Sicilian Style Mussel Soup

February 10, 2012

Even people who are not fond of mussels will like this soup. It has robust layers of flavor accented by crushed fennel seeds, hot red pepper paste, fresh lemon juice and oregano.

Sicilian Style Mussel Soup

Serves 4

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/2 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-tablespoon fennel seeds ground to a powder
1 tablespoon red pepper paste or hot red pepper flakes to taste
3 large plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped or canned chopped
2 cups bottled clam juice
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup minced parsley
Salt and pepper
4 thick slices grilled or toasted bread

It is best to scrub the mussels with a bristle brush to rid them of any clinging dirt. Pull of their beards and discard them. Rinse the mussels well and place them in a large sauté pan or soup pot. Add the wine, and minced garlic. Cover the pan and slowly bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook just until the mussel shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Transfer the mussels to a dish with a slotted spoon and strain the cooking liquid through a damp cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Save the liquid and set aside.

When cool enough to handle, remove the mussel meat from the shells. Discard the shells. Set the mussels aside.

Return the pot to the stove top and add the olive oil and onion and cook until onion wilts. Stir in the fennel, red pepper paste, tomatoes, clam juice and oregano. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the mussels and any juices that have collected and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep hot.

In a separate sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat; add the bread slices and brown them on both sides. Transfer the slices to a cutting board and rub each one with the garlic clove.

Place a slice of bread in the base of each of 4 soup bowls and ladle the soup over the bread. Serve hot.

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