Paying Homage To The Mighty Mussel

Tennessee Aquarium’s 4th Annual Serve And Protect Event Is Sept. 4

Thursday, August 7, 2014 - by Thom Benson
Barton Seaver
Barton Seaver
- photo by Allie Cotrill

What do you know about Blue Mussels?

If you’re an archaeologist, you might tell people about how they’ve been unearthed in kitchen middens dating back to 6,000 B.C. If you’re an ecologist, you probably tout the way mussels purify water while filter-feeding. If you’re a aquaculturist, you can’t wait to show everyone the way they’re grown on ropes. And if you are a nutritionist, you love the fact that mussels are packed with heart- and brain-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

But if you are a chef, you simply love the many ways you can prepare mussels to tempt the taste buds of everyone. “What I love most about mussels is how quick and easy they are to prepare,” said chef Tamie Cook. “In about 15 minutes you can have a delicious and impressive meal on the table. While mussels are still a little unknown in the Southeast, I love introducing people to their sweet, slightly briny flavor.”

Cook will produce and host a live, Food-Network styled cooking show as part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s fourth annual Serve & Protect Sustainable Seafood event on Sept. 4. The four-course evening is designed to be an entertaining and informative event with many opportunities to try something new. “Having two chefs like Barton Seaver and Nico Romo sharing the stage for this year’s event is very exciting,” said Cook. “They are both warm, funny and very enthusiastic about the Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program. I think people will really enjoy the combination of knowledge and energy they’ll bring to Chattanooga.”

While mussels will never replace shrimp as America’s number one seafood choice, the Blue Mussel is gaining in popularity.  Restaurant patrons are discovering the sweet, tender meat while more and more chefs like Romo are developing new ways to prepare delectable mussel dishes. “Mussels have always been one of my favorite ingredients. They are fast, easy to cook and incredibly versatile” said Romo. “The flavors of the mussels du jour that I prepare at Fish Restaurant in Charleston range from spicy tomato-ginger to bacon, yellow curry and even local beer. Mussels add depth to our signature seafood bouillabaisse, and of course, moules & frites is a traditional French dish I love to serve.”

In spite of rising demand and the fact that farming Blue Mussels actually improves water quality, there is still a mussel deficit in the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, around $30 million dollars of mussels are imported each year compared to the $6.7 million dollars farmed here.

Cook believes that everyone attending the Serve & Protect events will leave satisfied, both having enjoyed an elegant seafood dinner in an Aquarium gallery and learning tips and techniques that can help everyone flex their culinary muscles preparing sustainable seafood dishes at home.

To give everyone a head start, Cook is sharing her recipe for “Mussels Opa!” Cook says mussel farming is relatively new to Greece, but has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. “I love Greek food, so I wanted to create a mussel recipe that had a taste of the Mediterranean,” said Cook. “I think I was craving a gyro and a Greek salad when I developed this recipe. So serve it with grilled pita to soak up all of the delicious juices and you’ll be saying Opa!”

Chef Tamie Cook’s Mussels Opa!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup diced fresh tomato

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons ouzo or other anise flavored liquor

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives, optional

Grilled pita bread

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet set over medium heat.  Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic and salt and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the tomato and stir to combine.  Add the wine, ouzo and mussels.  Cover and cook 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook 2 to 3 more minutes or until most of the mussels are opened.  Remove any unopened mussels and add the parsley, oregano, feta and olives, if using.  Serve with grilled pita bread for sopping up the juices.

Serves four as an appetizer or two as a main course.

---

Fourth Annual Serve & Protect Event - Thursday, Sept. 4

5:30 – 6:30 pm Cocktails & Appetizers

IMAX Great Hall

 

6:45 pm Live Cooking Show

IMAX Theater

 

8:00 pm Elegant Seated Dinner

Tennessee Aquarium

 

9:00 pm Dessert Reception

River Journey Lobby

 

To learn more about Chef Nico Romo and Chef Barton Seaver and to buy tickets, go to: www.tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood

 

 

 


Nico Romo
Nico Romo
- Photo2 by Fish Restaurant

2016 Vacation Tours Available At Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee State Parks is offering nine vacation packages in 2016 to suit all types of outdoor enthusiasts and skill levels. Guests can experience guided tours through eight state parks across Tennessee and several natural areas and wildlife refuges. The year’s tours begin with a Winter Waterfall Tour at Fall Creek Falls and South Cumberland State Park on  Feb. 22-24 ... (click for more)

38th Annual Dogwood Arts House & Garden Show In Knoxville Set For Feb. 12-14

HGTV personalities are Knoxville-bound for the 2016 Dogwood Arts House & Garden Show.  Matt Blashaw, licensed contractor and host of HGTV’s Vacation House for Free and featured carpenter on season 2 of Ellen’s Design Challenge, and Tiffany Brooks, designer and host of HGTV Smart Home 2016, are coming to Knoxville to share their expertise on house renovation, real estate ... (click for more)

County School Board Considers "Best Practices Audit" On Compliance With Board Policies

The County School Board is considering carrying out a "Best Practices Audit" to determine if board policies are filtering down to the school level. Board member Greg Martin said members of the Superintendent's Student Leadership Council told him that only a fraction of students are familiar with board policies on bullying and other topics. Steve Highlander, another board member, ... (click for more)

Several Central City Schools Overcrowded, School Board Is Told

All the county school overcrowding is not out in the fast-growing East Brainerd and Ooltewah sections, school board members were told Thursday. Several central city schools are far above capacity. East Lake Elementary - with 655 students and a capacity of 493 students - is at 133 percent occupancy. Calvin Donaldson, Orchard Knob Elementary and East Side Elementary also are ... (click for more)

Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Even Athletes

From reading Randy Smith's column on the lawsuit against UT it is pretty evident that he never took a legal course in his life. I was under the impression that in this country one was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It appears this no longer applies to athletes(particularly black athletes) in the U.S. in 2016. I have always said that if I am picked for jury duty ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Warmth For Cold Days

I come across all sorts of warm things every day and as we burrow out of sub-freezing temperatures for a day or two, shaking off ice and snow, allow me to share a few things for a change that may take the bite out of the winter wind. This is what helps me. * * * Judy Bellenfant, who has been a soul mate ever since we shared jokes in high school classrooms, sends along this ... (click for more)