Chilled Mussels with Saffron Aioli

I’ve been hanging on to the same precious tin of Iranian saffron since 2013. I bought it at Jean-Talon Market in Montreal, where sanctions aren’t as restrictive and food imports from Iran are attainable. I know we Iranians like to lay claim to nearly everything under the sun, but it’s true that our saffron is among the best in the world. I dipped into this precious stash for this easy, elegant mussel appetizer.

This recipe makes more aioli than you’ll need, but you can use the leftovers as a sandwich spread, or simply make an extra batch of mussels.

Chilled mussels with saffron aioli

2 1/2 pounds mussels
1 cup white wine
1/2 onion, chopped
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup drained jarred roasted red pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Scrub mussels, cleaning shells, and discard any mussels that aren’t tightly closed. In a large pot bring wine and onion to a boil over high heat. Add mussels; cook, covered, until they open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard any closed mussels.

2. Separate mussels from shells Set each mussel on a reserved half-shell and place on a baking sheet. Cover and chill.

3. Grind saffron in a mortar and pestle and set aside.

4. In a blender, blend garlic, roasted pepper, saffron, cayenne, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add mayonnaise and blend. Scrape into a bowl.

5. Set mussels on a serving platter. Dollop aioli on each mussel and top with a parsley leaf.

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