Guys! I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane to Italy. ITALY! While I have been traveling a lot lately, I haven’t been to Europe since I was 15 and went one summer with my parents and sisters, at which time my only goals were to 1) get a tan, 2) seek out United Colours of Benetton stores in order to source an authentic green and white rugby shirt, and 3) flirt with cute Italian boys on scooters. (Mission accomplished.) I’m ecstatic and nervous, loaded down with work and reading material and snacks for the 9 1/2 hour flight to Frankfurt, and I can’t wait to find out if the pizzas and pastas taste as ethereal as they did to my 15 year old self.
Most of my packing time was spent packing up the kitchen, because while I spend my time sitting in Italian trattorias and visiting producers of pasta, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan and ham, Mike’s to-do list includes tearing out the kitchen. The timing was fortuitous – I’m sure I’d be almost as weepy pulling out my old counters as I was kissing W goodbye outside the airport. (Almost.)
While my parents had long since designed and built their own house by the time they were my age, we’ve never been big on home renos. Maybe you can tell? The process has been far longer than I anticipated – even the figuring out of what we want, what needs doing, and who needs to do it. I keep running into people who excitedly ask is my kitchen done yet?? And it’s not, but it’s on its way – I figure being without a kitchen is as good motivation as any to get moving on a new one, no? And as soon as I get back from Italy (squee!) it is ON.
(I’m also doing renos here, still. For real. I know.)
My guess is we’re going to rely heavily on the barbecue – the timing is better than that year my parents did kitchen renos in the middle of winter – and really, it’s kind of like having an oven and stovetop outside anyway. I haven’t yet attempted a pot of oatmeal on it, but I did recently discover the joy of a batch of mussels cooked in their shells directly on the grill. Toss them on, close the lid, and in five minutes you have perfectly cooked mussels, ready to toss in garlicky butter. If you toss some lemon wedges or halves on the grill too, they’ll release more of their juice more easily over your warm mussels. If you’re a fan, there are few things better to eat on the patio in flip-flops, with cold beer or Prosecco, crusty bread and a few of your favourite people. Who needs a kitchen?
Grilled Mussels with Garlic, Butter & Lemon
1 lb fresh mussels
lemon wedges or halves
olive oil, for cooking
1/4 cup butter
1 garlic clove, peeled
fresh parsley, for garnish
While you preheat your grill to medium-high, rinse your mussels, discarding any that are already open. Cut the lemons in thick wedges or in half crosswise and brush the cut sides with oil.
Scatter the mussels directly on the grill along with the lemons, cut-side down. Close the lid of the grill and cook for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and garlic clove in a small saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave until the butter melts.
Remove the mussels from the grill – they should all be open; discard any that don’t. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with the garlicky butter; toss to coat. (Alternatively, drizzle with olive oil.) Transfer to shallow bowls, scatter with parsley and serve with crusty bread and grilled lemon.
(Note: I recently ran this recipe in a grilling story in the Calgary Herald – but it’s really more of a method, and people were so happy to hear they could grill fresh mussels that I thought I’d share it here, too!)