yogurt and coconut curried mussels

Mussels

Back in Bombay we ate plenty of seafood, probably about two to three times a week. Fresh fish would be delivered right to our doorstep by a local fisherwoman with whom my mom would always bargain for a better deal. They would go back and forth with each other trying to get the most of the deal that was to be struck between them. I think this was also probably how I learned to haggle, though not as efficiently. I would excitedly watch the assortment of fresh fish, shrimp, and crabs that filled her large basket. On some days we would eat clams stewed in broth while on other days, pan-fried mackerel seasoned with a concoction of spices. Oceans away here in D.C. we are lucky enough to have a fresh seafood market and I really do need to take more advantage of this gem. It's nice to have a source where you can go and literally "fish through the fish" and pick out what you want for a good price.

Spring Blossoms
Onion and Forsythia

On our latest trip to the market, we picked up a fresh bag of mussels in addition to a bushel of freshly steamed crabs. It turned out we bought way too many crabs for three people. I was so excited to cook the mussels, that off they went into the stockpot as soon as we reached home. This is a Goan-based recipe that I use quite often based on my mother's original version that I've modified and changed a little along the way. It has all the goodness of a rich and flavorful Indian curry but much lighter.

My kitchen filled up with the aroma of the sautéing onions, ginger, and garlic while the spices blended in. The mussels simmered and cooked in vinegar and coconut milk and by the time the yogurt was folded in, there were some hungry faces at the table. But there was still had a second or two before we could dive into our bowls, the mussels needed a splash of fresh lime juice and a little cilantro to freshen up and brighten the flavors. Once the mussels were served and devoured and the broth all gone, I knew that another trip to the market might happily be in my future a little sooner than I had anticipated.

Bread and Limes
Mussels and Grated Ginger
Mussels in Yogurt Broth

steamed mussels in yogurt broth

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

2 1/2 lbs mussels
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium size red onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger root, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea-salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 cup white rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 fresh/dried curry leaves
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
juice of 2 freshly squeezed limes
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. Wash and scrub the mussels clean under cold water, remove any beards if present and keep the cleaned mussels on ice. 
2. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on a medium flame. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Add the turmeric, cumin cloves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and cook for another minute with constant stirring. 
3. Stir the coconut milk, vinegar, and curry leaves into the onion mixture.  Fold in the cleaned mussels and cover the stockpot with a lid. Bring the broth to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer.
4. Beat the yogurt in a small bowl and mix it along with the lime juice into the broth. Taste the broth and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Discard any mussels that did not open during the cooking.
5. Garnish the mussels with the cilantro. Serve hot with warm toasted bread or plain rice. 

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

Egg Noodles

Thank you so much for all the well-wishes and emails, the hurricane might have been bad but we were fortunate to have power and gas and were not hit as badly as some of the other areas that received the major brunt of Sandy. Tuesday was still a terribly rainy day but the winds had died down and I think some of the worst things that happened in our area, were the big tree that fell down and a couple of traffic signs that had moved or been yanked out of the ground. Things are pretty much back to normal here but it is getting cold, terribly cold. 

Butternut Squash and Noodle Broth

This soup tided me over the crazy hurricane days. It was hot and laced with tons of ginger to keep me warm and happy. Normally, I use tender lemongrass stems when I cook but I had the opportunity to use some fresh  leaves from my neighbor's garden. In this soup, the lemongrass flavor works well because it is mild while the ginger is strong and delicious. Of course try and use fresh ingredients for this soup, it will make it wonderfully aromatic. As you might have noticed, I am extremely partial to ginger, it's one of those important mainstays of my kitchen, that I always keep at home in fresh, dried, and crystallized forms. So yeah, I have one too many recipes here with a bit of ginger! I will admit that I am not a big fan of peeling and cutting pumpkins and butternut squashes. I tend to lean towards roasting these tough guys so it is easier to get the pulp from the skin. However, this particular soup required chunks of the butternut squash, so I saved some time and  tears by purchasing the pre-cut stuff from the store. Sometimes, it really is good to let others help you.

Ginger and Lemongrass

A couple of pointers when preparing this broth. Use a large stockpot or wok as you need to mix the noodles and squash in the broth, this will make it easy to toss things around and create less of a mess in the kitchen stove. I like to tie the lemongrass leaves in a tight knot and then add them to the broth when cooking. I then discard the leaves once the soup is done and the knot makes it easy to remove the entire bunch at one instance. I enjoy the complex flavors in soy, fish, and oyster sauces and I also love adding a little bit of soy sauce to the boiling water that I cook my noodles in because it gives them a nice flavor, though this is completely optional. Do not over saute the ginger or lemongrass or you will lose the aroma and flavor of these delicate ingredients. I do hope you get to enjoy this hot and gingery soup on a cold winter day! 

Soup and butternutsquash

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

yields: approximately 4-6 servings

ingredients

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2  bundles of Chinese egg noodles
2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 peeled and finely minced shallots or 1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1.5 inches peeled fresh ginger root
1 bunch fresh lemongrass leaves (this should be about 1/4 cup chopped or packed leaves)
2 chopped Thai chilies (use either green or red, both work well here)
5 cups water
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
few fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

1. In a pot bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add the salt and soy sauce to the water. Break the bundles of dry egg noodles in half and then add them to the boiling water. Cook till the noodles are almost tender. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the water and keep the noodles aside.
2. While the noodles are cooking, take a separate wok or stockpot add the oil, and heat on a high flame. When the oil is hot, toss in the butternut squash and cook completely till the inside of the squash is tender. This should take about 14-15 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the wok, cover and keep aside. In the same oil add the shallots/onion and cook for about 3 minutes till translucent.
4. Peel the ginger root and julienne into 1/2 inch strips. Reduce the flame to medium heat and toss in the ginger and cook for another two minutes. 
5. Add the lemon grass, chilies and cook for another minute.
6. Add the 5 cups of water, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and lemon juice to the wok and bring to a boil. Once the broth begins to boil, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the cooked squash. Discard the lemongrass leaves at this stage.
7. Transfer and stir in the drained noodles to the simmering broth.
8. Season the broth with salt and pepper, according to taste. Stir in the chopped cilantro to the broth. Prior to serving, garnish the broth with a few whole cilantro leaves in individual soup bowls. Serve hot.

Hurricane Sandy in D.C.