The concept of food conservation or preservation with vinegar or sugar was introduced by the Moors in southern Spain. The technique not only preserves food but intensifies its flavors. Older methods from the 13th century relied on high amounts of vinegar to preserve fish or seafood for long periods of time. Given that times have evolved, so have the amounts of acids needed in recipes like these. I love this escabeche served with warm bread or tossed in angel hair pasta. Traditionally, the escabeche is stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge for 2 to 3 days before serving, resulting in a more pickled, vinegary flavor. However, I prefer to enjoy it warm and straight out of the pan.
Serves4 as a starter
- 1/2 lemon, finely sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 lb (910 g) mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon pimentón dulce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (21 g) honey
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (5 g) fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup Aleppo chili flakes
- Bread, for serving
- Pasta, for serving
Place a large pan over medium heat and add the lemon, salt, and 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water. Bring the water down to a simmer.
Add the mussels, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the shells have opened. Leave the lid just slightly open if the liquid begins to foam up. Discard any mussels that remain unopened and set the rest of the mussels aside to cool. Separate the mussel meat from the shells, discard the shells and lemon, and set aside.
Rinse the pan and place it over medium heat. Add the olive oil and stir in the onion, carrot, and thyme. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon, and pimentón and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the honey and lemon juice and stir to combine. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then toss the mussels into the vegetable mixture. Add the parsley and chili flakes.
Serve right away or refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days. Serve with bread or tossed in pasta.
Reprinted with permission from Mediterranea by Hanady Nabut. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Hanady Nabut.
Read NextHoney Orange Firecracker Shrimp