Monday, May 17, 2010

Kitchen Experiments: Mussels and Crostata

If I had my way today, I'd be on a kitchen strike.  I feel like I'm all 'cooked out'. The weekend was all about experimenting with some interesting recipes and just the usual meal preparation the rest of the time.  I can't complain much though because the great thing about cooking is you do get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  My real problem is enjoying it too much, thus punishing my body in the process.  Actually my emotions get punished too, somehow, for feeling all that remorse for eating and enjoying all  the food too much.  Oh well...

Anyway, I'm here to share with you those 'interesting' recipes.  They're not original ones.  One I got online from and the other, I got from watching Ina Garten on the Food Network.  But I'm always willing to try and review them for you!

Let's start with the savory dish first and work our way through dessert.  I found an easy but wonderfully authentic Thai Steamed Mussels recipe.  My husband and I love Thai food but I've always been intimidated by them and felt they're too complicated for me to make.  This one is manageable, I promise you, and truly captures the spicy-salty-sour-sweet balance that is so characteristic of Thai cuisine.  The ingredients are not a lot so you don't even have to go out and look for a specialty store.  The only place you need to go to is the Asian aisle of your local supermarket to grab your coconut milk (unsweetened), fish sauce, and Thai red curry paste.  The rest you can get from the produce section and your pantry.  Here's a link to the recipe:

I do need to mention though that as usual, I made some modifications to the recipe.  I used only 2lbs of mussels instead of 5lbs the recipe requires, but kept all the other ingredients the same.  This turned out better for us because we ended up with a lot more sauce than what we would have had if I had stuck with the 5lbs of mussels. There was more than enough to slurp and pour over our steamed rice.  If you want to be partially 'Western' in serving and eating this dish, I bet it would also work well with nice, crusty bread dipped into that oh-so-yummy sauce.  

Another modification I made was to increase the amount of the Thai curry paste.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2tbsp of this ingredient but I found that it was not spicy enough for my taste.  (And I don't even consider myself to have a really high threshold for spice).  I ended up using 2 1/2 tbsp instead, but in keeping with the balanced characteristic of Thai dishes, I ended up doubling the fish sauce amount, and added 1/2 a tsp more of sugar.  This ended up perfect for our taste.  I suggest you follow the recipe and then taste it first. You can always add the flavors little by little until it suits your palate.  

main ingredients of the sauce (the Thai Kitchen brand for the curry paste is what my supermarket carries)

the succulent mussels swimming in this absolutely addictive creamy coconut curry sauce

Now for dessert, I made Ina Garten's Summer Fruit Crostata recipe.  Again, I've always been intimidated by Ina Garten and I think she's one of the more 'serious' chefs at the Food Network who come up with comparatively complex recipes.  I followed this one just because I already have a food processor and thought the idea of making my own dough seemed pretty cool.  That and of course the dough recipe was very simple.  I'm really more of a cook than a baker so if I can make it, YOU can! 

This recipe is not very sweet although it does call for quite a bit of butter.  It's all that butter though that makes the dough flaky yet moist and tasty.  Make sure your butter is cold (but not frozen) and that you don't handle your dough too much to the point of warming it, because according to Ina, keeping this as cold as you can helps the  flakiness in the end.  Here's the link to the recipe.

I did not have any peaches and ended up using plums and strawberries instead.  I realized that I'm not a big plum fan so next time, I think I'll just use peaches and strawberries, or perhaps blueberries if I have some on hand.  I suppose you can experiment with your other favorite fruits as well.

One thing to note about this recipe is that this is a rustic looking one, although the flavors do have a level of sophistication to them.  When you fold the edges of your dough, don't expect everything to look seamless.  And once your crostata is done, expect that transferring from your baking pan to a serving dish could be a challenge and you could end up with some cracked parts.  To me that is fine.  It's all part of the homemade charm, so I say don't sweat it.

So, those are the two successful experiments I had over the weekend and I hope you can enjoy them in your own households too!  When you do, come back and let me know how it all turned out.  If you think about it, you can actually serve both dishes in one meal and that would be amazing!  In order for you to not be too exhausted, remember that you can prepare the crostata dough way ahead of time.  In my opinion, finishing the dough is more than half of the labor required for the recipe, so after that is a breeze.

I do hope you enjoy these recipes as much as our family did!  Bon appetit!  



  1. they both look so yummy! i think i may have seen that Barefoot Contessa crostata episode too, cool! i love that it's a rustic, 'relaxed' tart --- no need to roll the dough out then lining a tart pan with it perfectly :-)

  2. Looks so yummy. Well done Joy!

  3. GR8!One budding master chef! Loved the outcome and looking forward to another culinary make-over. Bravo!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Joy! will try this over the weekend. Looks so delicious!!!

  5. i always cook some thai dishes---i love the tom yang seafood soup--yummm---meeee =))

  6. Wow! That looks good.:)
    I want to make the mussels but the kids and Greg are allergic to it. I can be mean and still cook and eat it infront of them with gusto! hahaha!;)
    I love Ina and her cooking.:)

  7. i always cook some thai dishes---i love the tom yang seafood soup--yummm---meeee =))

  8. GR8!One budding master chef! Loved the outcome and looking forward to another culinary make-over. Bravo!

  9. GR8!One budding master chef! Loved the outcome and looking forward to another culinary make-over. Bravo!


Let me know your thoughts!