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When Hearts Celebrate

Deane is The Times' Test Kitchen Director

When people think of Valentine’s Day Champagne comes to mind. Here, it’s in the food (paired with mussels), not in a glass.

When buying or preparing mussels (which are considered an aphrodisiac), tap any whose shells have opened. If they’re still alive and fresh, they’ll close up; if they don’t, don’t use them. Scrub the shells under cold running water and remove the stringy “beards” before steaming. Remember that they cook quickly. If overcooked, they will be tough.

You should get lots of delicious cooking juices. To serve, spoon the broth over the pasta along with mussels. Only one cup of Champagne ends up in the sauce, so have a Valentine’s toast with the rest--along with iced caviar and water crackers or toast points, of course.

MUSSELS IN CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

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2 pounds mussels

1 cup sparkling dry white wine

Nonstick cooking spray

4 cloves garlic, minced

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3 tablespoons minced onion

1 (1/4-pound) package mixed mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, oyster)

1/4 pound fideos, angel hair or other thin dry noodle

1 plum tomato, seeded and minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Cracked pepper

Chopped chives

Scrub and de-beard mussels. Rinse and drain. Cook mussels in wine in large, heavy, covered sauce pot until shells open, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove mussels from pan and keep warm.

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Spray wok with nonstick cooking spray. Heat well, add half the minced garlic and onion and cook until onion is tender, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cooking liquid from mussels, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 5 minutes to blend flavors. Add mussels and heat through, stirring mussels to coat with sauce. Keep warm.

Cook noodles in large pot of rapidly boiling lightly salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Toss hot pasta with tomato, remaining minced garlic, oregano and cracked pepper. Divide pasta between 2 serving bowls. Spoon over mussels with broth. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

2 servings. Each serving:

530 calories; 668 mg sodium; 117 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 37 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber.

* Plate from Barneys, Beverly Hills.


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