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Mussels Zortich

2 pounds fresh mussels, tightly closed
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 whole carrot, sliced 1/8" thick
2 whole stalks celery, sliced 1/4" thick
1 whole fennel bulb, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
2 14-oz cans Italian tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
1 pinch saffron
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch salt
1 whole dried cayenne pepper

There are two rules in preparing and cooking shellfish: Don't cook
them if they are not tightly closed. Don't eat them if they are
not open after cooking. The way my mother taught me to check
mussels, is by trying to slide the shells sideways against each
other. If they slide easily throw them away. There is nothing
worse then having a whole pot of mussels tainted by a few bad ones.
If in doubt toss'em.

Rinse mussels in cold water. Scrub to remove attachment points
and remove beards.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed, pot on medium heat. When hot,
add olive oil and coat bottom. Add chopped garlic and toss to
season oil, but do not brown garlic.

Add chopped onions and stir until translucent. Add sliced carrot
and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Turn down heat, add sliced
celery and cook 10 minutes more, stirring often.

Add tomato sauce, white wine, saffron, salt, and cayenne pepper;
cover, raise heat to medium, and bring to a boil.

Add chopped fennel, chopped herbs and mussels. Cover and cook 20
minutes. Spoon opened mussels into serving bowls and pour sauce
over top. Serve with fresh, or toasted, French bread and enjoy!

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