind) and there is no mozzarella or cottage cheese to be found anywhere.It was a series of compromises, but actually tasted great and the family was thrilled. This is not a country with various and vast dishes. They basically eat the same few dishes all of the time.

  30. What a fantastic idea. I do hope I can get out from under all my boxes to try and join in your Eat Pray Love Challenge.

    No matter what, I know I'll be trying your fantastic dish - great photo btw. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  31. Great challenge, delicious looking dish. Italians are proud.

  32. I am visiting via Presto Pasta Nights and am enjoying my visit here. I wish I'd read about your Eat Pray Love Challenge sooner, what a fun event.


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