Beneath the Waves

Nestled among the kelp gently swaying in the shallows are shellfish grown plump in the nutrient-rich waters.  Today’s dish provides a taste of this idyllic scene, though with inland greens filling in for seaweed in the broth.  This keeps the meal ethereal and fresh, both in color and in taste, making it ideal for a summer lunch or light dinner.

When Gourmet magazine folded, it left behind ideas accumulated over the decades, including this one for Mussels in Zucchini Basil Broth, and which appeared in the magazine’s 2008 recipe collection.  The ingredients list makes it great way to make use of some the zucchini whose current bounty has led it to be quite underfoot lately.

Unlike many of the ideas presented on these pages, this one is fairly simple.  Essentially, all the ingredients but the shellfish are pureed in a food processor, which produces the broth in which the mussels simmer, absorbing their slightly minerally brininess.  It’s garden greenery fortified with a touch of fish stock, giving it a little substance.

By the way, the recipe uses four pounds of mussels.  Most of that weight is shell, granted, but it’s still a fair amount of product.  This would be an ideal dinner for a larger group of people (what’s pictured this week is only half a pound’s-worth, or about an eighth of the total amount).  If the gathering is smaller, you’ll have plenty of leftovers.  Even pulled straight from the fridge, still chilled, the coolness is a nice antidote to high summer’s swelter.

Even when it’s steaming, straight from the simmer, the dish’s liberal use of greens keeps it fresh and light.  Enough to give diners a genuine taste of snorkeling in the shallows.


Mussels in Zucchini Basil Broth

  • 1 pound zucchini, coarsely chopped (*1)
  •  1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped (*2)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 pounds mussels

Place all the ingredients but the mussels in a food processor.  Pulse until mixture is smooth.  Work in batches if necessary.

Pour puree into a skillet and add the mussels.  Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over a medium-high flame.  Then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open fairly wide (as shown in today’s picture), about five to seven minutes.

Discard any mussels that do not open and serve.


1 – Leave the skins on the zucchini; it’s what gives the broth most of its color.

2 – The vegetables don’t need to be “pretty,” as they’ll be pureed anyway.  A coarse chop is more than sufficient for today’s purposes.


5 thoughts on “Beneath the Waves

    1. Thanks, Kate, I appreciate your thoughtful response.

      Would you believe I’m in broad sympathy with your sentiments? Seriously. Though I have a “thing” for poultry and, to a degree, shellfish, thinking of what it took to get them to the market…well, I’d rather not think of it, actually. How’s that for hypocrisy?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My daughter would eat tons of this! Buckets after buckets! Ioglad all the ingredients are puréed because she is not a big fan of zucchini and I want her to eat it more. She’ll eat anything with mussels and basil so.., yay! Zucchini undercover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Zucchini undercover!” I like that, Daniela! Look at you, writing well and all. What are you, an author or something?

      There’s hope still for your daughter. When I was her age, I couldn’t stand the stuff, a disdain carried through my teen years. Then, adulthood brought maturity – and a rediscovery. Nowadays, barely a day goes by that I don’t add zucchini to my lunchtime salad. Occasionally, the salad earns a “Looks good” from passers-by. Maybe they’re being polite, but I think it’s the zucchini.

      Liked by 1 person

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