In the town near to our summer home in Greece, is a “psaro taverna” or seafood tavern that’s been a favourite of our family & friends for years. The taverna’s name is Kapetan Giakoumis and the proprietor is this portly fellow with long curly dark brown hair. Think rolly-polly Diego Maradona.
Our summer home is located near Thessaloniki, in northern Greece in a resort area called Halkidiki. We vacation near the town of Nea Kallikratia. It (Halkidiki) is not as well known as the Greek Islands but you’ll find some of the best beaches in Greece and most of the beaches offer warm waters to bathe in.
Mussels are a specialty of northern Greece as three rivers empty into the Thermaic Gulf and mussels thrive in waters where fresh & sea water meet. There are a multitude of recipes for mussels saganaki but with the most well-known being the tomato & Feta-based one. The other mussels saganaki is a tangy offering with mustard and Feta and I’m often in a conundrum with which version I like best. Let’s say I’ll let my mood decide and perhaps I’ll wait for the summer to return with ripe, sweet tomatoes before I tackle the tomato-based mussels saganaki.
It seems that the Winter Blues have arrived and I always grow sentimental, thinking of last summer in Greece and I often drift away and think about any one of the prior 21 visits to Greece. Below is a slide show with some pics of Thessaloniki and neighboring summer vacation region of Halkidiki. After your done viewing these pics, you may want to go one step further and try this local meze (appetizer), Mussels Saganaki with Mustard.
(appetizer for 4)
2 lbs. of fresh mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 sweet Cubanele (or Anaheim) pepper, halved and sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 whole dried chilli
2 Tbsp. of plain mustard
1 shot of Ouzo
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup of crumbled Greek feta
splash of heavy cream
chili flakes for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
Additional chilli flakes (for those that like it hot)
- Place a large pot on your stove-top over medium heat with the olive oil, onions, peppers and garlic and sweat for 5-6 minutes.
- Add the mussels, mustard, wine, Ouzo, lemon juice and turn the heat to high and cover. Steam until the mussels have opened up (about 5-6 minutes). Pour the mussels through a strainer (to remove any sediment) and reserve the mussels (and any vegetables). Place the liquid back in the pot and add the cream, crumbled Feta and stir for a minute or two over low heat. Your sauce should just coat a wooden spoon (You may at this time remove the mussel meat from the shells if you wish).*
- Add the mussels back into the pot along with the dried Greek oregano and fresh parsley and stir to incorporate. Discard any un-opened mussels.
- Serve with crusty bread and pour some Ouzo on ice. Kali Orexi!
*Many tavernas in Thessaloniki (and surrounding) areas will serve Mussels Saganaki without the shells – you may choose if you like to present the dish with the shells or without.
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