Curried Mussels with Lemongrass *Award-Winning*

The lemongrass we planted in our garden grew very well. It is almost as tall as Amy! As it starts to get cooler out, we are trying hard to use up all the herbs and vegetables that are still growing abundantly in our front yard. So, we wondered...what would lemongrass be fabulous in? Then we spotted a 2-pound bag of Prince Edward Island mussels at our market for $4.99, and we had our answer.

When you are cooking with lemongrass, you are really only using the bottom part of the stalk. First you chop off the long grassy part and then peel away the outer layers of the bottom stalk, kind of like you do with fresh corn. Underneath should be a pale yellow fleshy stalk that is soft and fragrant. Cut off and discard the bulbous end, then slice thinly about 2/3 of the way up. The green and woody upper part can be used for infusing flavor into a broth, but is not very edible, so should be removed before serving.

This dish uses some random ingredients besides the lemongrass, that is true. But these are things we buy when we see them, often at Asian markets, and tend to keep around our pantry when we are looking to make something unusual or slightly exotic. For New Englanders anyway.

So this dish includes red curry paste and fish sauce which we can find in our normal grocery store, as well as dried galangal, which we bought in Boston's Chinatown, but can be replaced with some grated fresh ginger. Even lemongrass is hard to get around here (although if you need some, we have plenty!!!). If you can't find it, substituting some grated lemon zest would do the trick.

While the broth, with all these exciting ingredients, was smooth, sweet, spicy and citrusy, it turned out slightly thin and didn't seep into the mussel shells as well as we wanted it to. We just ate all the mussels then sopped that tasty broth up with some fresh crusty bread. To solve that problem in the future, we might leave the hot water out of the recipe. 

Curried Mussels with Lemongrass

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup hot water
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 pieces dried galangal
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon liquid sugar (simple syrup)
1 can light coconut milk
2 pounds fresh PEI mussels

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the curry paste and stir to fry for about a minute. Stir in the water, then add the lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the mussels, stir to coat, and put a lid on the pot. Cook, covered, over low heat until the mussels open, about five minutes. Serve with crusty bread.


Sorghum and Spice Gingersnaps (Secret Recipe Club)

Here we are. It's mid-September, and yet we still haven't told you about the last week of summer that we spent in Maine. That would be because we're teachers. That we'll get around to it sometime is about all we can promise right now. But for today, it's time for September's Secret Recipe Club. We sat out of the summer reveals because we were away a lot, but we're back and certainly glad to be, especially after the tasty results we got today's recipe!
Our SRC assignment this month was Yumsilicious Bakes. At first we were nervous. ALL of Yums's recipes are for baked goods, and, as you may know, we've had a few baking disasters in the past. But then we received some inspiration: this gorgeous leaf we found on our lawn this weekend. Yes, it's almost fall and what's better for fall than crisp spice-flavored cookies to match the crisp spice-scented air? Let's make gingersnaps!

Avanika of Yumsilicious Bakes adapted her gingersnap recipe from one by David Leibovitz who based his on Alice Waters's version from The Art of Simple Food. This particular cookie recipe was even more exciting for us because it calls for molasses, and we've been wanting to bake with this Bourbon Vanilla Sorghum that Bourbon Barrel Foods sent us to try. Molasses, a by-product of sugar, can be used interchangeably with sorghum. And this sorghum, milled in Kentucky from a single crop then blended with Kentucky Bourbon and Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla (yes, those are ALL the ingredients!) is earthy, sweet and spicy and, we thought, would give that certain complexity to our cookies that we are always searching for.

Did it ever! The crisp, sugary cookies have remarkable depth of flavor with hints of cinnamon and vanilla and a nice kick from the black pepper. In the spirit of fall, we used orange sanding sugar to make them pretty. We ate them with tea, then by themselves, and later that same day, stuffed with chocolate chip gelato as ice cream sandwiches. We couldn't get enough! For fans of Pepperidge Farm Ginger Man cookies or any other crisp, spicy gingersnap, we highly recommend this fabulous recipe. Thank you to Yumsilicious for sharing it, and to Bourbon Barrel Foods for the amazing sorghum. What will we make with it next?
Sift together dry ingredients

Cream together butter and sugar

Add sorghum and one egg

Mix in dry ingredients

Wrap dough and chill

Slice dough and top with sanding sugar

Bake, then cool on wire racks

Sorghum and Spice Gingersnaps
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Bourbon Vanilla Sorghum
1 egg at room temperature
sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the egg and sorghum and mix until well incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes, then roll to shape into a cylinder. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone mat. Slice the dough into roughly 1/4-inch thick rounds. Dip the tops into the sanding sugar, and place on the baking sheet, leaving room to spread. Bake for 13-14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, and store in an air-tight container.


Almost Wordless Weekender: Wedding Cupcakes

Cupcakes we got to take home from a wedding reception we attended.
Alas, we only wish we could make these.
Gorgeous and delectable!


EZ Orzo Salad

On Saturday, one of our nieces turned 30. Yes, that makes us feel old, and she's not even the oldest of our 15 nieces and nephews (including a great-nephew and a great-niece) who range in age from 37 years to 6 weeks old. The party Saturday, for K, was a casino night theme, and one of the many activities was to answer questions (there were 30) about the birthday girl in order to win extra bucks. And one of the things we found out about K is that her favorite salad is orzo salad.

Now, we know for a fact that K's orzo salad is delicious because she made it for us once. We foolishly did not ask her for the recipe, but orzo salad was on our minds the next day when we needed to come up with a side dish for a little Labor Day BBQ we were hosting. And so, here is our version of easy orzo salad, inspired by our beautiful niece K. It makes plenty (we fed 8 and still had some left over), and is a great way to use those cherry tomatoes that just keep on growing in our garden! And it went perfectly with our lemon-rosemary rotisserie chickens!

To find the recipe for the roasted tomatoes, go HERE.

Orzo Salad


1 lb. orzo
1/2 lb. crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons boxwood basil
1 tablespoon purple basil
1 tablespoon basil oil

Prepare the orzo according to package directions. When it is done, drain it and rinse it well with cold water. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.