Surf and turf

The unusual lentil/mussels soup that I ate at Savore in New York City was on my mind ever since that night. Last night, I decided to do something about it.

I’m one of those nuts who try to deconstruct the ingredients that go into a restaurant dish, especially when the dish sparks my appetite and my interest. Mussels with lentils was such an unusual pairing—at least I’ve never done it before—that it was a natural for me to think about deconstructing…and if that fails, I simply construct my own!

I believe that I have captured much of what was in that bowl at Savore, whether I did it with the proper ingredients is not the issue for me. To my taste, the earthiness of the lentils and the fishy-ness of the mussels (and broth) was truly an interesting version of “surf and turf” dining, and that is all I sought to duplicate.

The other day, my wife and I ate trout for dinner. As we usually do in our home, the bones from the trout did not get thrown out; they rested in the fridge overnight and waited for their appointment in the morning to simmer on the stove in water to make a fish stock. (We seem to have a stock pot simmering almost every day, from fish to chicken to vegetable.)

My aim for the trout stock was to use it as part of the base for my experiment with lentils and mussels soup, which we had at dinner last night, and for lunch as leftovers today. Here’s how I made the soup.

I steamed a bag of mussels until they just popped open their shells, and put the mussels aside; then, I added the water from the mussel-steaming plus the trout stock (total of six cups) into a pot, cleaned and screened one and one half cups of lentils and put them into the pot, added a teaspoon of cumin, three large bay leaves (we have two laurel trees), and a chopped cayenne pepper (we grow and then freeze them), brought everything to a boil and then simmered it for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils simmered, I chopped two large carrots, one large fennel stalk (in place of celery, which to me tastes like kerosene) two garlic cloves, one onion and put them aside.

After they simmered to tender, I took half the lentils out of the pot with a slotted spoon, pureed them, mixed the lentil puree back into the pot and added the chopped vegetables. Everything simmered until the vegetables cooked to tender.

At the last minute, I stirred into the pot the juice of one lemon and two tablespoons of olive oil; then, I added the mussels (in their shells), lowered the flame to below low, covered, and let the mussels get hot in the pot.

The result was close to Savore’s but not exact. It was, however, quite a nice soup—both times that we ate it.

At Savore, I drank Morellino di Scansano with the soup. At home, we tried it with a Heron Hill Cabernet Franc. The wine is clean and crisp, very much in the Chinon style, but it was not the best pairing for the mussels and lentils soup.I’ll have to try it again with another wine–any suggestions?

Some have asked about my prostate cancer situation. I don’t care to go into too much detail, but I am feeling fine. I’ve been given a hormone shot to shrink and make brittle the cancer cells in preparation for radiating them. The shot produces potential side effects; in my case, the side effects have been minimal, almost to undetectable.

According to the doc, my overall good health (and the fact that I take no medications, nor have I ever been a habitual smoker) should benefit me during this process. But I do not fool myself; I know that when radiation begins I will suffer fatigue and who knows what else! Until then, I will exercise daily, eat healthy, drink some wine, and keep on writing.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2011. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author’s permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement–period.

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