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Food for Thought: Mussels, Plain And Simple

Nancy Leson
Nancy steamed 'em with garlic, tarragon, dried red pepper flakes,olive oil, butter and white wine.

"Hey Nance," I asked Ms. Leson.  "Mussels or clams – which wunna dese?" 

"Of dose?" she Philly'd.  "I like 'em both, but it would have to be mussels.  Especially in the summer."

Here's why.

"In the summertime we get those wonderful Mediterranean mussels," Nance says.  They're available year-round, but she thinks they're at their best in the summer. 

These mussels originated in the Med but are now grown locally, hanging from rafts.  

"They're meaty," says Nancy. " The smaller ones are often sweeter but I like the meatiness."  She also pointed out that at roughly the same price per pound as clams, the lighter-shelled mussels offer more moules for your moola.

Credit A passing bear / KNKX
Sourdough Cheryl DeGroot. Mush Bay, Kodiak 1972. Ms. DeGroot's rabbit fur parka provided courtesy of the Kodiak dump.

My wife, the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot, is a bivalve lover from way back.  She still gets wistful talking about the gigantic mussels she gathered while living remote at Mush Bay on Kodiak.  How big were they?

"This big?"  I held up my thumb. "Just the meat was twice that big," the L&T bragged.  Ahnold should  have such mussels.

Nancy was surprised to learn that many of the students in her cooking class were shy about cooking mussels.  Actually, they're a snap to prepare.  I'd run it down for you here, but Nance explains the whole thing in the audio. 

But just for lagniappe, here's a recipe for the classic moules marinieres from The Guardian's Felicity Cloake.

"Shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of  morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle."Pliny the Elder

Dick Stein has been with KNKX since January, 1992. His duties include hosting the morning jazz show and co-hosting and producing the Food for Thought feature with the Seattle Times’ Nancy Leson. He was writer and director of the three Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen. Previous occupations include the USAF, radio call-in show host, country, classical and top-40 DJ, chimney sweep, window washer and advertising copywriter.