Mussels vinaigrette (Mejillones a la vinagreta)

If you’re in a hurry and haven’t got enough time to clean fresh mussels, you can also buy them ready cleaned, steamed and packed in brine.

1 kg fresh mussels
1 bay leaf
Half a glass of white wine
1 salad onion
1 red pepper (it’s best to use peeled and roasted red peppers)
1 green Italian pepper
2 small tomatoes
6 tbsps virgin olive oil
3 tbsps sherry vinegar
Fresh parsley, chopped

Cleaning fresh mussels:
If you’re going to prepare the mussels yourself, they must be very fresh. If you’re not planning on using them on the same day of purchase, leave them in a bowl of cold water until cooking, changing the water every 6hrs.

In order to keep them healthy and tasty while being cooked and prepared, mussels need to have the ocean dirt and sand removed from them, as well as the beards emerging from the shells. Clean mussels right before cooking them.

Mussels should be closed tightly. Tap any open mussels lightly against the counter. They should close up immediately, but if they do not close, throw them out. Discard any other mussels with open shells. Unwrap them from the bag or packaging as soon as they get home to allow them to breathe. If they die before they are consumed, the mussels will be poisonous.

Submerge the mussels in a bowl of clean, cool water. Leave them to soak for 20 minutes. While underwater, they will breathe and filter the water, which will begin to push out any sand or ocean minerals from inside their shells.

Little brown threads may be sticking out from between the 2 shells. This is the beard. Grasp the beard and pull it out and towards the hinge end of the mussel. Remove it completely and discard.

Use a slotted spoon to take the mussels out of the bowl. Place them in another clean bowl of water. Do not reuse the first bowl by draining and refilling it. Using the slotted spoon will help ensure that the sand from the water does not re-enter the mussel.

Pull them individually out of the second bowl of water and gently scrub at the shell. Pick off any slime that may be clinging to the shell. Rinse them off under running water.

Cooking fresh mussels:
Heat half a glass of water in a large casserole and when it starts to boil add the bay leaf followed by the mussels, a generous slurp of white wine, a few peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3 minutes and when all the mussels are open, remove them with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on a plate. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a glass.

Once cooled, arrange the mussels with only half of their shell on a serving plate and pour over the prepared vinaigrette.

Place the oil, vinegar and salt in a jar.  Lid on and shake vigorously. Finely chop all the vegetables and add to the dressing.  Stir well and pour over the mussels. Chill well before serving.