Mussels are a nutrient-rich protein and though they may look intimidating at first, the quick-cooking mollusks are versatile and relatively simple to prepare. Rich in selenium and vitamin B12, mussels are also a good source of zinc and folate. They have been on the menu for thousands of years and can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as barbecued, boiled, roasted, steamed, smoked, or fried. Make sure the mussels are still alive before cooking. When out in the air, live mussels will shut tightly if disturbed. Unresponsive and open mussels are dead, and must be discarded since the meat breaks down quickly and can become poisonous. After making sure the mussels are alive, the next step is cleaning them. Rinse off any surface dirt and sand under cool running water. Pull off the beard from the end of the mussels where the shells join together. Let the mussels soak in cool water until ready to use.
Spring vegetables also add a lovely freshness to meals this time of year. Whether enjoyed as a side dish with your favorite grilled or roasted meats, or as a vegetarian main course, vegetables are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber that help keep the body at optimum health. A very good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin C, phosphorus, and folate, green peas are also a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin B2, zinc, protein, magnesium, iron, and potassium among other nutrients. Lima beans are high in fiber and a good source of protein. They also contain potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron.
Steamed Mussels in Mustard Sauce
2 dozen fresh mussels
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons mustard, Dijon or coarse mustard, as preferred
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Clean the mussels and set aside in a bowl of cool water. Place the 2 1/2 cups of water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium. Add the mussels, salt, pepper and bay leaf, cover, and steam the mussels 3-5 minutes until they open. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and the mustard. If preferred, thin out the sauce with a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels, careful to remove the bay leaf. Place the steamed mussels in a serving bowl, drizzle with the mustard sauce, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Season with additional salt and freshly ground pepper, if desired. Serve immediately with fresh bread.
Peas, Lima Beans and Artichokes
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 package (10 oz.) frozen peas
1 package (16 oz.) frozen lima beans
1 package (9 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high until it shimmers, add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the peas, lima beans, artichokes, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir and cook over medium heat until the peas and lima beans are cooked through. Serve as a side with chicken, pork, or meatloaf, and as a main course with cooked bulgur, rice, or pasta.