LINGUINE CON VONGOLE ROSSE. LINGUINE WITH RED CLAM SAUCE

Oh the aroma of Fresh Littleneck Clams simmering in a tomato sauce flavored with garlic, wine, and Peperoncino. It’s the stuff Italian food dreams are made of. Provided you have the right ingredients this is a very simple dish to make in the home kitchen. ItalianAmericans grow up on this dish. We make it for Christmas Eve dinner. We make it for celebrations. We order it out. Clearly there are many ways people cook this dish. Personally I prefer the whole clam method using our local Littleneck clams harvested in the wild off our coast. Not everyone lives at the Jersey Shore or Long Island Shore so it’s not always a practical ingredient. If your local seafood store carries Manila Clams or New Zealand Cockles use them. In fact if you’re trying to cook more like they do in Italy only a live whole small clam will do. The smaller the better. Littlenecks are a bit larger than the clams in Italy but since they are local and fresh they are what I use. Certainly you can use canned if that’s all that’s available. Don’t deprive yourself of a delicious plate of seafood pasta. Like the first Italian immigrants to the USA did, they improvised and in turn created classic we still enjoy and treasure today. If possible look for Italian canned tomatoes as in imported from Italy. My choice is the San Marzano DOP variety. Now let’s get into the kitchen together and create magic for ourselves, family and friends. You can do this!!

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

For 4 people. Time: 1 hour

3 1/2 dozen fresh small clams like Littleneck, Manila, or New Zealand Cockles. Whole Foods generally carries most of these.

3 tbs olive oil

4 sliced cloves of garlic.

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. Peperoncino (dried red Chile flakes)

1/8 cup dry white wine

2 28 oz cans of Imported Italian Plum Tomatoes called Pomodori Pelati. My preference is the San Marzano DOP variety.

1 lb Imported Italian Linguine. deCecco is a popular Italian brand sold Nationally.

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large cast iron pan heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and season with the salt and Peperoncino. When the garlic does its happy dance and the aroma is amazing add the wine. Let this bubble and cook for about 5 minutes. Empty the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands or use a food processor. Pour into the garlic and oil. Stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium. Let this cook for 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently. Now add the clams. Then cover. Reduce to a simmer and let them steam in the sauce until they open. Check to see if they have opened after 10 minutes. Stir gently. If some are still close cover and let cook another 5 minutes. While the sauce is cooking cook till just al dente the Linguine in plenty of salted water. Drain. Any unopened clams discard. Add the linguine to the pot and coat well. Cook for 2 minutes. Finito. You should need any more salt to season since the clams add Their briny liquor to the mix. It’s truly a little bit of heaven in you mouth when you taste this. My versionI think is close to the source. No herbs. Tomato. Garlic. Olive oil. Hot spice. And the oceanic wonder of the taste of the clams. In places where fresh clams are impossible to find use a large can of chopped ocean clams or the minced ones but only cook for 5 minutes after adding them. Serve with extra Peperoncino and a drizzle of Olive oil. I load my plate up but always be mindful of your diners. A pinch of it as you add in the sauté gives a nice kick. You can amp your serving up with more but you can’t remove the heat if you’ve loaded it up in the sauté. Buon Appetito!!

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RAGU’ BOLOGNESE…this is how I make it

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE is the stuff that heated food debates are made of. A meat and tomato sauce from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy it’s morphed in many kitchens and restaurants globally as ANY tomato and ground meat sauce for Pasta. Well…..call it what you will but there really is a specific sauce with specific more or less agreed on ingredients that are what Italians know to be RAGU’ BOLOGNESE. There’s even a certified formula for the sauce filed in October of 1982 to preserve the historical food heritage of this beloved dish. Unless it’s this method or ones close to it, it’s not a Bolognese sauce but instead a Meat Sauce with Tomato for pasta. Still very delicious. Still wonderful. But not a Bolognese. At the heart of this is that to be Bolognese you need something to be from Bologna. The close to the original as compiled by people in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna is the one filed in the October. For purposes of this blogpost I’m giving you some food facts and reasons why one is called one thing and something is called another. I realize that after reading this you’re going to simply say, Who cares it’s All Bolognese!! LOL. Whatever. I’m asking though that you try this recipe as I’ve developed it and hope that you enjoy it as yet another sauce to add to your recipe file.

