When I go to my favorite supermarket I hot-foot it straight to the bakery counter and buy some loaves of Tuscan Garlic bread and some lovely white bread called Pain de Champagne. I buy as many loaves as my freezer can stand, (right when I get home I pull out a slice, slather it in butter and eat it with a crisp little tipple of white wine – absolutely always).
Next, it’s off to the to the fish counter….it is a heavenly place full of beautiful fresh fish and seafood. I know I won’t be back for weeks so I buy something delicate, something that has barely been out of the water, so, we always have some sort of seafood dish that same evening.
Yesterday I saw for the first time this season soft-shell crab. It was so tempting to buy. There is nothing better than a soft-shell crab fried in butter. When it is this fresh, when the shell is practically a sheath over the body you can eat the entire thing! I had to pass as each one cost more than a chicken dinner for 6!
The shop was capitalizing on it being the first of the season and preying on the purses of the weak-willed with more money than sense. After much drooling, myself and my children ended up with 1 pound of squid tentacles and 2 pounds of mussels – cheap but delicious sea creatures!
I Also bought a can of San Marzano tomatoes, so my dinner menu was set. With the burden of shopping late, and putting everything away I had armed myself with fast and easy dinner ingredients.
I also love having lots of different varieties of onions on hand. I blindly put onions into almost every dinner I cook. There are so many types to choose from nowadays?
My new favorite is Vidalia or Sweet onions, but I love to have shallots and pearl onions in the mix too. Yesterday I spied some cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nees, whose name means “little onions,” in Italian) and thought they would be great to try in my red sauce? Since I was going in the Italian direction with dinner I figured why not? They are squat little onions that are a little bigger than a pearl onion and have a papery thin skin (which is sort of a pain to get off).
They are mildly sweet and hold together well. They are also great for roasting whole because of their flat bottoms (at least a desirable trait in some things).
So what we ended up with last night was a lovely seafood pasta dish. It was quick to make with very minimal chopping. In it’s praise, all I can say is, we all wished there were leftovers..
You will need: 2 lbs mussels, washed & scrubbed, 1 lb squid tentacles, rinsed, 9 cipollini onions, peeled & quartered, 1 28oz tin of whole San Marzano tomatoes with their juices, sliced, 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 cup white wine, 1/2 cup kalamata olives (pitted or with stone in), 4 garlic cloves, chopped, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, 1 lb pasta shells (I use Barilla brand), 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning.
1 – Add the oil to a big saute pan on low heat (big enough to hold the entire dinner when done) and toss in the onions and cook for 4 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes or so.
2 – Add the white wine and turn up heat and let it bubble until wine has reduced to about 1 tbs. Add the tomatoes, chili flakes, several grinds of pepper and the olives and bring everything to a bubble. Turn down heat, add parsley and cook at a gentle simmer with lid on for 15 minutes.
3 – While the sauce is cooking put pot of water on for pasta. When it boils add some salt and cook pasta according to instructions. Before draining scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water in case you need it for your sauce.
4 – When sauce has cooked for 15 minutes, take lid off and add the squid and mussels. Turn up heat slightly and cook until all the mussel shells have opened. Stir every now and then. This should take no longer than 5 minutes or so.
5 – Add drained pasta and gently stir everything together. Add reserved pasta water if you want a brothier consistency. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it. (go easy on the salt initially as the olives may add enough salt to the dish)
Serve topped with a little more pepper flakes and some fresh parsley.