Some ingredients give the impression that they will be a lot more complicated and costly to work with, than they actually are. A great example of this is mussels. Because we tend to talk about food a lot, we’ve learned that many people have never cooked mussels, assuming that it would be difficult to create a meal with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, mussels are an incredible way to present a fancy meal with almost no effort.
Where we live mussels are really inexpensive, and definitely much cheaper than most other seafood. This is probably the case where you live too. Their low cost may be part of the reason that we ate mussels quite often growing up. Particularly during periods of lent, when seafood such as shrimp, calamari, octopus and mussels are permitted, our parents would often treat us to dinner of these bivalve mollusks. We loved them then, and still do now.
As kids, how could you not love food that you actually got to play with. When mussels were on the menu, our parents would set a large empty bowl in the center of the kitchen table for the shells. After prying out the meat, we would all try to get the empty shells into the bowl, from wherever we were sitting. Bivalve basketball. Some of us had better aim than others, but that was okay. Our kitchen table was always covered with a tablecloth, which was then protected by plastic, making clean-up a breeze.
Usually, when we purchase mussels they are packaged in a net or plastic bag. Keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them, and try to cook the muscles within a day or two after purchase.
Eating spoiled seafood is never a good idea. For this reason, you need to be sure that the mussels you are cooking are fresh and safe to consume. Luckily, this is really easy to do. As you are washing your mussels, be sure that they are able to close and stay closed. This means that they are still alive; mussels will open and close their shell sporadically when out of water. Once they are cooked, the mussels will open. Any mussels which remain closed after cooking should also be discarded.
The outer shell of your mussels may have what is called a beard – seaweed looking particles that are stuck to the shell. These are usually relatively easy to pull off as you are washing your mussels. If you don’t manage to get them all off, don’t worry about it; you’re not eating the shells (we hope!).
In this recipe our parents will either use their homemade tomato sauce, or passata that they purchase. We have listed the passata as an ingredient since it is easy enough to find in the grocery store, but if you have made our parents’ tomato sauce (or your own), by all means, use that.
We love to eat mussels with French fries, but they are equally good served on top of pasta. Because this particular recipe will create a delicious sauce, you can also enjoy these mussels all on their own, with some bread…lots and lots of bread.
Mia Kouppa: Mussels with red sauce
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
- 1 3/4 cup (610 ml) diced yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) capers
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup (250 ml) tomato passata
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) pepper
- 907 grams mussels
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- Rinse your mussels well under cool running water and set them aside in a bowl of cool water. If any of your mussels are open, and do not close when they are handled and rinsed, discard them.
- In a large saucepot heat the olive oil over medium heat and add in the diced onion. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the capers, green onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring often for another 5 minutes.
- To the pot add the tomato passata, water, wine, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
- Add the mussels to the pot. Stir well and cover. Allow to cook for approximately 5 – 7 minutes. Remove lid to check on mussels; the shells should be open.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, or serve immediately. Sprinkle some parsley on top before serving. Enjoy.