Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spaghetti con le cozze alla tarantina


Taranto is my town. It is a seaport on the Ionian Sea. It a very ancient city dating back to the 8th century B.C.
The city has been famous since Roman times for the miticulture, mussels farming but also oyster farming. The particular taste of the mussels in Taranto is due to the farming in the Mar Piccolo, which, in fact, represents a bay. Spring water infiltrations in the sea produce a sweet tasting, delicate mussels. They are small size but very full, meat is tender, not rubbery. Sometimes I don't understand why people is so scared of eating this little gem. It is true that you can get diseases from mussels but so you could for vegetables that have been irrigated with unclean water. Mussels have strong anticorps and they usually are let to rest in deputation tanks (vasche di stabulazione) for a variable time, which make pretty safe their consumption. Maybe don't be extreme like tarantini (people from taranto), where mussels are eaten raw but don't worry too much.
In my town, at the fishmonger, you will find mussels already open (raw) and kept in their liquor. That's the right way to cook spaghetti con le cozze. If you start with raw mussels rather than cooked one the final taste will improve a lot.
If you don't feel comfortable at opening each mussels with the knife, a good way that I alrealy tasted is steam no more than 10 mussels at the time. As soon as they open slightly take them out, they need to open barely to slide the tip of the knife in. They will be still raw. If a mussel doesn't open, it doesn't necessarely mean that the mussel is bad, on the contrary we believe that if it is more resistent at opening it is in a strong and in very good shape. Rather throw away mussels that are already open. Abroad they usually come very clean, in Taranto you have to do the hard job and clean them yourself. Make sure to scrub any foreing object from the shell, also what might look like a rock for you, use a knife to scape it off. And if there is the byssus attached you need to pull it toward you (keeping the pointed side of the mussel facing you). If I knew how to load a video on this blog I'd show how to open a mussel by hand. Don't soak mussels, is not necessary. I dump them in the sink, take three at a time, I vigorously rub them between my hands under the running cold water, by doing that apart from cleaning you'll manage to find already opened mussels. If a mussel is no good, be sure that you'll find out, they smell really nasty. Once I open and collect all the mussels, I pour their water into a separate bowl and filter it with a towel and I rinse very gently the mussels under water.

For spaghetti alle cozze is not complicated. Extra virgin olive oil in a large pan with garlic slivers (one clove is enough for our taste) and fresh hot pepper, when it's hot add the mussels with a little with of their filtered water. Meanwhile the spaghetti are already cooking. Drain the spaghetti really al dente in the pan with mussels and finish cooking adding more mussels water and pasta cooking water if necessary. Sprinkle chopped parsley and a lot of black pepper.

  Posted by Picasa

No comments: