Steamed Mussels & A Buttermilk Frangipane Cake
I hope that everyone had a great holiday break and celebrated the New Year as they wished. Quietly or with lots of fireworks and revelers. I don’t know about you but even if I don’t make resolutions I truly enjoy this feeling of starting clean that comes with January. Twelve new months, yours for the taking. Yours to create, get inspired, start, accomplish…There is something exhilarating about the new year.
Personally, it gives me an even greater wish to leap, with all my fears at times, or without any at others. It also fills me with the desire to reset the clocks, just like we do with a new calendar. Internal clocks, personal clocks, work clocks. Setting priorities and goals. Making inspiration and mood boards.
It’s been good to dive back into creating recipes, writing the stories around them and thinking about their photographs. There are lots of fun blog projects in the planning. In the middle if all these "happy new year moments", my family suffered another great loss yesterday. Once again, without my family being close enough to hug and comfort, I turned to the only things I knew to do at the time. Clearing my head, getting inspired and cooking.
Anchoring feeling of loss to the present, to tangible things I could do and explain, I took my camera and headed to the beach. I observed quietly. My fingers got numb gripping my camera straps so hard. But the colors, the quiet empty beach before me…blues, grays, reds… They put my mind at ease. The waves crashing at my feet truly reminded me that life is "it". It’s full if we make it so. It’s not perfect because we make it so. There is life inspired in everything.
On my way home, I stopped at the fish stands at the end of island and got a bag of fresh mussels. My comfort food. It was close to lunch time. Convenient to start cooking. Like most of us, beside being a necessary act of survival, food is also part of our story. My food stories involve every member of my family. They include many friends. They are full of laughters, jokes, pranks, animated discussion, etc… They are full of life.
Deeply aware that every part of me was now bursting with energy and inspiration, I cooked and photographed. I found my rhythm in the things I knew to be my constant. After a much needed break over the holidays it felt good to be back in it. Normalcy coming back little by little.
Steamed mussels are pretty much my go-to super fast dinner or lunch. They really take very little time and are super flavorful when cooked with some white wine, garlic and parsley and finished off with a spritz of lime juice for example. Ok, they are a bit messy but that little imperfection is part of their charm. Just like the beaten up Key limes I got at the store (in the reject box where overdue fruits are sold for pennies to the pound). I am founding imperfection really soothing lately.
The cake was an experiment that did not turn out the way I hoped for but which did not take away any of the wonderful taste or aroma. I had made a small galette des Rois over the weekend and had a half quantity of frangipane left. I layered it with the cake batter and swirled it, hoping it would create a nice design when cut through. I apparently did not swirl hard enough. Imperfect result. Perfect taste. Paired with a cold glass of milk and I suddenly felt my entire body relax.
As cliche as it may sound, food truly has magical powers. Well…cake does…!
I truly wish you the happiest of New Years. Live fully. Play hard. Leap and take chances. Tiny or big. Do what makes you truly happy.
1 pound fresh mussels
1 cup of white wine
1/3 cup seafood stock (or water)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
lime or lemon juice (I used a Key lime)
Clean the mussels by scrubbing them under cold water and remove the little fuzzy "beard" that hangs on some of them.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the white wine, stock and garlic. Bring to a strong simmer, add the mussels all at once. Cover the pan with a lid (or if you are like me, lid-less, another skillet of the same dimension). Let the mussels cook 6 to 8 minutes. Thrown in the parsley, toss with the mussels. Discard any that did not open and serve immediately with some of the an juices and a spritz of lime or lemon.
Buttermilk & Frangipane Cake:
Makes two 8-inch loaves
1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (125ml) sour cream
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups (280gr) Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or 2 cups regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 portion frangipane filling (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease two loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the oil and lemon juice and zest and mix until well blended. Add the flour mix and baking powder and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth. Divide half the batter in between the two pans. Top each pan with the frangipane filling over that first layer. Divide the remainder of the cake batter in between the two pans to cover the frangipane.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes (on convection) to a hour (regular) until a knife inserted in the middle comes free of raw batter.
1/2 stick (55 gr) butter, softened
1/4 cup (25gr) sugar
1/2 cup (50 gr) ground almonds (blanched, slivered, whole, your call)
2 tablespoons (30gr) heavy cream
Place the butter, sugar, ground almonds, and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.