Mussels Steamed in Wine with Lemon & Parsley

A thunderous morning storm gave way to a gentle rain when I headed out on my morning walk. With the exception of an occasional songbird and the light sound of raindrops collecting on the mist covered hillside, all was quiet. I was deep in thought, musing about the characters in a couple of novels I’m reading. Lila Dahl―the heroine of Marilynne Robinson’s novel named for her—is an orphan married to an elderly preacher. Never entirely comfortable in her role as a preacher’s wife, she derives comfort from the simple beauty of a flower blooming in her garden or of her sparkling kitchen she delights in keeping clean. Emma Bovary, on the other hand, is bored with her husband and married life practically from the moment she enters her new home. She hates being a housewife. Lila has seen the world beyond her home and for her that world represents poverty, violence and hunger. Emma went from her father’s home to her husband’s only seeing  a convent school in between. She is certain that there must be a more exciting, happier life beyond what she knows. She dreams.

Each of these women has an intensity about them that I take with me on my walk. I wonder what each of them would see, share if she were alongside me. Emma would most certainly be as bored by my daily rituals as she is of her own, while Lila would observe and take notice of the beauty around us. She’d pick wildflowers, as I did, and bring them home to take root and grow more beautiful.

Such is the power of fiction. We connect with another world, see our own through a different set of lenses and in so doing, find new parts of ourselves.

What are you reading? 

This dish of Mussels Steamed in Wine with Lemon and Parsley is  both beautiful and simple. Rich, dark mussels—with their taste of the ocean—are delicately and quickly cooked in an aromatic sauce. They can be eaten straight from the pan with nothing else or they can form the basis of a larger meal when served over a bed of seasonal greens or tossed with a pot of spaghetti. Simple and delicious. It’s a dish that even Emma Bovary could find pleasure in.

Wildflowers with Buttercup by Dena T Bray

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


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Mussels Steamed in Wine with Lemon & Parsley

Yield: 4 Servings


  • 1 lb. fresh mussels
  • ½ lemon, cut into paper-thin rounds
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves


  1. To clean the mussels, place them in a colander in your sink. Rinse with cold water. Sort through the mussels and discard any that are already open. Place the rinsed mussels in a bowl of cold water and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove them from the water. Brush off any excess dirt on the outside of the shells and remove the beards (the little brown thread sticking out between the two shells).
  2. Add the sliced lemon, white wine, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and sea salt to a pot large enough to hold all the mussels. Place the cleaned mussels in the pot, cover, and set the stovetop to high. Leave on the stovetop until all the mussels have opened and the meat inside is tender, 5 minutes or so. Shake the pan once or twice during the cooking process to assure the mussels are evenly distributed.
  3. Divide the mussels between four serving bowls. Ladle the sauce in the pan over the cooked mussels. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
  4. Serve and enjoy.


Additional serving suggestions:

  1. For a heartier main course, increase the ingredients in this recipe by 4. At serving, drizzle the mussels with aioli and serve accompanied by french fries or roasted potato wedges.
  2. For lunch, serve the mussels in a bed of seasonal greens dressed lightly with olive oil and lemon.
  3. For dinner, cook up a pot of spaghetti. Toss the mussels and all their sauce with the spaghetti just before serving. Add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
  4. For a  late night snack, have a loaf of crusty bread on hand for dipping into the sauce. Serve accompanied by a bottle of chilled white wine and a wedge of smoked cheese.


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Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.