I've never really found an inopportune time to have mussels. During winter, the little bivalves can be covered in rich sauces that coat both them and your stomach. For summer, they can be dressed lightly. This recipe from Food and Wine is right in the middle—full-flavored from the olive oil and kale, yet doesn't involve any cream. It's absolutely perfect for the fall season.
I love cooking with mussels because they can be both madly cheap and delicious. While the actual muscle in the mussel is great, I think the best part is the liquid contained inside. When they heat up, they unleash their liquid into the sauce, making everything they touch better. When the pasta is tossed in at the end, they suck up some and come out with this clean, ocean flavor that's really irresistible. It's a very simple dish, but don't be surprised when you go in for seconds.
- 3/4 pound linguine
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, quartered, and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 pounds mussels scrubbed and debearded
- 6 large kale leaves, stems and ribs discarded, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few tablespoons of salt and then add the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the package until al dente. Make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. When pasta is done, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour 4 tablespoons of the oil into a large pot set over high heat. Toss in the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Stir often and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mussels to the pot. Stir well and cook until about half of them have opened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the chopped kale, stir well again, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Dump in the cooked linguine and the reserved pasta water. Cook until all the mussels are open, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.