Mussels are easier to cook than you’d think.
Credit: Victor Protasio

Mussels are among my most favorite seafood. The small, blue-black shells guarantee a durable shelf life for the orange-hued omega-3-rich meat inside. You can store them in the fridge covered with a few layers of wet paper towels for several days. They offer home cooks a foolproof way to ensure quality—if the shells are tightly closed, the mussels are worth buying. Plus, mussels are available year-round and can be found at most groceries with a fresh seafood counter.

This dish is surprisingly easy to make at home:

These affordable delights are excellent cooked with nearly any combination of ingredients you likely have on hand, and most herbs, spices, and liquids can be used to impart delicious flavor.

But don’t let their practicality limit you; these quick-cooking mollusks are as perfect for date night as they are for Tuesday night. And my favorite thing about mussels? Even though they cook quickly, eating them is slow and deliberate: Bite by bite, each delightful morsel is removed from its shell, dipped in sauce, and savored with crusty bread.

Here's a great basic recipe for mussels with leeks and tarragon. But if you don't have (or don't like) any of the ingredients, all you need to remember is that good mussels require a liquid, some aromatics, some herbs, and a garnish. You can swap in any of the below to create your favorite combination, or experiment. 

Credit: Cooking Light

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Barton Seaver is chef and director of Harvard's Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative