Steamed Mussels with Leeks and San Marzano Tomatoes

Recipes by Nancy Johnson | Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Low in fat, high in protein, and a good source of several vitamins and minerals, mussels have been enjoyed as food for more than 20,000 years. Easy to cook and relatively inexpensive, mussels are perishable and should be eaten the day they are purchased. To clean mussels, scrub under cold water just before cooking. Discard any that don’t close with a sharp tap. Snip off the fibrous “beard” attached to each shell. To clean leeks, soak for a few minutes in warm water to loosen any dirt between the tight layers. Swish softly in the water, blot dry and thinly slice. The San Marzano tomato is a variety of plum tomato, sturdy and sweet, grown in southern Italy.

2 leeks, white parts only, soaked, rinsed well and sliced.

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 can (28-ounce) San Marzano diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 TBS minced fresh basil

French baguette and butter

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook leeks in olive oil until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in tomatoes with juice, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Add mussels to the leek mixture, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until mussels open, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Divide mussels with leek/tomato mixture among 4 large shallow bowls. Garnish with minced basil. Serve with French baguette and butter.

Gary: The San Marzano tomatoes will not offer the heavy flavor influence to this dish as a typical, concentrated red sauce would, so look for whites of character and some richness. Try Albariño, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé or, considering the red pepper flakes, a dry Riesling or Vouvray/Chenin Blanc. An unoaked Chardonnay might have a bit more alcohol and bring out some heat, but its rich texture and crisp acidity would make a good pairing with light tomato sauce.

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