If both you and your date like mussels, then this is your dish. For me, mussels are a total turn-on. I think the affinity goes all the way back to a date with my high school girlfriend at a cozy, down-to-earth neighborhood restaurant in Philly. It was a warm spring night, and we sat by an open bay window. We shared a big order of mussels, slurping and sucking our way enthusiastically through the fresh tomato broth and the tender shellfish. Needless to say, I’ve been making mussels ever since. I still like to heap all the mussels and sauce in one big bowl because there’s something very sensual about eating from the same serving bowl. Mussels are a bit sloppy, but that makes it so much better. You’re in the mess together, you can laugh about it, and you’re turning each other on in the process. Forget your inhibitions and just run with it!
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 to 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 dashes hot red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds mussels
- A big handful of roughly chopped fresh basil
- Crusty bread
Heat the oil over high heat in a pot large enough to hold the mussels comfortably. Add the garlic and cook just until you can smell it, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes, wine, and 1 cup of water. Add the red pepper flakes and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the broth is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir the mussels into the broth, cover the pot, and cook until the mussels open, 4 to 5 minutes. Throw in the basil and give a good stir. Slice your bread into dipping-size pieces. Toast the pieces in a skillet or oven.
Carefully—so that you don’t splash tomato all over the place—ladle the mussels and broth into a large bowl and bring them out to the table along with the bread. Have individual plates to eat over and to put your shells in.