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Recently we had my family over for an open house. We have been in our new place for a while now and not everyone had been here to see it. So we decided to do a luncheon. I had two ideas going into this party – I wanted to make something rustic and old-school hearkening back to the times that Italians stopped what they were doing to enjoy a nice lunch spread together out in the fields, on a big slab of wood turned into a table. Also along this theme, I really wanted to make something using ingredients that we already had at home.

Too many times when preparing for a party, I decide on a menu and then go and buy all the ingredients. This time, I wanted to challenge myself more and use what was around. We had been to the Farmer’s market the day before and had gotten our staples: potatoes, tomatoes, squashes, onions and beautiful bread. We also had a bag of frozen mussels in the freezer. So I decided to make a regional dish from Puglia, called Tiella di Cozze or Mussel Casserole – it is said to have descended from Spanish Paella. Since we were having a crowd, I also added some shrimp to the dish, which was topped off with a delicious bread crumb and parmesan topping! It was wonderful.

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We served it with a nice green salad,Garlic-Rosemary Foccacia from Maria, the bread lady at the Farmer’s Market and finished with a

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Yogurt Carrot Cake with Toasted Hazelnuts . Keep reading for the recipes.

Tiella di Cozze

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INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs mussels
1 lb shrimp
½ cup wine
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb potatoes, thinly sliced
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large yellow squash, thinly sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
salt & pepper to taste
4 ounces grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup bread crumbs
½ TBS dried oregano
½ TBS dried tarragon
reserved liquid from shellfish


METHOD:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Scrub and rinse the mussels well. Pull away beards and discard them. Throw away any mussels that have cracked shells or are open. Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Wash and pat dry. Put mussels and shrimp in a large sautee pan, add the wine and cover the pot. Steam them until mussel shells begin to open. Take the shellfish out of the pan – while doing this remove the top shell from the mussels and discard – leaving the mussel in the bottom half. Set these aside.

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Spread olive oil in a casserole dish. Arrange a layer of onions over the olive oil. Add a layer of potatoes, squash, zucchini and tomatoes on top of each other. Then place the mussels in their shell as well as shrimp on top to make another layer. Salt & pepper to taste.

Combine cheese, bread crumbs and herbs together in a small bowl. Spread some on top of the mussels. Keep layering vegetables, shellfish, and breadcrumb mixture until all is used up. You want your top later to be the breadcrumbs. Pour reserved liquid down the sides of the casserole. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until veggies are tender. Scoop with a spoon to serve. Serves about 8, generously.

Yogurt Carrot Cake

I used a store bought carrot cake mix and instead of using oil, I used plain yogurt. I made whipped cream using Tahitian vanilla extract for flavoring and used the whipped cream to ice the cake. I then sprinkled the whole thing with chopped, toasted hazelnuts.