$12 and 15 minutes to pescatarian luxury!
I love mussels for their delicious flavor, affordability and simple cooking requirements. You can find fresh black mussels for about $5 per pound. This bunch cost me about $12.
My well-stocked pantry usually inspires the creative process and this recipe was no different. I flung open the door to my pantry and connected with my inner artist. After panning my choices, I decide to go Asian-Caribbean with my theme. Cooking with an region or specific culture reference in mind can be fun.
I pulled out a small can of crushed tomatoes and lite coconut milk before opening the ‘fridge and grabbing the fresh lemongrass, cilantro, and a little cooked whole wheat pasta. I also conjured up a few spices from my cabinet along with a garlic clove.
Peak season for mussels is October through March but they can be found year-round thanks for aquaculture. On a recent episode for season two of my show Appetite for Adventure! I had the pleasure of visiting Baja Shellfish Farm in Ensenada and learned all about the shellfish farming practices. According to the experts, the long lines create protection and habitat for many fish species. The lines act like a kelp forest, creating protection from predation and a nursery for juvenile fish and invertebrates.
How to buy mussels
When shopping for mussels, make sure they are kept over and under ice, and that their shells are glistening with moisture. Dry shells on the outside are a good indication that the shellfish is bad. Mussels can live out of water for a few days, but they should be kept well-chilled and stored in a breathable environment.
The US Food and Drug Administration offers some good tips to keep in mind when selecting shellfish:
- Look for the label: Look for tags on sacks or containers of live shellfish (in the shell) and labels on containers or packages of shucked shellfish. These tags and labels contain specific information about the product, including the processor’s certification number. This means that the shellfish were harvested and processed in accordance with national shellfish safety controls.
- Discard Cracked/Broken Ones: Throw away clams, oysters, and mussels if their shells are cracked or broken.
- Do a “Tap Test”: Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close when the shell is tapped. If they don’t close when tapped, do not select them.
Let’s get cooking!
- 2 lbs fresh mussels, rinsed and debearded
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- ½ can or 6 oz of light coconut milk
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 large frond of fresh lemongrass
- Sea salt
- Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flake
- Oil oil
Add the olive oil to a large pot and add the garlic. Sauté ‘until fragrant over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, lemongrass, red pepper flake and cilantro, and cook for 3 minutes covered. Turn the heat to high and add the mussels. Use a large spoon to mix things up. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mussels open.
I added cooked, whole wheat pasta to the pot once the mussels were done. The noodles absorbed the gorgeous sauce and added a bit of flair. Crusty French bread or mini steamed potatoes would be great additions.