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Showing posts with label clams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clams. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Perfect for a Meal When You Come Home Tired and Hungry - Easy to Make Clams, Green Beans and Pasta

I love clams just about anyway they can be eaten--raw, baked or steamed. For a New Year's Eve dinner, a group of us pooled our labor and resources to prepare a Spanish themed celebration. For the paella we made a seafood and sausage version. In our enthusiasm for the excellent clams being sold at Santa Monica Seafood (1000 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401, 310/393-5244), we bought a large mesh bag of little necks.
They proved to be fresh, briny and delicious. But we purchased too many. Reserving half, we decided to enjoy the rest on another day.

The great thing about live clams is that you can keep them in your refrigerator for several days after purchase if they were freshly harvested. Place the clams in a bowl without water. The clams will "drown" in the liquid they give off, so check each day and pour off any liquid that has accumulated.

Before using the clams, rinse them under running water and brush off any grit.
A flexible recipe, if green beans aren't available, another green vegetable can be substituted. I have used kale, spinach and even escarole (which I am using a lot these days in salads and sautés).  Sometimes I add corn kernels either fresh or the ones I freeze at the end of summer. I like freshly grated cheese even though I know that's heresy to anyone who loves authentic Italian cuisine.

When I wrote the recipe for Zester Daily, the weather had turned cold and wet. Now we're back in a Southern California heat wave. In either case, the dish is a perfect cold weather warm-comfort dish or a light meal with a salad in warm weather.

Enjoy!

Warm Up With Quick-And-Easy Pasta And Clams

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lobster Rolls, Clams, Oysters, and Much Much More on the Rhode Island Shore

In the fall I was on assignment to write a profile of Rhode Island. It's been several months since that visit and re-reading the piece I wrote for Peter Greenberg about the food along the shore makes me wish I lived closer to the Ocean State now that the clam shacks are opening again.

Travelers to Southern New England who used to head straight for Boston have learned to stop in Providence at fun, neighborhood hangouts like Thee "Red" Fez (49 Peck Street, Providence, 401/272-1212) and at upscale restaurants like Bacaro (262 South Water Street, Providence, 401/751-3700) with it's encyclopedic menu of regional Italian dishes.

If you've come to the area to enjoy great food, there's more to Rhode Island than just Providence.

Hop in your car and head south.

It's only a short trip to East Greenwich, Wickford, and Matunuck in South County or to Bristol and Newport on Aquidneck Island. If you have a little more time, drive down to Watch Hill on the southern-most tip of the state or go day-tripping out to Block Island and spend the day walking, hiking, biking, and eating.

Everywhere you go, you'll be rewarded with wonderful meals in beautiful settings.

During the summer, stopping at a clam shack when you're at the beach is a guilty pleasure not to be denied. In the coastal towns ringing Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound, you'll find plenty of opportunities to eat yourself silly.

If you're in Newport, try Flo's Clam Shack across the street from First Beach (4 WaveAvenue, Middletown, 401/847-8141) or better yet head up to Bristol a few miles north and stop at Quito's Seafood Restaurant (411 Thames Street, Bristol, 401/253-4500) where chef Frank Formisano and his mom, Joann, serve up clam strips, fish and chips, fried calamari, lobster rolls, fluffy and light clam cakes, sandwiches with fried fish, clams, shrimp, crab, or scallops, fried oysters, raw clams and oysters, baked clams, casseroles with fish, shrimp, lobster or scallops, French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, Cole slaw, and clam chowder--red, white, and, because this is Rhode Island, clear as well.

This being Rhode Island, even food at the shore is touched by Italian traditions. At Quito's, the red sauce is homemade from Joann's Sicilian recipe. Littlenecks can be enjoyed raw, steamed with garlic and oil, steamed in a Zuppa sauce (tomatoes and garlic), served over pasta, or in a scampi sauce. One piece of advice, if you're offered a choice of French fries or Cole slaw, go for the slaw. I ordered a double portion, it's that good. Since Quito's is on the bike path, you can take a leisurely walk or bicycle around Bristol Harbor to work off the calories.

Across Narragansett Bay in South County most of the towns hug the coast. Head inland and the area is home to farms, roadside stands, and wildlife refuges. Stay on Route 1 south of Providence and you'll drive through undistinguished towns, but keep your eye out and you'll discover some gems.

