With things beyond hectic in my work and personal life I took an unintended two-month break from the 5 Star Makeover. So when the invitation for this month’s challenge – Greek Meze – showed up in my inbox I was game to get started. Our fantastic hosts provided a pretty extensive list of classic dishes to get everyone inspired. And while there were several on the list I wanted to attempt, I couldn’t shake the desire to search for something a little more unexpected, especially since I love any excuse for a little cookbook research at the library. I ended up picking up some great titles like Mezze Modern, Meze, The World in Bite Size, and Modern Greek.
While there were many recipes that caught my eye but as soon as I stumbled upon a stuffed mussel dish called Midia Gemista I knew that was what I was making. I’m a sucker for just about any mussel dish so this was an easy choice. According to Modern Greek, they are commonly combined with rice or baked “Saganaki” style with tomatoes and feta cheese.
I prepared mine with a stuffing of a brown rice blend (I used Lundberg Countrywild), sauteed onion, pine nuts and currants with herbs and spices. The herbs and spices in this case being dill, mint, cinnamon, and all spice. Once stuffed, the mussels were steamed over a bed of onion slices with thinly sliced lemon on top, yielding seafood that as fragrant as it was flavorful.
When researching recipes I was a little worried that the longer cook times would lead to leathery mussels, but my fears were unfounded. The filling really does slow down the cook time and the mussels still emerge supple.
The recipe did turn out to be a bit more time consuming than previous batches of mussels I’ve made, but they were well worth it. The rice made for a more filling meze, making each bite like a little meal in and of itself. I especially loved how the sliced lemon broke down adding a punch of brightness to the mussels. In general, the flavors were spot on with occasional pleasant pops of the dill flavor, an unexpected herb to pair with mussels for me, but quite complimentary.
The one thing I would do differently next time is to par-cook the mussels prior to stuffing rather than the method I tried. This was mentioned in about one of the recipes I studied and I think would have been MUCH easier and cleaner than the method I actually used – which involved using knife to gently open the shells after soaking but before steaming.
Overall though I was excited by the idea of a stuffed mussel and excited to try my hand at a dish inspired by Greek Meze. Because of that I’m not posting the recipe until I have a chance to tinker with it further, but am sure it won’t be too long before stuffed mussels end up on my menu again.