Spicy Spinach Mussels

One of the signs of spring around here seems to be the big bags of spinach that the produce guy is throwing at me. I don’t know what makes him so mad… spinach makes a wonderful ingredient in salads and stuffing, as well as a stand-alone side. So lets put those bags of spinach to good use.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 Prince Edward Island mussels or other high-quality mussels
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 baguette, sliced on the diagonal into eight ¼-inch-thick pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes with their juice, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 cup Duck Walk white wine
  • ½ bunch fresh spinach, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Clean the mussels by scrubbing well under cold running water and removing any beards. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl, and refrigerate.

Pour 1/2 cup of the olive oil into a shallow baking dish. Lay the bread slices in the oil and turn once to coat both sides. Toast the bread for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer the croutons to a plate to cool.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil into a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the mussels, tomatoes, and pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Stir well and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the wine and spinach, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. Discard any that do not open! Really, no joking here… bad mussels go bad in a bad bad way.

Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large serving bowl. Garnish with spinach leaves and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Stud the bowl with the croutons and serve.


Rosé Summer Mussels

Every Mediterranean country has its version of shellfish in a tomato-based broth, and the wine of choice for each is an earthy, full-bodied pink wine. Here, seek out a nice sweet rosé, I sever these with a bottle of Martha Clara Vineyards sweet rosé.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes drained
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 5 oz can v-8 juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, tomatoes, v-8 Juice, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now, when it comes to the canned tomatoes and the v-8 juice, I use the low sodium option here. Too much sodium is not good for you and around here I’m all about cooking things that are good for you… most of the time. So lets get back to the mussels.

Discard any mussels that have broken shells or that don’t clamp shut when tapped. Add the mussels to the pot. Cover; bring to a boil. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels open, about 3 minutes. Remove the open mussels. Continue to boil, uncovering the pot as necessary to remove the mussels as soon as their shells open. Discard any that do not open.

Stir the black pepper into the broth. Taste the broth and, if needed, add salt. Ladle the broth over the mussels and serve with the garlic toast.

mussles with tomato broth

mussels with tomato broth

A Spicy Mussels Marinara

Growing up by Moriches bay, I really enjoyed a lot of things that I found there. The bay itself had a rather large shallow side where you could wade out from shore a good distance and still be in chest high water. Out there not too far from shore it was easy to wade out and find mussels.  The black shinny mollusks just hanging around in the seaweed were waiting to be harvested… they were asking for it.

A spicy mussels marinara:

  • About three pounds of mussels scrubbed debearded  rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 or 2 two small links of spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil

I start by dicing the onion, chopping the garlic, and removing the casing from the sausage. I then brown the sausage in olive oil with the onion and garlic. Once this is browned I deglaze with the wine, bringing up all the fond and making the kitchen smell wonderful. Continue cooking this until the liquid reduces by half.

At this point, I like chopping up plum tomatoes straight from Dad’s garden if he has any. But, canned chopped tomatoes work just fine here, so toss them in, add oregano and salt ‘to taste’ and reduce the heat to medium.  Let this cook a little to reduce the liquid before adding the mussels . Don’t be too concerned, this mixture should be thick; the mussels will provide the main liquid for the final sauce.

Toss those cleaned mussels into the pan and cover. Let this cook for about ten minutes. Now, get a wide, shallow serving bowl of linguini, I did mention the linguini didn’t I, and transfer the mussels onto the bed of al dente linguini. Do not transfer mussels that are unopened. Toss the unopened one out… do not eat those… they are the evil ones.

So, you should have a nice serving bowl of steaming mussels covering a bed of pasta and a great sauce in the pan. I nestle the mussels into the pasta and I like pouring that sauce all over the pasta, but I’ve seen some people serving the sauce separately… those people aren’t from around these parts….