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE

3/4 LB GROUND CHUCK (BEEF)

1/2 POUND DICED PANCETTA

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICED

1 CELERY STALK, FINELY DICED

1 LARGE CARROT, PEELED AND FINELY DICED

1/2 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

3/4 CUP DRY WHITE WINE

1/2 CUP HOMEMADE OR LOW SODIUM/NON FAT BEEF STOCK

28 OZ CAN OF IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES RUN THRU A FOOD MILL OR IN A PROCESSOR TILL SMOOTH, OR USE THE SAME AMOUNT OF PASSATA OR POMI

3/4 CUP OF WHOLE MILK

SALT AND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. HEAVY CREAM (OPTIONAL…THE RULE IS, IF USING DRIED PASTA, ADD THE CREAM. IF USING FRESH MADE PASTA, DON’T ADD IT. WHY? THE BOLOGNESE SAID SO THAT’S WHY..LOL)

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1 LB TAGLIATELLE OR PAPPARDELLE, COOKED AL DENTE

Using your heaviest saucepan/dutch oven, cook the pancetta on low stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and let these cook for at least 10 minutes on low until they are softened. Then add the ground meat, raising the heat to medium. Let the meat mix with the pancetta and vegetables and cook this until the meat has finished browning. At least 10 minutes. Deglaze this pan with the Wine and stir. Cook this down for about 8 minutes, stirring. Add the Tomato and the 1/2 the stock blending well. Cover the pot and leave on simmer for 2 hours checking occasionally. If at any time it’s looking to dry add more stock. After you’ve passed the 2 hour mark uncover and pour in the milk and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, your sauce should be thickened and fully cooked. If it’s at all watery continue to simmer for and additional 15-20 minutes. If using the cream add it now and stir into the sauce. Now for optimal flavor do this all a day ahead of making the pasta dish. No crime is committed if you eat it all on the same day but it really does get happier overnight!! When ready to serve…Cook the Pasta according to the package instructions till al dente. Drain…In a wide pan that will accomodate all the pasta add a few ladles of the sauce. Then the pasta. Mix…heat for only 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Grate a nice amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Blend in, and then serve. 1 lb of pasta will feed 3-4. I hope I’ve done justice to one of the World’s greatest sauces. Mangiare Bene!!

SKILLET (PAN) EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA IN PADELLA

EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…what a gift Italy gave to the world!! Some commentary on La Parmigiana which is what Italians call it often as in Italy the only PARMIGIANA is Eggplant. There’s some conversation that in Sicily there was also Veal Parmigiana but mostly any other type of Parmigiana was not created in Italy but by inventive Italian immigrant cooks to the United States where they adapted their beloved eggplant parmigiana and decided to use meats, fish, poultry in the same style. It took off and became some of America’s most beloved ItalianAmerican dishes. Veal and Chicken Parmigiana when made well are simply wonderful. Pork and Beef as well as Shrimp are made into Parmigiana too. Let’s though talk about Eggplant Parmigiana. History point again to Sicily as the origins of this meltingly delicious blend of layers of cooked eggplant, Italian cheeses, some tomato sauce then baked to meld everything together. It’s a perfect food. I’m smiling as I blog this thinking of how often my mom made it. Hers was almost always thin sliced and breaded in 4C Italian Flavored breadcrumbs in her Electric frying pan. My sister AdeleMarie has one too and swears it’s the only way to fry batches of eggplant without having to change the oil. It cooks them perfectly she says confirming Mom’s love of the Electric frying pan. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I would salivate incessantly when she’d call for Dad to go down in the basement and bring up the pan. I knew there would be fried eggplant cutlets to eat out of the fryer sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano. By the way, they make amazing hero sandwiches. When we would go to the beach she’d make cold Eggplant Parmigiana sangwiches along with Ham and Cheese, Chicken roll and Swiss, Bologna and cheese sandwiches. Some plums. Some grapes, maybe some nectarines if she thought they were nice at the farmers market, usually Palermo’s or Bifulco’s. So when I think of Eggplant Parmigiana regardless of how it’s made I think of all those times Mom made it. However…the best eggplant Parmigiana in the family, as good as mom’s was, my Aunt Angie Scaramuzzi made the “most bestest”. Enough with my past Parmigiana…let’s talk about how you make it. There’s not one way and my most popular way of making it is thin sliced, dipped in flour, beaten eggs and pecorino, then fried, then layered in the typical manner with cheeses and sauce and baked. However, there’s also a way to just do it on top of the stove. The eggplants are fried in olive oil. then a sauce is made in that oil that’s been infused with garlic and basil. Then the cooked eggplant is layered into the pan, covered in abundant grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, your choice..then topped with Mozzarella, or Provolone, or Scamorza. Again, your choice. The top is covered and once the cheese has melted you’re done. Nice? Great, I thought you’d like it. This eggplant is naked…it’s just fried. This actually harkens back to most Sicilian recipes for La Parmigiana. Many Sicilian recipe have no stringy melted cheese, just the grated. See? You can make this a few different ways. I’m giving you choices here. The leftovers are amazing, infact they taste better on day 2.

SKILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES

1 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANT SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH ROUNDS

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS TOMATO PASTE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

FRESH BASIL

GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO

1 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA OR DICED SCAMORZA

In a saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on medium heat. Add the garlic and just when it’s fragrant add the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/ 2 tsp of pepper, some basil leaves, then cook for 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in a processor or with your hands, then add to the pot. Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. While that is happening, heat 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil in a heavy wide skillet. On Medium heat fry the eggplant on both sides (CRITICAL HERE!!!) till they are SOFT, the eggplant has to completely cook before you can finish the dish. If your heat is too high you’ll scorch the eggplants, take your time. Should take about 15 minutes to get them soft thru both sides. Add more oil as needed. Remove the eggplants to paper towels to drain. Pour the cooked sauce into the pan. Lay the eggplants in pan…cover with grated cheese, some basil leaves, more sauce, do a second layer if you have enough, more sauce, cheese and basil. At this point you can cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes. This is a very Sicilian way, with no mozzarella, just the grated cheese. DELICIOUS. OR, top the pan with the diced cheeses and cover. Wait until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Now..remove from the heat and let it sit for 2 hours before serving for maximum flavor, just gently reheat. OR you may serve as soon are you’ve let it rest for 15 minutes. Up to you.

Now there’s plenty of flavor in this dish, and there’s not a shopping cart full of ingredients. It’s simple basic flavor which are the hallmarks of Italian cooking. Enjoy this dish..let me know how you like it!!

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO….VONGOLE AL FORNO ARREGANATA

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO!!! This dish SCREAMS “I’M ITALIAN AMERICAN”. Certainly these clams have their genesis in the Southern Italian food style of adding a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs to seafoods, vegetables and then baking them in a hot over to brown and crisp the tops. The ingredients of the breadcrumb mixture will differ from cook to cook but there are some basics. It’s called OREGANATO or ARREGANTA indicating that there’s oregano (dried) mixed as a seasoning. Add to that Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, peperoncino, olive oil, chopped parsley and a nice finish with fresh lemon. All too often the dish is overshadowed with too much breading and you lose the sweet little clam hiding under all that coating. LITTLE NECK CLAMS Are the usual size for this dish. They take no time at all to prepare and are a wonderful dish for the homecook as a starter to a meal or on a seafood buffet.

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO SERVES 4 TO 6

3-4 DOZEN FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SHUCKED OR LIGHTLY STEAMED JUST UNTIL THE SHELLS POP OPEN SLIGHTLY. REMOVE THE TOP SHELL, DISCARD.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, 1/4 CUP FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FINELY CHOPPED/MINCED TOGETHER SPRINKLED WITH A LITTLE KOSHER SALT.

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

1 TSP DRIED OREGANO CRUMBLED BETWEEN YOUR HAND TO RELEASE ALL THE OIL, SICILIAN OR GREEK OREGANO IS BEST IF YOU CAN FIND IT.

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

1 1/4 CUPS PLAIN (UNSEASONED) ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

JUICE OF 1 LEMON (NOT MEYER, USE REGULAR LEMONS)

LEMON SLICES

KOSHER SALT

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F. Mix the breadcrumbs, the oregano, garlic and parsley, the cheese, peperoncino. When it’s blended then add 1/2 the olive oil and the wine, blend in. Fill each of the clams with a bit of this mixture, maybe a teaspoon or just a little more. Lightly pat the crumbs down..Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and into the oven they go. Bake until the crumbs are browned, takes about 12-15 minutes. drizzle a little lemon juice over the tops just before serving. Careful..they are hot…!!! Serve with the lemon slices.

