Serves: Makes 2 to 3 servings
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 small tomatoes
- 10 to 12 large fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3⁄4 cup dry white wine 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that do not close)
Procedures:This punchy rendition of mussels in white wine offers a quick course on several cuts: slicing, dicing, mincing, and chiffonading. Serve the mussels with crusty bread for dipping into the peppery tomato broth, or ladle the mussels and broth over hot linguine. When buying mussels, ask the fishmonger for a bag from the refrigerator in back, which are often fresher than those in the front display.
- Trim the stalks from the fennel and cut a thin slice off the bottom; then core and cut the fennel into 1⁄4-inch crosswise slices. Put the fennel into a large bowl. Cut the onion crosswise into 1⁄4-inch semicircles and add to the bowl. Peel the carrot and cut into 1⁄4-inch dice and add to the bowl. Peel and mince the garlic and add to the bowl.
- Core the tomatoes. Cut them in half through the equator and squeeze out the seeds. Cut them into 1⁄4-inch dice and put them in a separate bowl. Cut the basil into chiffonade and reserve for the garnish.
- Lightly crush the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. (alternatively, put them in a small self-sealing plastic bag. Using the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, lightly crush them. Transfer the spices to a small dish.) add the salt and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a heavy 6-quart or larger stockpot over medium heat. add the fennel, onion, carrot, and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spice mixture. add the wine and the tomatoes along with any juices in the bowl. bring to a boil.
- Add the mussels to the stockpot (don't stir), cover, and steam until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Scoop the mussels into individual shallow bowls, discarding any that remain closed, and then spoon some vegetables and broth over them. Sprinkle each bowl with basil and serve immediately.