With garlic, fennel, tomatoes, and a bit of orange zest, this soup has a nice Provençal feeling. And with cultivated mussels, which barely need to be cleaned, it's a snap to prepare. If you can't find mussels, try a fairly firm white fish, such as cod, instead--the soup will be different, but equally good.
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
8 1/2- inch slices baguette
3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound prosciutto or other flavorful ham, chopped
How to Make It
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, garlic, fennel, celery, bay leaf, orange zest, and turmeric. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Put the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Broil the bread, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes in all.
Discard any mussels that are broken or do not clamp shut when tapped. Add the water, salt, pepper, and mussels to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels open, 3 to 5 minutes.
As the mussels open, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells. Remove the bay leaf. Stir the cream into the soup and bring just to a simmer. Stir in the mussels and the prosciutto and serve topped with the toasted slices of baguette.
Wine Recommendation: In Provence, where fish soups are staples, they're washed down with bottles of the delicious local pink wines. Look to the mourvèdre-based rosés from Bandol for a perfect match.