Mussels in a Summer Mood


The winter I lived in Paris, I discovered moules frites, a popular (and cheap) meal of mussels steamed with wine and served with French fries. Although I love mussels, I never liked the sharply acidic flavor of the white wine most bistro chefs used in cooking this dish. It wasn’t until a trip to Sicily, where I enjoyed mussels showered with fresh herbs and a touch of lemon juice, that I knew I had found an ideal way to prepare these beloved bivalves.

This fragrant dish is a delicious surprise if wine-splashed mussels are all you have tasted. The flavors of the herbs also make it a great summer meal. In addition, mussels, which are high in iron, selenium and vitamin B-12, are also a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Three ounces of cooked mussels provide less than 150 calories and only 4 grams of fat.

Purchasing farmed mussels is an environmentally friendly choice. Cultivated in the Prince Edward Islands, along the New England seacoast, or cold Pacific waters, they are sustainable seafood raised with minimal environmental impact. Their harvesting is monitored under the auspices of The National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), which tests to make sure the water is safe. To make any potential problem traceable, this program also requires that bags of mussels be tagged with the shipper’s name, location, harvest and shipping dates, plus a certification number.

Mussels must be alive when you cook them. As Paul Johnson explains in his award-winning cookbook, Fish Forever, test to ensure the mussels are alive by pressing the shells of open ones together. If they are alive, they will react and try to close.

When you are pressed for time, farmed mussels need only a good rinse before going into the pot; cook them just until their shells open. Avoid overcooking mussels, which toughens them, and discard any cooked mussels that remain closed.

Mussels with Lemon and Herbs – Makes 4 servings.

8 (1 inch) slices Italian or French peasant bread
1 garlic clove, halved
2 pounds mussels
1 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup fat free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano leaves
Toast or grill bread. Rub each slice with garlic clove. Discard garlic and set bread aside.

In colander, rinse mussels well under cold running water and pull off any fibers from the shell (known as “beard”). Set the mussels aside to drain well.

Sprinkle onions over bottom of medium-size Dutch oven or heavy pot with tight-fitting lid. Heap mussels on top of the onions. Add broth and 1/2 cup water. Cover pot and set over high heat until liquid boils. Reduce heat to medium and cook until shells of mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Pour lemon juice and olive oil over hot mussels.

With slotted spoon, transfer mussels to 4 individual, shallow bowls. Check for any that have not opened and discard them. Pour liquid from pot (including onions) over mussels. Sprinkle on parsley and oregano. Serve immediately, accompanied by garlic-rubbed bread for dipping into broth.

Per serving: 360 calories, 10 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 33 g carbohydrate, 31 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 540 mg sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

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