My waistband is barely beginning to loosen so I have to stay focused. The vacation pounds are hanging on like barnacles on rocks along the shoreline. Salmon was on my mind today but mussels sang to me from their icy bed in the seafood case. In the spirit of light-and-healthy-week, they seemed like a good idea paired with a mixed green salad. Under different circumstances (loose pants), I’d add some coconut milk to this recipe. But, today I’m keeping the calories low and the flavor high so Thai inspired mussels are a great idea and very easy to make anytime. Often, the biggest challenge with mussels is figuring out how clean them and then wondering how to cook them.
This dish has a nice balance of traditional hot and sweet Thai flavors. The flavor star is roasted red chili paste that’s a blend of ingredients including tamarind, fish sauce, shrimp, garlic, peanuts, red chilies, and sugar. It gives you a lot of flavor for only 50 calories a tablespoon. Be sure to check the Chef’s tip at the end of the recipe.
Easy Thai Mussels with Lemongrass, Garlic and Tomato
1 teaspoon peanut oil (or any vegetable oil except olive)
1 whole shallot thinly sliced
2 inch piece of lemongrass finely diced (use white part after trimming end)
2 whole garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste (Thai Kitchen brand)
5 cherry tomatoes quartered
1 pound washed and cleaned mussels
1/2 cup bottled clam juice or 1/4 cup white wine
Juice of half a lime
Chopped cilantro and/or mint to taste
Optional: 1/4 cup coconut milk
Heat a 2 quart pan with a lid over medium heat and add oil, shallots, lemongrass, and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes without browning. Add the red chili paste and saute for up to one minute. Add the tomatoes, mussels, clam juice or wine. Stir to combine all the ingredients and cover. Cook covered for 4-5 minutes then stir the mussels to ensure all of them have opened. If necessary, recover and cook for another minute. If using coconut milk, add just before removing from the stove and stir. Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or mint, lime juice, and stir. Transfer the mussels to a bowl and serve with the broth.
Makes one main course portion or three appetizer portions.
Chefs’s tip: be sure to use a pot that fits the quantity of the mussels. If the pot is too large, the liquid will quickly evaporate and you’ll lose most of your sauce. If it’s too small the mussels won’t cook evenly.