RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Nutritious oysters, scallops, clams, and mussels are all bivalves—soft-bodied mollusks with two shells hinged together by a strong muscle. Aside from the many minerals and vitamins they offer—more about that in a bit—there's a eco-upside to cooking shellfish on a regular basis. Farmed oysters, farmed bay scallops, farmed and softshell clams, and farmed mussels are all designated Eco-Best by the Environmental Defense Fund. That designation means they're raised in systems that control disease, pollution, and chemical use, or are harvested from healthy, well-managed populations and caught using methods that do little harm to marine life. Most Eco-Best seafood is also low in environmental contaminants.
Cooking shellfish is easy, and finding the best shellfish at the market is easy, too, once you know what to look for. Protein-packed oysters are an excellent source of zinc and vitamin B12, as well as a good source of folic acid, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, and zinc. Oysters get their specific flavor from the areas where they are grown, and are often named for these places. Fresh oysters will smell clean, like the ocean, and their shells should be tightly closed. You can refrigerate live oysters on a cookie sheet, flat-side up, covered with a damp towel, for about a week; cook them as soon as possible. To shuck oysters, hold the oyster flat-side up with a glove or some paper towels. Insert an oyster knife or can opener (not a sharp knife) into the small opening near the hinge; twist to open. Then slide the knife along the top shell to sever the muscle. Remove the top shell and pick out any grit, or hold the oyster and bottom shell under running water to clean. Refrigerate shucked oysters and eat them the same day they are purchased. Oysters can also be bought frozen or smoked.
Read on to see shopping tips for scallops, clams, and mussels, plus some great shellfish recipes.
Published on: February 24, 2010