Two restaurants near me feature Mussels Night every week. The portions are abundant, and for about $15.00, you can't beat the price. This value, plus their plump, sweet meat should be good enough, but in addition, mussels are protein- and nutrient-rich and modest in calories.

On Mussels Night, my haunts offer them in at least 15 ways, combining them with everything from the classic French or Italian trio of garlic, herbs and white wine, or a Thai blend of curry, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger and lime, to wildly imaginative pairings like celery root, dill, cream and chardonnay.

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For me, though, mussels fra diavolo is the best. This light, quickly prepared marinara-style tomato sauce kicks with fiery heat - hence the name from the Devil - and goes perfectly with the mussels; it's heavenly afterwards sopped up with crusty bread.

Cooking mussels at home is as easy as steaming broccoli, while flavoring them is as simple as seasoning chicken. If eating shellfish concerns you, did you know that most mussels are sustainably farmed in clean, open water, that they actually improve water quality, and that to be sold in the United States, they must carry a tag telling when and where they were harvested?

When buying mussels, they should be closed or just slightly open. At home, discard ones that feel heavy, have broken shells, or do not close up when tapped. Farmed mussels rarely are sandy but do scrub them with a stiff brush. If they have the wiry hairs called a beard, remove it using a firm tug.

If you do not want to use wine, replace it with a half-cup water plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. After cooking, discard any mussels whose shells did not open. Serve immediately.

Dana Jacobi is author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR's New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life. She writes for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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