Mussels are a food I eat only in the summer when I go to Sicily. My nonna prepares them in the same way each time, steamed with garlic, olive oil, and parsley and ladled over steaming spaghetti. They are one of the foods I look forward to each year. For some reason, I had formed the idea in my head that mussels are inedible in the US.
Granted, many things in the US are inedible compared to their counterparts in Sicily, and the mussels in Sicily are certainly tastier, but these are far from inedible, especially if you treat them right in a flavorful broth like this one.
So, now that I have discovered that mussels can be eaten here, I wonder why more people don’t eat them. I mean, they’re cheap, healthy, make you look fancy, and even sustainable (they actually clean the water they live in). Mussels are one of the healthiest shellfish, with high levels of B vitamins (good for your brain) and minerals like selenium and manganese. They are also a great source of protein, cook in no time (like barely 5 minutes), and cost about $5 a pound. I actually got mine at $4.99 for 2 pounds, which fed me twice!
Today I went to the little abandoned garden plot that I steal vegetables from and got the last of the arugula, chard, and parsley before they succumb to the winter. The arugula was looking a little sad so I decided to use it immediately in this dish, but you could sub in any quick-cooking green, like spinach. I threw in some leftover canned tomatoes, a bit of tomato paste to round out the tomatoey flavor, and half a broth cube, added the mussels and some water and voila, they were ready in no time.
Make sure you have good quality crusty bread to sop up the broth!
Cozze con Pomodoro e Rucola
1 lb mussels
1 bunch arugula or other green of your choice
1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 broth cube or 1 cup broth
1 garlic clove, minced
crusty bread, toasted
Clean and de-beard the mussels: Discard any mussels you find that are already open, you only want tightly closed mussels. Wash the mussels with water and scrub them with steel wool if they have a lot of barnacles and other nonsense on them. Don’t worry too much about getting every last thing off them, just make sure they are reasonably clean. To de-beard them, swiftly yank out the little beardy thing dangling out of the side of the mussel.
Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium-sized pot and add the garlic. Sautee the garlic in the oil until it releases its flavor, then add your chopped up greens, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste and sautee until the greens wilt and the tomato paste is fully incorporated into the vegetables.
Add the mussels to the pot and pour in the broth or add your broth cube and 1 cup of water. Lightly salt, but don’t overdo it because the broth has some salt, as do the mussels naturally. Cook covered for about 5 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. If some stay closed, discard those.
Serve in the broth with slices of toasted crusty bread.
Serves 1-2 people, just add more of everything if you have more people.