mussels with lovage, wine, tomatoes, shallot; crusty bread

A bowl of steamed mussels is one of the most satisfying one-dish meals you can place before guests, and it’s also one of the easiest. I’ve been using the same recipe for years, and I really should come up with a new one. But this one is so good, and I bring these beautiful bivalves home so seldom (I don’t know why), that there’s not much motivation to look for another.

This dish is perfect for a hot evening, since the entire process requires less that the heat (a burner on top of the stove) be on for than 5 minutes. I found the recipe in the New York Times, where it was described as adapted by Sara Dickerman from “The Herbal Kitchen,” by Jerry Traunfeld.

There are also few ingredients, with little preparation needed (what there is to do is very easy and can be done leisurely), and everything goes into the pot at once.

The mussels were fresh, and seemed just about perfect, their little shells snapped tightly closed, until they had been steamed (we didn’t lose a single one).  Also, there were almost no beards to be trimmed (apparently they were all boy mussels or pre-teens).

The tomatoes were spectacular, as I had come to expect from this farmer, over several years.

I set the table with bigger spoons than usual this time, to better enjoy the liquid, and that meant bringing out some larger pieces of old coin silver, for the first time (we don’t have soup very often). They’re light and thin, but quite large, which was standard for a period all-purpose spoon, unless it was to be used for stirring tea; the key is to fill them only a little each time. They were made in southern Ohio, either Cincinnati or Chillicothe, by Edward P. Pratt, almost 200 years ago. They look brand new; maybe their previous owners didn’t serve soup very often either.

There was a dessert!