I’ve spent the past month on Cape Cod, surrounded by fresh, perfect seafood. We have neighbors who regularly stop by around dinnertime to deliver filets of fish, only hours, sometimes even minutes out of the water. And on our beach, fascinating sea creatures wash up with the tides. At low tide you can even wander out into ankle deep water to find tiny, newly formed periwinkles, starfish and mussels.
But although I love to go out and hunt for these baby treasures not yet ready to eat, it's the plump local mussels, harvested and sold the same day at my local fishmonger that inspire this month’s featured ingredient.
We know that mussels were among the seafoods consumed in ancient Greece, where it was believed that all edible fruits of the sea were gifts from the goddess of love. It was here that these plump, little bivalves began their aphrodisiac history.
But in 2005, research by a group of Italian and American scientists uncovered just why mussels were held in such high regard since ancient times. The study inadvertently proved that an amino acid found in the mussels the group was studying, directly raised sexual hormone levels! Now, the test subjects in the study were rats and because it wasn’t the effect this particular group of researchers was looking for, there has yet to be follow up on this astounding discover. But the implication for the world of foods of passion is very scintillating!
And whether or not mussels give your libido a jet propelled boost, we know that they do offer many aphrodisiac attributes. Mussels provide lean protein, essential for sustained energy. Mussels also offer manganese, iron, selenium and zinc–all essential for healthy sexual hormone levels.
I’ve been working on a mussel recipe for my upcoming cookbook, Romancing the Stove, (out Jan 2012), and there’s been some debate in the Life of Reiley Test Kitchen about the finishing touches.
I’ve printed the recipe for my plump jewels of the sea below (the very first sneak peak of the book!) but the question we want to know is, should the dish be finished with a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped fresh parsley or, to quote one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past decade, do you like the recipe, “just the way you are?”
Email info@lifeofreiley to weigh in!
Spicy Stir-Fried Mussels
makes 2 servings
1 lb mussels
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 c mirin* (sweet rice wine)
1/2 c chicken broth
1 tsp sriracha (hot chili sauce)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, chopped
1. Rinse the mussels well in cold water, discarding any that won’t shut when handled. If the mussels have not been de-bearded, remove the patch of seaweed, or “beard,” sticking out from between the two shells.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mirin, chicken stock, sriracha and fish sauce.
3. In a nonstick sauté pan or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
4. Sauté the garlic in the oil until edges brown, about 30 seconds.
5. Add the liquid mixture. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.
8. Add the mussels, reducing heat slightly, cover and cook until all the mussels are open, about 4-5 minutes. (They may open sooner.) Remove from heat. Drizzle with lemon juice and toss with scallions.
9. Divide mussels between 2 bowls and serve either with white rice or a crusty baguette.
*If you don’t have mirin, substitute with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.