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In Season: The Mighty Mussel

Thu, 05/10/1979 - 10:32
Wikimedia Commons

Mussels, readily available now that the weather and water are beginning to warm, are yet to find as popular a place on menus here as clams. Perhaps if the Indians had started the colonists off with a mussels bake, the history of seafood consumption would have been totally different.

We have learned to steam the plump apricot shellfish in their shiny black shells. Rarely are they baked or used in chowder or pie. The steamed mussels, hot in a savory white wine broth (moules marinieres) or enriched with tomatoes (cozze posillipo), may be a first course or a meal. The leftovers (by accident or design) become an excellent cold salad.

Here is another way to steam mussels — in a spicy, somewhat Iberian mixture of sausage, garlic, peppers (hot and sweet), onions and tomatoes — and chances are there will be no leftovers at all.

Spicy Steamed Mussels

3 quarts mussels
1/2 cup olive oil
3 ounces pepperoni, diced fine
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup diced green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch dried hot peppers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped fine (or substitute 1 cup well-drained, chopped canned California tomatoes)
1 tablespoon chopped pimento-stuffed olives
1 tablespoon capers
Salt if needed
1/4 cup minced parsley

Thoroughly scrub and debeard mussels. Heat oil in a large, heavy kettle. Add pepperoni and brown lightly. Add onion and green peppers and cook until soft but not brown.

Add garlic and hot peppers, cook a minute or so and then add the mussels, tossing with oil and other ingredients in the pan for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice and tomatoes, toss again, cover and steam until the mussels open, about ten minutes.

Sprinkle with olives and capers. Add salt to taste only if needed (the olives and capers are likely to suffice in the salty department), dust with parsley and serve, taking care to discard any unopened mussels. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread. Serves four.

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