My friend Heidi gave me a wonderful ‘vintage’ cookbook for my birthday recently – she obviously knows how much I love to cook AND how much I love old cookbooks, so it was a perfect gift. “Cooking Fish and Shellfish” was written by Ruth A. Spear, published in 1980.
Gosh, in 1980 I was a freshman in high school – a sobering reminder that 37 years have passed since then. Well, Happy Birthday to me!
Anyhew, I was scrolling through the pages and came across the section on Shellfish, Mollusks, and Bivalves, which inspired me to do something with mussels since I’ve been thinking about sustainability lately (see my post on Sustainable Seafood). Ruth wrote “A mollusk found clinging to rocks along both East and West coasts, the crescent-shaped edible blue mussel is one of the most nutritious, its protein content being almost the same as steak. . .” Obviously, she was referencing wild mussels, but I know they’re also farm-raised, so I dug a little further to learn more about these interesting little mollusks.
According to Seafood Watch at the Montery Bay Aquarium, mussels are considered one of the world’s most sustainable and eco-friendly foods. Why? Because they’re resilient to salinity and water temperatures, can grow just about anywhere, and don’t negatively impact the environment in which they live, which is why they’re one of the most prevalent seafood products grown in aquaculture (farm-raised) environments. Growing them is pretty easy, too — basically, it starts with a rope. When mussels begin spawning in warmer water, farmers put out long lines (ropes) in the water to collect larvae. The larvae eventually attaches to the ropes, where the mussels grow. These ropes may be eventually suspended from poles or rafts at the surface, or planted in the ocean bottom, depending on location and harvesting rules of the area. Once they attach, they feed on natural food particles in the water, and don’t require augmented feeding techniques.
Plus, they’re delicious, nutritious (high in protein, low in fat & calories and full of omega 3 fatty acids, just to name a few), reasonably priced, and available pretty much year-round to consumers. Now that’s a lot of good stuff.
The first time I saw mussels in an aquaculture setting was on Cape Cod, several years ago. Brendan and I stayed in Truro for a night and, while walking the beach near sunset, spotted several raft-looking objects on the water’s surface. As the tide waned, it was clear that under those rafts were suspended ropes with thousands of baby mussels attached to them. It was so interesting to see the process in action (I wish I had pictures). Farm-raised methods are happening all around us, and we may not even know it!
So I picked up a batch of beautiful mussels and headed to my kitchen, where I considered an array of flavorings to pair them with, including classic wine/garlic/butter/parsley, tomato/cream sauce, and even my own recipe with spicy chourico (which includes tips on buying & prepping mussels). But since I had a new tub of tasty white miso paste in my fridge, a bottle of chili paste sitting next to it, and lots of limes (because they were on sale), I decided on something a little different. . .
The tender, flavorful mussels worked wonderfully with this yummy miso/ginger/lime/garlic combination, with an undertone of heat from the chili paste. If you give it a try, you’ll find that cooking mussels is so easy, and takes mere minutes.
This dish was perfect with buttery, grilled bread and a glass of crisp white wine on a hot (Florida) summer night. Nothing better than enjoying something tasty AND feeling good about where it came from 🙂
Please let me know what you think of this post in the Comment section below!
- 1 lb. mussels
- 2 Tb. white miso paste
- 2 Tb. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 Tb. olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1 tsp. ginger, grated
- ½ tsp. chili paste (or more if you like it very spicy)
- ¾ - 1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
- Juice of 1 lime
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Handful fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
- Crusty bread, grilled or pan fried
- Wash, scrub and de-beard mussels. If any are open, tap them and if they don't close, toss them since they're no longer alive. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
- Mix miso paste and butter together in a small bowl.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium/low heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and cook until tender (careful not to burn the garlic) about 2 minutes.
- Add miso paste/butter mixture and stir to melt into the onion/garlic/ginger.
- Whisk in chili paste and broth. Adjust heat to medium.
- Place the mussels into the sauce and cover the pan.
- Steam about 8-10 minutes. When all mussels have opened (if any have not, toss them), turn off the heat and transfer them to a serving dish. Spoon sauce over mussels. Sprinkle with lime juice and parsley and serve with bread.