I call mussels the 'gondole of the sea' because of their shape and pearly black shell. I ate them in Venice and more recently brought 5kg back from Portarlington, Victoria and shared them around. I must say I have had a feast on these juicy, sweet molluscs. One way to enjoy them is as an entre` - Gratin of Mussels or in Italian, known as Cozze Gratinate.
Memories of Venice immediately filled my mind and prompted me to write this post and share a few photos...
With only a few days to myself to try and absorb its magical charm and take in as much of its beauty, I decided to ditch the map once again and allow this city to draw me in. I was feeling quite selfish and wanted Venice all to myself, I yearned to meander through the eerie and mystical alleys and small squares, losing myself until surprisingly appearing before some grand building or canal...and this I did.
The first time I visited was in full winter and it was beautifully mysterious but the weather at the time prevented exploring. This time it was in September and although the weather was perfect, the down side was the amount of tourists around, so I avoided the vaporetto and tragetto stayed on land and made my way around on foot; the only way to explore.
Experiencing the food was also on the agenda. Venice is packed with wonderful restaurants, featuring the cuisine of the Veneto region with its trademark food being seafood.
Specialties include: 'Spaghetti allo Scoglio', 'Cichetti' (savoury morsels served at a bar) 'Polenta', 'Sarde in Saor' (fried sardines covered in sweet and sour onions), 'Risotto al Nero' (rice cooked in cuttlefish ink sauce) and of course 'Baccala` Mantecato' (a spread of creamed cod fish served on slices of crusty bread)...just to name a few.
Cicchetti and an aperitif such as a Spritz 'all' Aperol, a Negroni or even a Bellini - which is a mix of white peach juice and Prosecco, (invented in Harry's bar in Venice) were a favourite.
The Rialto food market was buzzing with people and stalls selling fruits, vegetables and a range of fresh seafood, if wanting a break from restaurants and needing to cook for oneself.
Piazza San Marco was filled with tourist and to my great disappointment, I didn't get a chance to dine at nor enter Caffe Florian. This beautiful Venetian Cafe` that has been standing since 1720 will just have to wait for my return...
Cozze Gratinate (Gratin of Mussels)
This recipe serves 8.
2kg mussels in the shell, cleaned
200g fresh breadcrumbs
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt & pepper optional (I omitted the salt, as the mussels are already flavoured by the sea)
Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1tbsp oil. When hot, add 1 peeled clove of garlic.
When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels. Cover and cook until open, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In the meantime, collect parsley, remaining garlic finely chopped, breadcrumbs, and remaining oil in a bowl. Mix with a spoon until all combined.
Once the mussels are cool, open them and separate the empty half shells from the ones with the mussels.
Place the half shells with mussels on a baking tray. Fill with breadcrumb mixture and place in a hot oven until breadcrumbs are a light golden brown. This is a wonderfully flavoured appetizer that goes well with a glass of Prosecco. Enjoy!