East Greenwich has a main street out of a postcard. You half expect to see 1930s Fords and Chevys pulling up in front of the hardware store. The kid friendly Grille on Main (50 Main Street, East Greenwhich, 401/885-2200) is a good place to stop for grilled pizza--now a Rhode Island staple originally popularized by Al Forno in Providence--or the calamari, either crispy or spicy hot with a soy-arrabiata sauce.

Keep driving a half dozen miles south on Route 1 and you'll slip even farther back in time when you take the turn off into historic Old Wickford, a town important during the Colonial-Post Revolutionary period. Contact the wonderfully entertaining Tim Cranston (swamptown@msn.com) and he'll give you a walking tour of the town. You'll hear great stories about lives lost, loves found, and history made.

When you've finished your walk, stop for refreshment at Tavern by the Sea (16 West Main Street, Old Wickford, 401/294-4771), which is actually located on the edge of a picture-perfect pond, complete with white swans and flocks of ducks. Sit outside on the deck with a glass of Ginger Mimosa when it's warm, or, when it's cool, upstairs in the slanted-roof dining room, and feast on bistro food Rhode Island style: stuffed quahogs, mussels in white wine sauce, French onion soup, calamari both ways like the Grille on Main, fat crab cakes that don't skimp on the crab, and excellent Cole slaw. If they're serving slices of Lemon and Berries Mascarpone Cheese Cake, leave room for dessert.

If you want to cook your own seafood, walk over to the retail store at Gardner's Wharf Seafood (170 Main Street, Wickford, 401/295-4600) where they sell the lobsters, oysters, mussels, clams, and fish caught that day.

An insider note: if you're using a GPS to guide your travels, you won't find "Wickford" listed. You'll have to call the town, "North Kingston," even though the locals don't.

The oysters and clams from Rhode Island deserve to be better known. Everyone has eaten bivalves from Long Island, Connecticut and Maine, but if you want a treat, drive west on Route 1/1A past Snug Harbor, then go south on Succotash Road and eat at the Matunuck Oyster Bar (629 Succotash Road, East Matunuck, 401/783-4202).

When owner Perry Raso has time, he'll take you in a skiff for a tour of nearby Potter Pond where he farms the oysters and clams he serves at the restaurant. His oysters and clams are delicious: sweet, briny, and plump. While you're eating a dozen shucked littlenecks on the deck overlooking the estuary or inside the cozy dining room, you can watch the ducks float by as Springsteen plays on the speaker system. The menu offers classic favorites like lobster rolls, boiled or stuffed lobsters, oysters Rockefeller, steamers, cod cakes, fried oysters, a variety of chowders, but there is also a superb dish made with pan-roasted littlenecks and grilled chorizo with white beans and tomatoes. To add turf to all that surf, there are cheeseburgers, grilled ribeye steaks, and baby back ribs in a bourbon bbq sauce with corn bread.

If you're in Watch Hill and it's late in the day, there's a 99% chance you're sitting on the patio of the Olympia Tea Room (74 Bay Street, Watch Hill, 401/348-8211) watching the magic of a sunset.

Locals like to say that Watch Hill has all the comforts and advantages of Newport without the crowds. The Olympia Tea Room exemplifies what's best about Watch Hill. A long bar takes up one side of the room with dark wood dividers cutting across the dining room, creating romantic intimacy for those who like some privacy with their chardonnay and raw oysters.

Like many restaurants in Rhode Island, the Olympia Tea Room prides itself on supporting local food purveyors. The oysters, clams, scallops, scrod, haddock, sausages, and as much of the produce as the season permits are locally sourced. The menu offers a good assortment of familiar comfort food: ravioli with sage butter, veal stroganoff, grilled lamb chops, spinach salad, Caesar salad, oysters and clams on the half shell, fish and chips, pork chops, steak frite, lamb shank, roast chicken with a mustard glaze, and pasta about any way you'd want--with fresh vegetables, lobster, bolognese, panchetta, sausages and meatballs, or clams. Once you've had your fill of all that good food, take the time to sit outside again for a cup of coffee and enjoy the cool evening breeze coming off Little Narragansett Bay.

