We all know when our favorite fruits and vegetables are at peak season. Tender asparagus, strawberries and spinach fill our plates in the spring; heirloom tomatoes, peppers and corn are the kings of summer; while mushrooms, apples, pears and root vegetables welcome us back to fall.
But did you know that Mediterranean Mussels hit their prime in the late summer into fall? Who knew that shellfish also have peak seasons? I sure as hell didn’t until I walked by Taylor Shellfish Farms retail store in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill.
Taylor Shellfish Farms is easily one of the most influential companies to Seattle’s seafood scene. The Taylor family has been growing shellfish in the bays and inlets of Puget Sound for over 100 years and provides succulent shellfish to over 3-dozen Seattle restaurants. Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell, Campagne, and Sitka and Spruce are just a handful of top-notch restaurants that feature shellfish from Taylor Shellfish Farms.
Now it’s easier than ever to bring fresh shellfish of the highest quality to your very own home. The Taylor Shellfish Farms retail store has been open since early summer and allows customers to browse tanks of live oysters, mussels, clams, Dungeness crabs, geoduck, and Maine lobsters. Fish and scallops and all sorts of hardware needed to break open shellfish are also available for purchase. The staff are very knowledgeable and know their product well. If you’re hungry, an oyster stew, clam chowder and fresh oysters are available for the slurping.
If you love, steaming clams and mussels, making clam chowders, slurping fresh oysters or cracking into crab or lobster, then you must visit this bivalve botique. Having this kind of access to the most plump and fresh of the ocean’s bounty is a gift to the city of Seattle and you won’t find better shellfish anywhere else.
The face of Taylor Shellfish is probably Bill Whitbeck (aka Oyster Bill). I first met Oyster Bill at the University District Farmers Market when a group of women probably in their upper 30’s approached the Taylor Shellfish Farms stand. The girls giddily went on and on how the boys are in Vancouver for a bachelor party while the girls were enjoying their bachelorette weekend in Seattle.
I found it a bit odd that they were at a farmers market as part of a bachelorette weekend. Even more peculiar, all they bought was a bag of well-endowed geoduck. After the girls walked away, Oyster Bill leaned over with a huge smile and whispered “Batteries not included!”
Ok…so maybe you had to be there. Back to mussels.
I wanted to find a recipe that showcased peak of the season Mediterranean mussels. I chose a recipe out of Pure Flavor, a cookbook from the man behind Beecher’s Cheese, Kurt Beecher Dammier. I knew you couldn’t go wrong with a recipe involving mussels, marinara sauce, prosciutto, basil, and sun dried tomatoes.
The recipe calls for 2 cups of marinara sauce or store-bought marinara. I used the following tomato sauce, and added 3 tablespoons of chopped basil.
The recipe is either meant to be an appetizer served with warm bread or as a meal served over a bowl of steaming pasta. The night I made this, Abbie had the following facebook status:
Walked into my building after a long day and smelled something delicious, crossed my fingers that it was coming from my apartment...and it was!
Italian Steamed Mussels
Adapted from Pure Flavor by Kurt Beecher Dammeier
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 ounces (2 to 3 slices) thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
4 galic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 cups marinara sauce with fresh herbs or store-bought marinara sauce
4 sage leaves, thinly sliced (optional)
1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat the olive oil in a stockpot or a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until brown. Add the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 30 seconds.
Stir in the marinara sauce and sage and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and cook on high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mussels open.
Remove the pan from the heat and discard any unopened mussels. Spoon the mussels and the sauce into 4 bowls, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve hot.
1521 Melrose Ave, Seattle