Put some mussels into this quick, easy meal

Mussels may boost your mood as well as your heart.

When cooked, mussels open up and reveal a morsel of sweet meat that ranks as a top food for omega-3 fatty acids. The May/June issue of Eating Well magazine reports how good omega-3 s are for the brain, improving moods and possibly mental health, and having heart health benefits.

For a quick meal for two, you can't beat mussels, about $5 for 2 pounds.

Most mussels are sold in netted or perforated bags, which makes it easy to sniff and inspect them. When buying mussels, check the date on the package and make sure they smell fresh. Blue mussels are the most common sold at grocery stores and have a dark blue-black oblong shell. They are about 2 to 3 inches long.

When buying mussels, even in the bag, make sure the shells are tightly closed. Or, if they are slightly open, they should snap shut when tapped. This is a sign that they are alive and fresh. Avoid mussels that seem heavy; they could be full of sand or mud.

It's best to cook mussels soon after buying them, but they will keep about two days in the refrigerator. Keep the mussels in their original package when storing. Place the package in a large bowl on top of a bed of ice. This will keep them cold and allow them to breathe. Keep an eye on the ice and drain away the water. You don't want them sitting in the water. Cover the mussels loosely with a few damp paper towels.

When ready to cook, remove the mussels from the bowl and the netting. Check the mussels again and make sure they are alive. Toss out any that are open or that don't close when tapped. Scrub the mussels under cold running water and trim away any beards hanging from shells.

Steam them in a small amount of clam juice, wine or water for about 4 minutes or until the shells open. Be sure to discard any mussels that don't open, but don't discard the cooking broth.

If you like mussels, this is a terrific quick meal. Serve drizzled with broth and plenty of crusty bread to sop it up.

Mussels in Garlic Wine Broth

Serves: 2

Preparation time: 15 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes

1 tablespoon sea salt

4 ounces dry angel hair pasta or spaghettini

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped

2 large shallots, peeled, sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups white wine such as sauvignon blanc

1 cup bottled clam juice or water from cooking pasta

1 cup chopped or diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 half-inch-thick pieces, diagonally sliced French baguette

In a large stock pot, bring 6 quarts of water seasoned with sea salt to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook al dente, according to package directions. Remove 1 cup of the pasta cooking water if not using clam juice, and drain.

Meanwhile, prepare the mussels by scrubbing them under cool water and debearding them. Discard any mussels that are already open or that don't close when you tap on the shell. Set aside.

In the same pot the pasta was cooked in, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and saute another 2-3 minutes or until shallots are lightly browned. Add the wine and clam juice or reserved pasta cooking water, tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook about 4 minutes or until the shells open.

Remove the pot from heat.

Divide the cooked pasta among two serving bowls.

Discard any mussels that did not open. Using a slotted spoon, remove opened mussels and place on top of pasta.

Pour some broth over the mussels and the pasta. Serve the remaining broth on side with the baguette for dipping.