If you're on your way to Block Island or you're taking a leisurelydrive on scenic Route 1A, you can stop at Champlin's (256 Great island Road, 401/783-3152) in Point Judith. Head upstairs over the fish market, order your food, and find a good spot on the deck overlooking the harbor where the fishing boats and the Block Island ferries dock. The lobster roll is first rate, as are the fries and clam chowder.

For those with a little more time to spare, Block Island is a short ferry ride from Point Judith. Sparsely populated, with more than 50% of the island set aside as nature preserves, Block Island is a rare treat, a place to slow down and enjoy some quiet time reading, talking, walking, eating or just sitting and taking in the magnificent views. The communities that surround Old and New Harbor have hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and restaurants that cater to both locals and tourists from the mainland.

Overlooking New Harbor, The Oar (221 Jobs Hill Road, New Harbor, Block Island, 401/466-8820) has a bar famous for, yes, you guessed it, autographed oars that cover the walls and ceilings. The restaurant has an open air dining room facing the pleasure craft tied up to the docks. Relaxing with an ice cold beer or glass of wine, watching the sea gulls pass by overhead, it's easy to fool yourself that you're in a tropical paradise but then the waitress brings you your lobster roll with fries and Cole slaw and you know for sure you're in Rhode Island.

In the next post, I'll have news about the upscale dining opportunities on Block Island and in Newport and Bristol on Aquidneck Island.

For more about Rhode Island, please go to:


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Feast Fit for a Son -- Pasta with Clams, Corn, and Smoked Sausage

Recently our older son, Frank, stopped by for lunch. Now that he has moved across town and works long hours, we don't see him often enough. It was great to share a meal and catch up.

The day was sunny and warm so we had lunch on the deck. Everything was quick and easy-to-make: a big bowl of cracked green olives, romaine lettuce with avocado and homemade croutons, grilled fillet mignon, and dessert of ice cold Valencia orange slices. The main course was something special: pasta, fresh clams, corn, and smoked sausage in a butter sauce.

Pasta with Clams, Corn, and Smoked Sausage

Finding fresh clams isn't all that easy. Luckily for us Carlsbad Aquafarm sells their shellfish at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market Wednesdays and Saturdays. The corn came from a local farmer at the Palisades Farmer's Market. The smoked sausage was a treat picked up at a Russian market in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach.

Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 pounds live clams, washed
1 pound smoked sausage, finely chopped
2 ears corn, husks, silks, and kernels removed
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onions, leeks, or shallots
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, mostly leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound pasta
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the clams in a pot with 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook on high heat 5 minutes. Remove and set aside all the clams that have opened. Return the pot to the heat and boil another 5 minutes. Continue until all the clams have opened. After a total of 15 minutes, discard any clams that haven't opened.

Reserve all the clam liquid, between 1-2 cups.

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta. Save 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the cooked pasta to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, toss and set aside.

In a large frying or chef's pan, saute the sausage, corn, garlic, onions, and parsley in olive oil, seasoned with black pepper until lightly browned. Use 1/2 cup of the pasta water to deglaze the pan. Add the sweet butter and clam broth, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked clams and pasta. Toss with the sauce and simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Stir frequently to coat the clams and pasta with the sauce.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper. If more liquid is needed, use the remaining pasta water.

Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Garlic and Clams

Originally posted on bitten, Mark Bittman's New York Times web site, the dish is one of my favorites because it's on the table in 10 minutes.
(David Latt makes a simple dish that can be amplified with any number of ingredients. –MB)
At the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market — two blocks from the Pacific Ocean — we’re finding one of the treasures of spring: green garlic, thick as a leek and two feet long.
With fresh green garlic, everything is edible except for the outermost skin. The farmer I buy them from swears that even the roots are edible. With some trepidation I nibble on a root strand and am pleasantly surprised that it has heat and an intense garlic flavor.
Next to the stand with the green garlic is Carlsbad Aqua Farm where we buy our fresh mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops. The idea was obvious to me: green garlic and clams.
I have made it several times over the last couple of weeks, and the combination is always ready in ten minutes and infinitely flexible. Served with broth and sautéed garlic-parsley toast it’s the perfect appetizer. Add pasta or cooked rice and the dish becomes a complete meal. Stir in roasted tomatoes and you’ve got the beginnings of an excellent cioppino.
Green Garlic and Butter Clams
Yield 4 servings
Time 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 green garlic, washed, outer skin around the bulb removed, thinly sliced, bulb and greens
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 pounds butter clams, washed
Method
  • Sauté the garlic and parsley in the butter until lightly browned. Season with black pepper, add water and clams. Cover and cook 5 minutes over high heat. Transfer the clams that have opened to a serving bowl. Continue cooking any clams that haven’t opened for another 2-3 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened.
  • When you pour the broth over the clams, do so slowly so any sediment is left behind to be discarded. Serve with fresh bread.
Variations
  • --Substitute white wine for the water
  • --Along with the green garlic, sauté 2 thinly sliced shallots.
  • --Tear apart 2 roasted tomatoes, remove the skins, add the pulp to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked pasta to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked rice to the broth.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic-Parsley Toasts

