Show Me Your Mussels

For my 20th birthday, I had a few friends over for a sophisticated party. Nothing too wild, the party was an afternoon affair. I had a few friends over for a light meal and opening presents. My mom made mussels, one of my all-time favorite meals.As my mom was cooking the mussels in the kitchen, my friend, filled with curiosity, wandered in to observe. He had an important date coming up and really wanted to woo this woman. He thought making her mussels might do the trick, but he was afraid they’d be too complicated to cook. My mom assured him that there was nothing to it and walked him through the simple steps of how to cook mussels. His date ended up being a success and the two of them dated for many months until graduation inevitably sent them in separate directions.
This birthday anecdote exemplifies why I love mussels. They seem so fancy, yet they’re affordable and easy to make, and they always wow the crowd.
When I’m cooking in the summertime, I want a meal that takes minimum effort to prepare while giving me maximum taste and satisfaction. Lately, I’ve been making meals for dinner that I could make with my eyes closed–grilled salmon, salad, corn on the cob, and mussels. That always comes as a shock to my friends when I tell them I had mussels for dinner in the comfort in my own home. These scrumptious mollusks are easy to make! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to your local fish market and pick up the freshest mussels you can find! (1 lb. for 2) When I’m in Milwaukee (which I usually am in the summer), I go to St. Paul’s Fish Market for the freshest fish around.
  2. Pick up a dry white wine in which to cook your mussels. When it comes to cooking with wine, I look for cheap, but also something I would drink (thanks mom and Julia Child for teaching me this important lesson). Obviously you’re going to have a glass while you’re cooking (another important tip from both my mom and Julia Child), so you want something that tastes good and doesn’t break the bank. My mom always cooked with Frontera, so that’s become my go-to wine for cooking. I usually use a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay.
  3. Chop up a bunch of scallions and a clove (or 2) of garlic. You’ll be adding these to sauce.
  4. Wash off mussels. Put them in a pot. Add wine (enough to cover mussels but not too much so you can’t properly cook off the alcohol), garlic and scallions.
  5. Cover pot. Bring to a boil. Once all mussels have opened, turn off the stove, and there you have it (as Julia used to say)!
  • Serve over pasta or with a side of crusty bread.
  • Fun fact: the shells make great dipping spoons.
  • If you’re still feeling extremely unmotivated to cook, here are some places (that I like) where you can go to get your mussels fix:
  • Whether you decide to cook your mussels at home or enjoy someone else’s cooking, I hope you throughly enjoy your meal. Bon appetit!
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    August is the Sunday Night of Summer

    It has been a great summer. I have had the good fortune to attend many concerts, baseball games, and take several trips.  For the most part, the weather has been agreeable (aside from the extreme humidity and the flash floods) and I have been able to enjoy some quality time basking in the sun and dipping in various lakes. 

    As we approach the middle of August, I cannot help but get that sinking feeling that I get on Sunday evenings after a great weekend as I mentally prepare to face another work week.  Even though I am not a student and do not work in a school, I still feel like the days of summer are numbered.  The college kids are already returning to their campuses and school-aged children are dragging their parents to Target to get the school supplies off the list and perhaps a  Optimus Prime lunch box.  Sometimes I wish I, too, could partake in back-to-school shopping as I love the smell of fresh notebooks and pencils.  However, I am no longer in need of such an abundance of office supplies at one time.

    Of course, when I mention to people the fact that I feel summer coming to a close, I am met with confused looks and choruses of, “You’re crazy! Stop being so negative!” It’s not that I am negative, it is just that I start to feel the passing of summer as I complete the major milestones of summer.  For me, the major milestones of summer are my early June birthday, Milwaukee’s Summerfest (which spans the last week in June and first week of July), the Fourth of July, the annual family vacation to New Hampshire in early August, and attending the final concert of the summer season at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI.  I guess there is still Labor Day, but its passing marks the official end summer (in my mind at least).

    Summer’s end can feel so tragic because  it is more than just the end of a season; it is the end to a carefree way of living.  Everything feels more laid back  in the summer and because of that, I take life less seriously during this time of year.  In summer, I am more likely to take a weekend trip on a whim, more likely to have that extra beer in the 7th inning of a Brewers game, and more likely to go to a concert on a Tuesday night when I have to work early the next morning.   My justification for doing such things is always, “It’s summer! Who cares?!”  However, that justification is not so effective when the weather begins to cool and the first leaves begin to fall.  It seems nonsensical to stay out late on a work night in November, the way I might in June or July.  There is no eleven day music festival in January that I can use as an excuse to blow off going to the gym and getting enough sleep.

    Just because the warmth of summer will eventually end, does not mean the carefree living of summer has to end.  The key is keeping the summer spirit alive in the coldest, darkest moments of December, January, and February.  I can still take risks and be laid back; I simply have to wear a few extra layers and remember to my hat and gloves.  Maybe even secure a pair of snowshoes.