Pacific Northwest Mussels

The days here are getting to be really lovely. The sun is shining out from the rain of early spring almost daily and I must admit that the horizon has been looking beautiful. The other day as I walked on down to the waterfront of downtown I had to stop and admire it all for a bit. You could see the Olympic Mountains a way out and they are just so lovey to stop and pay some respect to it all. It was so clear out you could see the details on them that this photo does not do it justice. I could have stood there for an hour but I had to finish my walk! Olympic Mountains, across the water from downtown

To be honest with you growing up in New Jersey you get a little bit of everything when it comes to nature and terrain. You have your four seasons (sometimes to the extreme), plus you have hills, valleys, a coast line, thick tree lined forests, many farms, and mountains. I use to think that Garret Mountain in New Jersey was so large and grand. My family had gone there many times while growing up and visit the castle that is there (that castle coincidentally is the same place that my parents took many of their wedding pictures.) I thought New Jersey had it all. That is until I came out to Seattle for a visit in the summer of 1993. When I saw the snow capped mountains here, it kind of took my breath away. It is a sight like no other when you are not use to seeing it.

While I was walking the other day I stopped by the waterfront and took a long look at the sound and the mountains. I really feel fortunate living here. In walking just a few blocks I am on the water. I can see all of downtown behind me, the stadiums to the south of me, and in front of me you see the sound, the coast line of West Seattle, Bremerton, and Bainbridge Island. The Olympic Mountains are just a bit further than all of it. When you stand there and take in a deep breath you smell a mixture of the sea, wood, and damp soil & rocks below you. It truly makes me smile.

After that I had to go the market and pick up something for dinner that I felt was very fitting of living in the Pacific Northwest. A meal that to me says Seattle. I picked up some mussels, and some local beer. That in combination with some veggies from the farmer’s market was going to be a meal that I know Brian would love! I placed the veggies, the mussels and beer all in the oven along with some potatoes that I chopped and tossed in olive oil. As the mussels steam in the beer and veggies they will pop open and release their juices. All of it together it will create a lovely broth to have with the roasted potatoes. When Brian saw me cleaning the mussels when he got home he was grinning. When we sat down to dinner he was so thankful and agreed that the meal was very fitting for the Pacific Northwest. I told him how beautiful it was overlooking the water and showed him pictures of my day. We are so lucky that we both savor the city here like we do.

Pacific Northwest Muscles

Pacific Northwest Mussels (serves 2)

Note: although this meal is for 2 it can easily be doubled. Although, cooking time and the size baking dish will need to be taken into consideration.

2 lbs of mussels, scrubbed well

3 stalks of celery, chopped small

2 small or 1 large leek, chopped small (white and light green part only)

1 small or ½ large fennel bulb, chopped small

1 tsp of orange zest

Juice of 1 orange

1 12oz bottle of beer

2 tbsp of butter

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, pre heat your oven to 400 degrees. In a baking dish about ten inches wide (give or take) place your celery, leek, and fennel. Place the orange zest, juice, and beer over it all and give it a good stir to mix it all together.

Next, sprinkle the top of it with sea salt and black pepper. Over the veggies place your mussels, and over the top of them scatter your butter in small amounts. Cover the baking dish with foil and place in your oven for about 25 – 30 minutes.

Then, when your time has passed pull the foil off your baking dish and check your mussels. You are looking for the mussels to be popped open and your veggies to be tender. If they are done, then pull them out. If not feel free to place them back in the oven for at least 10 – 15 minutes longer. (How hot you oven gets and the sizing of your dish might call for it to bake longer.)

Finally, when done; serve up your mussels with some of the veggies and the broth beneath it all. It is great to dip potatoes in or bread if you have any and enjoy.