By Barton Seaver
Mussels offer the best of many worlds to a home cook trying to get dinner on the table fast. Firstly, they are packed with protein, vitamins B12 and C, iron and manganese. Secondly, mussels can make it from fridge to the table in 15 minutes flat. And finally, the deliberate process of eating them – taking each one from the pot sitting in the center of the table, pulling the meat from the shell and dipping it into the flavorful sauce it was cooked in – slows a meal down so that your family can enjoy each other’s company as much as they enjoy the mussels.
Mussels are affordable and widely accessible. The small, blue-black shells ensure a durable shelf life for the orange-hued meats inside and offer consumers a fool-proof way to ensure quality: if the shells are unbroken and tightly closed, then they are worth buying. When you get them home, they store well in the refrigerator covered only with several layers of wet paper towels as they need to breathe.
To prep them for cooking, simply rinse them well under cold running water to remove any grit. If any shells have opened since buying them, tap them lightly on the counter, if they close again they can be used safely. If they do not, discard them. To remove any beards – fibrous threads that peek out of the shell – give them a tug using your thumb and forefinger. Pat dry before cooking.
These affordable delights can be prepared with a near infinite combination of ingredients from simple leeks and broth to more exotic coconut, herbs, and sliced green beans. No need to run out to buy special ingredients as steamed mussels are a great canvas for using up those straggler herbs, last few stalks of celery and a neglected jar of mustard in your refrigerator.
The recipes for steamed mussels starts with sautéing onions, shallot, leeks or garlic – in a heavy pot with a bit of fat for a minute. You then add mussels, liquid and hearty herbs and vegetables that can withstand a little steam, cover and cook until the mussels have opened completely in 5-7 minutes. At this point, you check for any unopened mussels and discard those as unsafe to eat. From there you toss in chopped fresh herbs and bring the whole pot to the table. The only side dish needed is a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
Seafood can be some of the simplest foods to prepare and that makes getting more seafood onto your family’s table a commitment you can keep. Eating more seafood can boost your energy, make you feel better, and help you live longer. To find out more about seafood nutrition, visit www.seafoodnutrition.org. To find more of my recipes and information about the importance of seafood go to www.bartonseaver.com.
Steamed Mussels with Coconut milk, Ginger, Lemongrass and Green Beans
- 2 pounds fresh mussels
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 (14-ounce) can of lite coconut milk
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- Red chili pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 cup frozen green beans
- 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons chopped herbs such as cilantro and/or basil
- Crusty bread for serving
- Check to make sure all of the mussels are tightly closed. Discard any that do not close when you gently tap them on the counter. Pull off any beards that may be peaking out of the shells. Rinse whole mussels under cold water to remove any grit. Pat dry.
- In a large pot with a lid, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté them for 2-3 minutes until they soften.
- Add mussels, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, chili flakes (if using), and green beans.
- Cover and cook until the mussels have all opened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Discard any mussels that have not opened.
- Cut the lime in half and squeeze its juice over the mussels and scatter the herbs on top. Serve immediately with crusty bread.