For some reason, summer always puts me in the mood for seafood. From steamer clams on the half-shell, vibrant red lobsters, and fish cooked a la plancha, fresh seafood always seems to make the summertime heat a little more bearable.
Last summer, we made a delicious pasta with lobster and mint and easy shrimp tacos. So far this summer, we kicked off our seafood season with a frutti di mare seafood dinner at our beloved Roberta’s (photos coming tomorrow!), and then, the following night, we bought a huge bag of fresh Maine mussels and put together this simple dinner.
Mussels have an instant advantage over other types of seafood because they’re incredibly inexpensive (our 2-lb. bag was $3.99!) and absolutely fool-proof to cook.
Mark Bittman’s recommendation for mussels involves nothing more than throwing them in a pot and turning up the heat; their own juices do the rest. This recipe is a touch more involved than that, but it highlights all of the flavors that truly mean summer to me.
Summer Mussels with Tomatoes and Basil Rouille
Adapted from Bon Appétit
4 garlic cloves, divided
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. mayonnaise
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 c. cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 8-oz. bottle clam juice
2 lbs. fresh mussels
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Mince two garlic cloves and transfer to a blender. Add basil, mayonnaise, 3 tbsp. oil, anchovies, and lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Transfer basil rouille to a small bowl, cover, and chill.
2. Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes burst, about 10 minutes.
3. Slice remaining 2 garlic cloves and add to pot. Cook, stirring often, until garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in wine and cook, stirring often, until almost absorbed, about 1 minute. Add clam juice and 2 c. water and bring to a boil. Add mussels and cook, covered, until opened (discard any that do not open), about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley. Spread basil rouille on bread and serve alongside.
Another great thing about this recipe: it uses a minimal amount of wine, so you can drink the rest of the bottle yourself! A glass of chilled white wine alongside the mussels really makes a meal.
If you have leftover baguette and basil rouille, it makes a great snack. Perfect for slathering on a sandwich with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes—another quintessential summertime combination.