Yancey and I had a very fortunate run-in with a Penn Cove Mussel truck yesterday. We were waiting for our minivan to get its oil changed (Yes, we have a mini-van. My friend Jackie always used to say that minivans run on libido--they suck it right out of you) and on our way to Pike Place Market in Yancey's work van. We were flagged down by a man standing outside a refrigerated delivery truck. I'm sure he took one look at Yancey and thought, "This guy looks nice. I'll bet he'll stop and give my battery a jump." He picked the right guy. Yancey's the sort of person out shoveling neighbors' driveways in the snow, they guy who offers to help everyone move. They did their thing, chatted it up. Meanwhile, I'm sitting in the van noticing that the truck says Penn Cove Shellfish LLC and hoping with all my might that we'll be trading battery juice for shellfish. They shook hands and were parting ways when the driver said, "Are you guys interested in some mussels for dinner?" Hell, yes.
I thought he was going to pull out a Ziploc and give us enough for an appetizer. No. He gave us a TEN POUND BAG of just-harvested, tightly-closed mussels. Yancey thought it was funny how I acted like we had just won a trip to the Bahamas. We got some ice from a fishmonger at the market, then walked around talking about how we'd fix them and who we'd invite for dinner. Naomi, Michael, my niece and nephew, and Karl ended up coming over, and we didn't do anything fancy. Basil from the garden, white wine and heavy cream, fresh tomatoes, grilled bread. And we sent some home with my sister, gave a giant bag to the neighbors, and will be eating them again tonight. They were plump, small and glossy just like they should be, and tasted like the sea. Just five minutes on the stovetop, which is all a Seattlite can handle in 100 degrees. Maybe tomorrow a gelato truck will need our help. One can hope.
P.S. My sister took this photo of me in the kitchen. She took some cuter ones where I'm looking at the camera and smiling, but I'm posting this one because it's so TYPICAL. Yancey sometimes walks in the kitchen, starts to say something, and then says, "Never mind. You're in the zone." Meaning, I am incapable of coherence until I get dinner on the table. This is me in the zone. It's kind of funny, don't you think?
Penn Cove Mussels with Basil and Cream
Serves four as a main dish--serve grilled bread to soak up the broth and a salad alongside. Penn Cove Mussels are from Whidbey Island and the only place in the world where Penn Cove Mussels are harvested. They are what the fishmonger will likely be selling if you live in the Northwest. If you're not in the Puget Sound Area, use whatever is best where you are.
2 pounds fresh, tightly closed mussels, de-bearded (discard any that are open--this was not a problem with ours)
2 cups dry white wine
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. diced tomatoes
big handful fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
In a large stockpot, saute the garlic in olive oil for a couple minutes. Add wine and mussels, turn heat up to medium-high, cover stockpot, and steam until mussels open, about 4 minutes. Add cream, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and simmer with lid off for another 2 or 3 minutes minutes until liquid bubbles. Dump everything in a wide, shallow bowl and shower with fresh basil.