Today is St. Jordi, my favorite Catalan holiday. Today I miss Barcelona. Some say it's the equivalent of Valentine's Day. Maybe so, only it has a cultural addition, which makes it much more interesting. Roses and books, books and roses. The streets of Barcelona are filled with both; traditionally, men gifted roses and women gifted books. But nowadays, we eschew sexism and give whichever we please (or both) to our sweethearts. Bookstores do a large percentage of their sales on this particular day (which is why many people who buy books regularly throughout the year choose to steer clear of the crowds). April 23 supposedly marks the death of both Shakespeare and Cervantes. Heavy duty.
Young ones love this holiday because the legend of St. John and the dragon is perfect for kids; grownups love it 'cause they get roses and books, books and roses.
I guess I should offer a traditional Catalan recipe today; many bakeries sell St. Jordi's bread, a striped red and yellow which I never had the guts -or the gusto- to try. Possibly because the red comes from sobrassada, a Balearic sausage, in the best cases. Instead, I am giving you the recipe that was a favorite at Sobremesa's last tapas event, mejillones en escabeche, marinated mussels. I'm not that traditional, anyway.
Mejillones en Escabeche
5 lb. mussels
1 3/4 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup white wine vinegar (the better the quality of it, the better the outcome, as usual)
1 t pimentón dulce (Spanish paprika)
6 black peppercorns
Scrub and clean the mussels. Drain. Place them together with 1 cup of the wine in a heavy bottomed pot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Drain them in a colander. Let cool and remove mussels from shell, discarding any unopened ones.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, a pinch of salt and sauté about 8 min, until the onion is light brown. Add vinegar, pimentón, pepper and 2/3 cup wine. Simmer 8 minutes, remove from heat and cool slightly.
Stir the mussels into the sauce and pour into a platter. Let cook, cover and marinate in the fridge overnight. Sprinkle with some freshly chopped parsley. Serve with toothpicks, as they do in Spanish bars, if you want to.