Chilled Mussels with Onion

black seashell beside beige stone

Photo by Pixabay on

Just back from a spell in Peru and a special time in Cusco with the twin grandgirls, after climbing Machu Picchu and scrambling through even more spectacular ruins in the Sacred Valley.  Don’t miss the train through the valley and skip the village that has dozens of restaurants devoted to culinary excesses using the guinea pig.  Here is something better,  a novel presentation of mussels we still rave about that we discovered in Lima. 

  • 18 mussels
  • three limes
  • three red onions, minced
  • two cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
  • two tomatoes, finely minced
  • one cob of grilled corn, kernels removed
  • one rocoto, or a poblano pepper, diced
  • three teaspoon of chopped parsley
  • olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Steam the mussels in salt water, shuck, and remove from shells.  Return each mussel to a half shell.  Mix remaining ingredients with oil, salt, and pepper to taste.  Pile a full tablespoon on each mussel and chill until serving.


Caviar on Cauliflower Cream


We love this alternative appetizer on thickly cut, home-made, potato chips but it will work just as well with blintz or melba toast.  The most important thing is to make sure you drain the cauliflower well after cooking so that the consistency of the cream is not runny.  I have found that microwaving the cauliflower in a covered dish with a few teaspoons of water for steaming is very satisfactory.

  • Two cups of cauliflower, cooked well and drained
  • One tablespoon of fresh chives, chopped
  • One third of a cup of sour cream
  • One half  teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Five ounces of your preferred caviar
  • One tablespoon of fresh chives, finely minced

Process first four ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Assemble by putting one teaspoon of cauliflower cream on the toast, followed by a half teaspoon of caviar. Garnish with a sprinkle of  minced chives.

Fast and Funky Hot Shrimp Dip

gulf shrimp

So about an hour ago you saw the neighbors in the driveway and you asked them to come over for a drink and you’re in a panic because you need a quick, but spectacular hor d’oeuvres and you are raiding the pantry and the freezer because they are going to be here in forty-five minutes.  You are so lucky you have a can of Cream of Shrimp soup!

  • One can of cream of shrimp soup
  • One can of shrimp, drained
  • One roll of garlic cheese (or a cup of grated cheddar and a teaspoon of garlic powder)
  • One 8 ounce can of mushrooms, drained
  • One tablespoon of sherry

Stir the first two ingredients together in a four-cup pyrex mixing cup and microwave until it bubbles  Add garlic cheese in thin slices and microwave for another minute or two, incorporating the melted cheese.  Stir in the mushrooms and microwave for another minute or two.  Pour into the shallow covered stoneware dish your sister gave you for Christmas and add the sherry.  Now you can keep it warm in the microwave.  Surely you have some chips or crackers about?

Brennan’s Crab Ravigotte


This hor d’oeuvre recipe from the original Brennan’s  Restaurant on New Orleans’ Royal Street has been a favorite for over forty years.   It goes together simply but your guests will make quick work of it so prepare several servings.  You may offer it as a canape on toast triangles but I prefer it in wonton cups made by lightly brushing the skins with olive oil and pressing them into a mini-muffin pan.  Bake for about eight minutes in a 350 degree oven.  This recipe should require about a dozen wonton cups.

Combine 1/2 cup of homemade mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of minced parsley, 1 tablespoon of drained and chopped capers, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of dry mustard, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon of minced pimiento, 1 finely chopped boiled egg, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1 cup of backfin lump crabmeat.  Toss lightly and chill for an hour before serving.

Mussels and Mayo

steamed mussels

A little bit of saffron goes a long way.  We just discovered this perfect combination of cooked and chilled mussels served with threads of saffron in a mayonnaise-based sauce a few weeks ago in Rouen.  It is a wonderful appetizer served on a bed of ice or rock salt.

  • 2 pounds of fresh mussels (about sixty)
  • 1 cup of your favorite dry, white wine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch of saffron thread
  • 1/3 cup of roasted red peppers, well-drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 half cup of home-made mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • Smoked paprika to taste

Bring onion and wine to a boil, add mussels and cook, covered, for about three minutes.  Cool and remove top shells,  separate each mussel and return to its bottom shell.  Place the shells on an ice or rock salt-filled tray and chill.  In a food processor, add the next seven ingredients and blend well.  Put a generous dollop of the saffron mayo on each mussel and sprinkle with paprika before serving.


Chesapeake Cheddar Clam Toasts

I think you will enjoy this dish from an earlier era spent with a rowdy crowd of young naval officers at Virginia Beach.  We usually used canned clams but freshly shucked, sauteed in butter, and chopped is always better.  Must be served with very cold beer!

  • 1 pound of white cheddar, grated
  • 1 six ounce can of baby clams, drained
  • 1 quarter cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of chives, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • Black pepper to taste, freshly ground
  • Red pepper sauce to taste
  • 8 slices of dark bread like pumpernickel, crust removed

Combine all ingredients and spread generously on bread slices.  Place on a cookie sheet and put under a hot broiler until puffed, brown and bubbly…about 6 minutes.  Cut each toast into four squares and serve.


Point Clear Shrimp Cocktail Fritters

Stir up these delicious fritters when you have a crowd gathered in the kitchen at the beach.  They simply must be served hot so they are only appropriate for an informal gathering or when you have a dedicated cook.  Make plenty!

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley
  • 1 pound of fresh shrimp, chopped

Stir all together and drop by the teaspoonful into hot peanut oil.  Fry until golden and serve with picks.