I hadn’t seen Julie in months so it was great to catch up with her Thursday night at Eataly. She’s my first friend in New York to get married. While my friends in the rest of the country have long since married and are now working on children, in Manhattan we’re on another schedule.
Maybe its because there’s so many options here. Its like Eataly’s cheese section where I need at least twenty minutes to decide which cheese, among all the tasty options, I’ll be taking home that night. At a regular supermarket I can sort out my cheese selection is five minutes or less.
Julie and I met years ago when we managed the Care Bear’s account together. Now she’s a very successful advertising executive. Every time I see her, she has a new promotion, raise, or handbag to tell me about. In between client dinners and strategy meetings, she managed to meet a lovely, young man and get married.
Usually there’s a twinge of sadness when you loose one of your single girl friends to marriage but honestly as a single friend Julie wasn’t a big lose. When we’d have a girls’ night out, planning to meet potential suitors, we failed miserably every single time. We were always too focused on which tapas to order, or deciding which new dessert spot was worthy of the indulgence. She’s my most fabulous eating buddy.
Now if Julie went on a diet, I’d miss her but her marriage doesn’t cramp our style at at all. Happily, her husband loves to eat too (he has the most remarkable metabolism- I’m still not satisfied he doesn’t have a tapeworm) so he’s always welcome at the table.
Julie had already dined at all the Eataly establishments and recommended we try Il Pesce. I felt bad for our waiter. He came back three times to take our order before we paused in our catching up long enough to look at the menus. Finally we ordered (Razor Clams with Chili, Herbs in a Buttery Broth, Mussels with Leeks, Lemon, Olives, and Vermouth and Mixed Seafood Ligurian style to share) and it was all delicious. Her razor clams were the best I’ve ever had. Il Pesce’s olive, vermouth, and leek style steamed mussels were new to me and they were a delicious alternative to the white wine style that I’m familiar with.
Mussels are one of the few seafood items that you can eat and really feel good about. They’re farm raised, sustainable, low fat, high protein, inexpensive, and easy to cook. What’s not to love? We should all eat more mussels and Il Pesce’s take on them is a great reason pick up a bag of mussels next time your at the store.
When shopping for mussels look for tightly closed shells (avoid ones that are open which may be dead or close to it). As with all seafood its best to use it the day you buy it but if you need to store them for a day, keep them in a bowl in the refrigerator. Don’t place them in a sealed bag or leave them under water because this kills them. Scrub the mussels and pull off any remaining beards (the beard is the weedy stuff sticky out from the side of the shell) before cooking. Don’t de-beard them until you plan to cook them because de-bearding can cause them to die.
Steamed Mussels with Leeks, Olives, and Vermouth (serves 2)
(Total time: 15 minutes)
- 3/4 cup dry vermouth
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mild green Spanish olives
- 1/4 cup leeks, chopped
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Bring vermouth, water, bay leaf, olives and leeks to a simmer in a large pot. Continue to simmer to blend the flavors for 4 minutes. Add the mussels and increase the heat to high. Cover and cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring once, until, mussels have opened.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer mussels to serving plates. Lower the heat to low and stir butter into the remaining broth to create a sauce. Add the parsley. Pour the broth over the mussels and serve immediately.
*Steamed Mussels with Leeks, Olives, and Vermouth is wonderful with crusty bread.