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Mussels Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Mussel Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

...or Give Mussels a Chance. Let's admit that you don't like them cooked in the simplest possible way, like these ones, and let's also admit that you're still in doubts regarding their sex appeal. Well, then try giving mussels a second chance and preparing them in a slightly different way: I guarantee that coconut, lime and chili peppers will be a pleasant surprise.

This recipe, with a definite Thai flavour, comes from Bitten, the NY Times food blog by Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, the man behind the famous No-Knead Bread, to get you the idea.
And as if the recipe wasn't enough fusion on its own, I tried making it with some alternative mussels that I happened to find at the market: some giant New Zealand mussels with a characteristic bright green shell, so beautiful that it's almost a shame to throw it away at the end of your lunch.

In general, I'm not a big fan of bean sprouts, even though they're widely used in health-conscious California. Best case scenario, I find them too bitter, but maybe it's me that haven't been able to decipher them yet. And yet, they go well here, at least because of the contrast between their oblong shape, like that of spaghetti, and the curves of cucumber and mussels ; )
The best thing of this salad, though, is the dressing (which I've officially adopted for future dishes). It doesn't matter that the coconut milk comes from a can and that the lime grew up not far away from here. All it takes is a little imagination and you find yourself swinging inside a hammock in the middle of an exotic beach. Now, tell me something, is it that strange that in August I long for the sea???

Mussel Salad
with Coconut-Lime Dressins

for 2 people

fresh mussels 1 lb.
coconut milk about 1/4 cup
lime 1
Thai fish sauce 2 or 3 tablespoons
fresh Thai chilies 2
(but, come on, any kind of chili works as well) 2
fresh cilantro to taste
red bell pepper 1
cucumber 1
bean sprouts not too many...

In a bowl, mix coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, its grated zest, minced Thai chilies and fish sauce (just so you know, fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Thai cooking, it's sort of an anchovies extract and it is used instead of salt).
Cut bell pepper in cubes. Peel the cucumber and cut it into pieces. Add bean sprouts.
Clean the mussels, discard their beard and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. Heat a large pan, put in the mussels with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a lid and cook for few minutes, shaking the pan now and then. Take out the mussels as soon as they open and discard those that stay closed. Take them out of their shell and add them to the vegetables.
Cooking it on high heat, reduce the juice they left behind, then add few tablespoons to the dressing. Pour dressing over the salad, mix well, add some freshly minced cilantro and serve.
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