Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Oct

Tomato Garlic Mussels

After over a month of Primal Challenge festivities it feels good to get back in the kitchen and cook up some Primal fare for the regular weekend recipe post here at MDA. This and next week’s recipe will wrap up the Reader-Created Cookbook Contest. After that it we’ll be publishing exclusive MDA-created recipes every Saturday. But first, let’s dive straight into the sea…

The great thing about seafood is that it takes so little time to cook. Mussels are at the very top of the list, usually needing only a few minutes to steam open. Mussels conveniently announce exactly when they’re done by opening their shell, they are perfectly self-seasoned, have no bones to contend with and are high in protein, B12, iron and selenium. What is there not to love?

According to both the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund, mussels are farmed using environmentally sound methods and have low levels of contaminants. And what about that old saying, “only eat shellfish in months that have a ‘R’”? Well, luckily, this is October so you don’t have to worry about it either way. But to ease your worry for the rest of the year, mussels harvested in May, June, July or August are only unsafe if pulled from water that is infected with toxic algae, also known as a “red tide”. Red tides are more common in hotter, summertime weather, however, commercial shellfish farming is regulated so that if there happens to be a red tide, no shellfish will be brought to market. If you’re gathering your own shellfish, it does pay to be aware of the water quality in warmer months.

Who gathers their own shellfish, you ask? It just so happens that Lynn Koch does, when she spends her summers on Three Mile Harbor on the South Fork of Long Island in New York. Lynn sent us her recipe for Garlic and Tomato Mussels and made us envious with stories of her summer outings. According to Lynn, the area “has many creeks and when I feel motivated, I kayak into one of them when the tide is still fairly low and take mussels from the creek beds. I pretend I am a hunter-gatherer, and get wonderful exercise, fun and food from the experience.”

What we’re all getting from her experience is a wonderful recipe, simply prepared but overflowing with rich flavor. Garlic and tomatoes simmer briefly with white wine to create a rich broth that is livened up with fresh basil and parsley. The shells bring a briny flavor to the broth and quickly open, revealing plump and juicy mussels ready to be enjoyed. Scoop them into bowls with plenty of thick broth on top and dig in!


  • Two pounds of mussels, well-cleaned (see instructions below)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced (cored and peeled, if desired)
  • Two large, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Small handful of basil, sliced
  • Large bunch of parsley, chopped


A healthy mussel is one with a shell that stays closed as you rinse them off, but opens wide once it is cooked. If a mussel shell doesn’t open after being boiled for 3-5 minutes, it’s not meant to be eaten. Also not meant to be eaten is the “beard,” or stringy clump of dark thread that sometimes hangs out of the shell. Pull this off when you rinse and rub the shells thoroughly before cooking.

Once mussels are cleaned…

In a large pot melt the butter and add the garlic. Sauté until the garlic starts to become golden and add the pepper. Cook until the pepper is soft.

Add the tomatoes and cook until they have expressed their juices. Add the white wine and simmer rapidly until the sauce is reduced by 1/2.

Add the salt and stir. Add the mussels, cover the pot and check periodically until most all the mussels have opened, 3-5 minutes.

Toss with the basil and parsley.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mmm, mussels…(slurp). You said it’s November. It’s October. Still ends with “R” though, so we’re good. :)

    Alta wrote on October 9th, 2010
  2. That looks so yummy. I adore Mussels

    Maya wrote on October 9th, 2010
  3. Looks marvelous. Too bad its still October in Florida 😉

    Zac wrote on October 9th, 2010
  4. Looks like I am going to head to the seafood market. Have to try this recipe.

    Vicky wrote on October 9th, 2010
  5. I really love mussels, but they end up being deceptively expensive. They tend to be priced at about $7-$8 a pound, but since they have so little meat by weight, I need about 2 pounds just myself to satisfy!

    Would be nice to live near someplace where I could confidently harvest myself, for a number of reasons!

    Kris wrote on October 9th, 2010
    • You should come to New Zealand! We just collect them on the coast. Or you can buy them at the supermarket for about 2US$ a pound.

      Warwick wrote on October 9th, 2010
      • Wow, that is super cheap! I’m jealous.

        Maya wrote on October 9th, 2010
      • Green lipped NZ mussels,a favourite for my wife and me. Tino reka!

        Dwayne wrote on October 15th, 2014
    • That’s crazy expensive. I guess this recipe will have to be put on hold for me…

      Primal Toad wrote on October 10th, 2010
  6. Damn that was a superb meal – nice work!

    Finn wrote on October 9th, 2010
  7. oooo love it I have some mussels right now in the freezer I will have to try out this recipe for myself :)

    Lori wrote on October 10th, 2010
  8. I have not seen any local mussels at the market. The mussels being sold were farm raised in New Zealand.

    And I like mine steamed and then topped off with lemon juice. Yum!

    Cambree wrote on October 10th, 2010
  9. I was out on a little beach/trail adventure a while back and it ended up turning into an impromptu hunter-gatherer mussel gathering cookout (read: free!). Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice some exercise time for some scarfing down free seafood time, but it was well worth it! Now… from how good the recipe here looks, I may be packing a lot more accouterments when I’m anywhere near the beach.

    Andrew wrote on October 11th, 2010
  10. I wonder how well this would work with clams. My BF doesn’t like mussles. Sounds absolutely yummy.

    Chipdogwa wrote on October 12th, 2010
  11. Sounds like a great idea for when I want a more “exquisite” meal… Sadly it’s a bit on the expensive side for me since I need to eat so much :(.

    Alex wrote on October 12th, 2010
  12. Hi, Mark,

    Thank you so much for choosing my recipe. I love MDA! I am really really delighted and honored!


    Hatsunohana wrote on October 13th, 2010
  13. Made this tonight. It was awesome!

    Craig wrote on October 14th, 2010
  14. Gosh, we’ve done this one for yonks… mussels are cheap here (nz), and good. kj

    kem wrote on October 14th, 2010
  15. Unbelievable!!!

    Davy P wrote on October 14th, 2010
  16. just made this using canned crushed tomatoes and monkfish in place of mussels…. my god. tastiest thing i’ve ever had (other than the shepherd’s pie that I learned to make from this website!).

    megan wrote on March 31st, 2011
  17. I am SO making this with shrimp!

    Emily wrote on July 23rd, 2011
  18. I just wanted to comment your blog and say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. It was very informative and I also digg the way you write! Keep it up and IЎЇll be back to read more soon mate.

    versace watches wrote on August 10th, 2011
  19. Hi mark! i bought some mussles today and cannot wait to try this recipe ! thanks for sharing!

    Emily wrote on July 21st, 2012
  20. Wonderful items from you, man. I have take into accout your stuff
    previous to and you are just too wonderful. I really like what you have obtained here,
    really like what you are stating and the way wherein you are saying it.
    You’re making it enjoyable and you continue to take care of to stay it smart. I can not wait to read much more from you. That is really a tremendous site.

    Unsecured Bad Credit Loans No Fees wrote on November 12th, 2012
  21. Wow, I just made this using stock instead of alcohol (I don’t drink).

    By far the best mussels I have *ever* tasted.

    Mike Ratcliffe wrote on July 17th, 2013
  22. The Cordon Bleu recipe modified below works well for me

    Chopped green onions cooked in 1/4 c unsalted butter
    Add wine and heavy whipping cream 1/1, about .5 c each works for 2 lbs
    and a bay leaf or two and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
    Add mussels, turn up the heat and steam in the solution about 5 mins.

    Serve with new potatoes cut in quarters and fried in Olive oil. Add sea salt and cilantro to potatoes near the finish.

    Suzann wrote on July 20th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!