A Daily Dinner: Summer Mussels with Tomatoes and Basil Rouille

Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Basil Rouille

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.

Fresh Mussels, Tomatoes and Basil

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.

Mussels with Baguette

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
Baguette, sliced

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.

Steamed Mussels with Parsley and Tomatoes

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.

– Laura

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