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE, CAPRESE CHICKEN, MY VERSION

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE

CAPRI!!! Have you been there? It’s a wonderful rocky island in an azure sea off the coast of Napoli. It’s romantic. It’s scenic. It’s Campanian. It’s loaded with good food. It’s Italian. Americans are very familiar with the Namesake Salad from there called INSALATA CAPRESE. At its most basic this is a salad of Fresh made Mozzarella layered with ripe sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and fruity delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Some sea salt and black pepper (or not) and you’re done. Sorry, no Balsamic on mine, that’s an addition created over here, not in Capri. Balsamic Vinegar is a product of Modena, hundreds of miles away on the Italian Mainland many provinces away from sunny Campania in the south. Southern Italian food should always be…SUNNY…bright, colorful, especially when you’re invoking an Island with cliffs, beaches, sun drenched days and warm nights. Get the picture? I’m much too logical for my own good, or is it OCD? I’m sure it’s a combo of both but when Mozzarella and tomato are baked into something it falls into the Al Forno or Sorrentino style of Southern ITalian dishes. Caprese is a room temperature combination of some ingredients. I’ve poured over CrockPot, InstantPot, Airfryer, baked, roasted, fried, and microwaved versions of Chicken Caprese and haven’t liked one yet because somewhere in all of them something is lost in translation. See, there’s my OCD or Logic. Caprese is a raw salad..why are you cooking it. If you add it to chicken should the chicken be grilled, then marinated and tossed or layered with the typical Caprese salad ingredients? Good, but not spectacular. The chicken became a distraction from the salad components instead of a compliment. My Chicken Caprese is more like what some people today call Chicken Milanese in the restaurants. A Fried Chicken cutlet topped with a salad, with or without mozzarella. Delicious but still not what i was looking for. So I decided to lightly bread whole boneless breasts and bake them. When they were done I let them cool and then topped them with a salad of sliced cherry tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, chopped fresh basil, sea salt, black pepper and the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can get your hands on. When the chicken was out of the oven for about 10 minutes over the top of it goes the tomato salad. The salad should be made no less than 2 hours before serving, this way the tomatoes leech their juices and the resulting marinade is a heady mix. It soaks right into the breading on the chicken and it’s an amazing

THE SALAD: First we start making the salad. For 4 serving portions use :

3 pts. RIPE CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

1 1/2 CUPS DICED MOZZARELLA

(OPTIONAL!!!) 1 1/2 TBS FINE DICED RED ONION OR 2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC, not both.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 CHOPPED OR TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES (WARNING, WARNING, do not use dried basil. Its flavor is markedly different than fresh, and it’s really not used in Italy. It’s an American convenience herb. If fresh is unavailable, the dish is just not worth making. )

SEA SALT TO TASTE, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE.

Mix all together and let sit covered in a cool place for at least 2 hours.

8 THIN, POUNDED ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN BREASTS

1/4 CUP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SEA SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

3 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/4 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

KOSHER SALT, PAPRIKA, BLACK PEPPER

OLIVE OIL for FRYING

Set up a station for frying. First the cutlets. Then the bowl of seasoned flour. Then in another bowl mix the breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley, and salt, paprika and black pepper to taste. Cover a sheet pan with a few layers of paper towels. One by one, dredge the cutlets in the flour…shake off excess. Then into the eggs. Then let the excess run off, then press into the crumb mixture making sure you’ve well coated both sides. Line these up on a line baking sheet. When done move them to the side and set up your frying station. In a cast iron or other heavy frying pan heat 1/2 inch of olive oil until a bread cube place in it starts to sizzle and brown. Now your oil is ready. Give it 6 minutes or more. Without crowding the cutlets add a few at a time Give them 3-4 minutes per side, till nicely golden and tender. Add more oil as needed letting it come back up to temperature between batches. Drain the finished cutlets on the paper towel covered tray. Serve one or two cutlets per person (if feeding 4) and pour a nice amount of the Caprese Salad over them Let them sit for 2 minutes, then serve. I like to add a grating of Pecorino over the warm draining cutlets, along with a grinding of black pepper. That’s just me. Adds additional flavor. Serve!!

So many ways to create this ItalianAmerican classic but this is my way. You can switch out the Pecorino with Parmigiano or Grana Padano but my preference is the Pecorino. When frying the cutlets be mindful of your stove top and pan…you may need to adjust the heat on it in the beginning so you don’t burn the crumbs before the chicken is fully cooked. Just an FYI. Happy Cooking!!!

TRY A TASTE OF AUSTRALIA’S CHILLI MUSSELS

A BOWL OF CHILLI MUSSELS, CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO, CERVANTES, W.AUSTRALIA

CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.

https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/recipes/chefs-recipes/mussels-with-chilli-garlic-and-white-wine-9229