Recipe: Cooling off with spicy mussels

Lynda Balslev | TasteFood

Looking for a simple and inexpensive summer dinner? Mussels are healthy, easy to prepare and ideal for outdoor dining. They cook in minutes, which is convenient when the weather is hot and you prefer to keep your kitchen time to a minimum.

The simplest method for cooking mussels is to steam them in a broth. Use a flavorful liquid, such as white wine -- or in the case of this recipe, coconut milk -- to infuse the mussels with flavor while they steam. As the mollusks cook, their shells will open, releasing their sweet and briny juices into the liquid and creating a flavorful soup.

This Thai-inspired recipe relies on a heady concoction of coconut milk whisked with a slurry of green curry paste and aromatics for the steaming liquid. The resulting dish is a fiery, roll-up-your-sleeves dinner -- perfect for an outdoor meal where you can make a glorious finger-licking mess, with dribbles, splashes and wayward shells contributing to the table decor. Add to that, the spice in the curry-infused cooking broth is guaranteed to make you sweat -- which happens to be a tried-and-true method of cooling off in the summer heat. The only other requirements are spoons for slurping up the sauce, a big bowl for the spent shells and a whole lotta napkins.

Thai-style Steamed Mussels

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 2 small shallots, thinly sliced

• 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

• 1 heaping tablespoon Thai green curry paste

• 1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light)

• 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

• 1 teaspoon fish sauce

• 2 pounds (about 24) mussels, scrubbed and debearded

• 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish

• 1 small red or green chile pepper, such as Fresno or jalapeno, thinly sliced

• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

• Lime wedges for serving

• Cooked jasmine rice for serving, if desired

1. Heat the oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the curry paste. Pour in the coconut milk, brown sugar and fish sauce, whisking to blend. Bring to a simmer, then add the mussels and stir to coat. Cover the pot. Cook until the mussels open, 5 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, opening the lid only to check for doneness.

2. Remove the pan from the heat. Discard any unopened mussels. Stir in the cilantro, chiles and lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice if desired.

3. Ladle the mussels and broth into serving bowls. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges. Serve with cooked rice, if desired.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at


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