My Foray Into Bi-Valves

We’ve been wanting to try cooking something with mussels for a while, and finally got a good night off that was appropriate for wine and experimentation. 

We couldn’t find the recipe that I had originally had in mind, but did find this one, for Steamed Mussels with Pernod, Celery Root, and Saffron Aioli, from Epicurus via the I-Phone while we were out and about.  It was absolutely amazing- certainly the best seafood that I have ever cooked, and probably the best shellfish I have ever had. 

I couldn’t find celery root, so just used celery, and used full-fat mayo because I couldn’t see buying the low-fat stuff.  It was easy and just took a few minutes once you sorted through the mussels.  We picked up some crusty sourdough to go along, lightly toasted, and it complemented perfectly. 

Steamed Mussels with Pernod, Celery Root and Saffron Aïoli Bon Appétit | February 1999


Offer this main course with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious saffron broth. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc is good here, too.

Yield: Serves 6


For aioli
1 tablespoon hot water
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced

For mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large celery root, peeled, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur


Make aioli:
Combine 1 tablespoon hot water and saffron in medium bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in mayonnaise and garlic. Season to taste with salt. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Make mussels:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add celery root, leek, carrots, chopped celery and 4 tablespoons parsley. Stir to coat. Cover pot and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add mussels, wine and Pernod. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook until mussels open, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open). Remove from heat. Season cooking liquid to taste with salt and pepper.

Whisk 1/2 cup cooking liquid into aioli to make thin sauce. Ladle mussels and remaining cooking liquid into 6 bowls. Drizzle each serving with some aioli. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Serve mussels, passing re-maining aioli separately.

We halved the recipe, and had a bit leftover, so we shelled the mussels and tossed them with the broth and veggies (adding some extra leeks, celery, and carrots) and some cooked egg noodles, adding in a roux to thicken it up a little bit.  Drizzled the aioli over the top and it was still great.  (I had planned to try it with risotto instead of egg noodles, but was out.) 
Still had a bit of aioli left over, so, for breakfast, toasted a bit more of the sourdough, fried a couple of eggs on top and ate that with the aioli.  Delicious!  (Although I’ll admit that I could have done without the garlic there.) 

Cherry Blossom Collins

My husband gets the credit for this sweet, refreshing, summertime drink. (I think it would make a delightlful ice cream or sorbet, once I work out the details.) 

Makes 2

  • 1/3 Cup Water
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • Approx. 1/3 Cup Frozen Cherries, diced or pureed
  • 2 Tsp. Loose Green Tea (recommended: Cherry Blossom Green Tea)
  • 10-20 Basil Leaves
  • 1/2 Cup Gin

In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water.  Add the cherries and bring to a boil, remove from heat and add tea and basil.  Allow to steep for 1 hour.  Strain into a measuring cup (should have about 1/2 cup). 

Fill a shaker with ice, combine cherry-tea syrup and gin, shake until cold.  Serve in a Collins glass over ice.  Garnish with cherries and basil leaves, if desired.

Creamy Peanut Vinagarette

I was looking for a snack and thinking about that peanut pasta that I blogged about earlier, and about snacking on a salad (got a big dinner planned.)  So I thought, what about a peanut butter vinaigrette?  I asked my husband, and his reaction was “sounds weird.”  Hmmm.  Still not dissuaded, I gathered some ingredients and mixed them up.  Delicious!  I served it over romaine and chunked up Roma tomatoes with some freshly ground black pepper.  

I make no promises about the amounts; this was just me adding and tweeking.  Try the same!  I might add a dash of ground ginger next time, and some carrots to the salad mix. 

  • 1/2 Tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 Tsp-1 Tsp Soy Sauce
  • Drizzle Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tsp or so Rice Wine Vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or whisk until smooth (but for the peanut butter chunks).  Toss with salad greens.

Creamy Peanut Butter Sauce with Chicken and Pasta

This is a great “go-to” recipe.  It’s easy, pantry friendly, can be made in the time it takes to boil noodles, and can be a full meal (veg, meat, starch) in one dish.  Plus, it’s delicious and hearty.  The peas add a wonderful sweetness, but green beans can work in place of (or in addition to) them. (You’ll want to cook them or thaw them first.) 

Approx. 4 servings

  •  1/2 Cup Peanut Butter (smooth or crunchy, your choice)
  • 1/3 Cup Chicken Broth or Stock
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tsp Asian Sesame Oil, divided
  • 2 Tsp Chili Oil, divided
  • 1.5 Tbs Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Red Wine vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1-2 Tbs Sriracha or Other Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 lb or so linguine
  • 1 large or 2 small Chicken Breasts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable or Cooking Oil to coat pan
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs minced or grated fresh ginger
  • Frozen Peas, optional (approx. 1/2 lb, or whatever you like)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Lightly salt (not as much salt as you would use for most pastas).  Add the pasta and boil until tender, approximately 9 minutes.  (Asian-style pasta dishes are generally cooked to a little more tender than an Italian-style al dente.) 

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until lightly browned and cooked through.  Remove from pan and reduce heat to medium low.

While chicken is cooking, combine all remaining ingredients except garlic and ginger in a blender or food processor, using 1 tsp each of chili and sesame oils.  After the chicken is removed from the pan, add a small drizzle of oil and saute garlic and ginger until fragrant (approximately 1 minute).  Add peanut sauce and chicken and heat through.  Stir in peas, then stir in pasta.  Stir continuously until completely warmed, approx. 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and drizzle in a bit of sesame and chili oil.  Serve with additional hot sauce, if desired.

Gorilla Bread

Made this recipe, monkey bread from Cook’s Illustrated, to have for breakfast this morning, but with a few tweeks and twists:

from Cook’s Illustrated


4 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup milk , warm (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water , warm (about 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package rapid-rise yeast (or instant)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

1. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.

2. In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook, (see below for instructions without a mixer.) Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
3. For the sugar coating: While dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside.
4. To form the bread: Gently remove dough from bowl, and pat into rough 8-inch square. Using bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces.

5. Roll each dough piece into ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.

6. Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

7. Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

8. For the glaze: While bread cools, whisk confectioners’ sugar and milk in small bowl until lumps are gone. Using whisk, drizzle glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.

Note: The dough should be sticky, but if you find it’s too wet and not coming together in the mixer, add 2 tablespoons more flour and mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Make sure to use light brown sugar in the sugar mix; dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor that can be overwhelming. After baking, don’t let the bread cool in the pan for more than 5 minutes or it will stick to the pan and come out in pieces. Monkey bread is at its best when served warm.

The Picky Cook has some really fantastic pictures at the link. 

Now the alterations:

  1. It was only for my husband and me, so I halved the recipe, which worked fine.  We still only ate about 3/4 of it. 
  2. There are a lot of versions of this recipe that use canned biscuit dough or frozen rolls.  These are fine, but the way I figure it, if you are going to eat something this rich and unhealthy, you might as well make it the most delicious version possible.  This really requires a yeast dough. 
  3. The recipe warns against using dark brown sugar because the molasses taste will be overwhelming.  I love dark brown sugar, and find that light brown tends to clump up badly, so I don’t bother with it.  I used half dark brown sugar and half white granulated sugar instead of the light brown. 
  4. I just used 3 TBS of butter to dip (3/4 of the halved recipe) and still had a bit leftover.  I also had a lot of cinnamon/brown sugar leftover, so feel free to reduce these to avoid waste. 
  5. I added some almond and vanilla extracts to the glaze. 
  6. In order to have it at breakfast, I made it the night before, allowing the second rise to go 50 minutes long.  Then I covered it and refrigerated it overnight.  Next morning, took it out for about 10-15 minutes, then turned on the oven and put it right in (without allowing it to preheat first, hoping that that would help bring it up to temp before the real cooking set in).  From putting it in the oven to finish was about 35 minutes (and I might go 2-3 minutes less next time).  I checked it with an instant read thermometer and it was about 205 degrees in the middle (this was great, but I’m thinking 195 would probably be the complete ideal).
  7. Now the big one- I converted it from “monkey bread” to “gorilla bread.”  As far as I can tell, this is just an idea that Paula Deen came up with, but it’s a good one.    (I give less approval to her use of canned biscuits over a yeast dough, though.)  While forming the balls, simply take a small nub of cream cheese (about the size of a fingertip) and fold the balls around it, making sure to seal the edges well. 

 Sweet, chewy, sugar and cinnamon coated balls, and a little hit of creamy cheese in the middle- unbelievable!

Peach Ice Cream

I didn’t expect good, ripe peaches to be available yet, but I was thrilled to find some the other day (BTW, the only way to tell is to smell them- overwhelming peachy scent= ripe and delicious), so I decided to use them to make peach ice cream.  This recipe, by Curtis Aikens, was divinely creamy and peachy.  It is very important to chop the peaches very finely, or they will create hard bits in the ice cream that don’t lend much flavor. 

Next time, I think I will add a bit more peaches (because I love them) and perhaps puree some of them, but on the whole, it was a delicious dessert. 

PEACH ICE CREAM, by Curtis Aikens


  • 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen peaches, peeled if preferred
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons peach brandy
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks


In a bowl combine peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice and peach brandy. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Remove peach mixture from refrigerator and drain juice into a cup. Return peaches to refrigerator.

In a saucepan combine 3/4 cup sugar, heavy cream, milk and vanilla. Bring just to a boil.

In bowl whisk egg yolks. While whisking stream in about 1/3 of the boiled cream mixture. While whisking cream and sugar mixture, stream in egg and cream mixture. Return to the heat and continue to heat while stirring. Mixture will thicken as it returns to a boil. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl set over ice. Add the reserved peach juice.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. After the ice cream begins to stiffen, when very close to done, add the peaches and continue to freeze until done. Variation: Use fresh raspberries

This is not the best pizza crust that I have ever had

It is, however, far better than any delivery pizza that I’ve ever tried, and can be made into pizza, start to finish, in less time than it takes for the driver to get here with a pie. 

  •  1/2 Cup + 2 TBS Warm Water
  • 2 1/8 Tsp Dry Yeast
  • 1/8 Cup (2 TBS) Vegetable Oil
  • 1/8 Cup (2 TBS) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 TBS Sugar
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • Toppings of choice (I like mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce with a little sautéed garlic, red pepper, and oregano mixed in, hot Italian sausage, and pineapple best)

Pre-heat oven to 375.  Mix water and yeast in the bowl of a mixer.  Mix in the oil and sugar, then add the flour gradually.  Mix until a smooth dough is formed, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky.  Press the dough out on a pizza stone to form a round, approximately 10-12 inches in diameter.  Bake 10 minutes or until crust is just starting to turn golden.  While it is baking, gather toppings. 

Remove from oven and raise heat to 500 degrees.  Top pizza with sauce, cheese, and desired toppings.  Return to oven for 6-8 minutes, or until crust is well browned and cheese is thoroughly melted and just starting to brown at spots.  Remove from oven and allow to rest at least 3 minutes before cutting.