Cioppino is said to have originated among fishermen who made their dinners out of the fish and shellfish they couldn't sell in the morning. Although it has evolved into a pricey item on upscale menus, at heart cioppino is comfort food.

Traditionally cioppino features fresh crab, reflecting the origin of the dish in San Francisco where Dungeness crabs are plentiful. When crab isn't available or affordable, shrimp works just as well. Clams and mussels are essential to the dish, as are cubes of fish fillets. Flounder sole, tilapia, salmon, or halibut all work well.

Find a reliable supplier of seafood. To ensure we're getting the freshest ingredients, we buy our clams and mussels from Carlsbad Aqua Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (Wednesday and Sunday) and our flounder sole from Tropical Seafood at the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market (Sunday).

Tomatoes
are as important to making cioppino as is good quality seafood. If the tomatoes are roasted, the soup has a beautiful sweetness edged with the tomato's natural acidity.

One of the helpful aspects of this dish is that many of the elements can be prepared ahead and frozen for later use. I pick up overly ripe tomatoes at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market when they're discounted. I'll buy several pounds, roast them, freezing some whole in an air tight container and turning the rest into tomato sauce, which I also freeze.

The clams and mussels can be cooked, taken out of their shells, and frozen. If the meat is submerged in the broth, there's no danger of freezer burn. The fish fillets can be cut into 1/2" squares, tossed in olive oil, and frozen in a Ziploc bag. That way all the essential parts of the cioppino are waiting in the freezer whenever you want a taste treat.

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes

While serving cioppino with shellfish in the shell is more picturesque, my vote is to take the clams, mussels, and crab out of their shells so eating the dish is easier.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes plus 45-60 minutes for the tomatoes

Ingredients

6 large ripe tomatoes, washed
8 cloves garlic, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 pound mushrooms--shiitake or brown--washed, thinly sliced
1 pound Dungeness crab legs, cooked, washed, cut into 1" pieces or 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into 1" pieces
2 pounds butter or little neck clams, washed
2 pounds mussels, washed, beards removed
1 pound fish fillet--sole, salmon, tilapia, or halibut--washed, cut into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Black pepper

Method

Roasting the Tomatoes

Remove the remnants of the stem at the top of the tomato and discard. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil sheet on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, reserving all the liquid on the bottom of the baking tray. When cooled to the touch, remove the skins and discard. With your fingers, tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

Parsley-Garlic Toasts

To make the parsley-garlic toasts, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned with half the garlic and parsley. Make two slices for each person. Saute the bread on each side until lightly browned.

Cioppino

In a large stock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom, heat on a low flame, saute the remaining garlic and parsley until softened. Add 1/4 cup water, the clams and mussels, turn the flame to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove all the clams and mussels that have opened. If any are still closed, put the cover back on and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Any clams and mussels that still haven't opened at that point should be discarded.

Slowly pour the broth into a large bowl. Discard any grit remaining in the stock pot. Return the pot to the stove, drizzle more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms over a low flame until lightly browned. Add the broth and roasted tomato pulp and sauce. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the fish fillets, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add the crab or shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the mussels and clams, stirring them into the broth, being careful not to break apart the fish fillets. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Place 1 slice of garlic-parsley toast on the bottom of each bowl, add the cioppino, then place the 2nd slice on top.

Variations

Instead of garlic cloves in the cioppino saute, use 1 whole green garlic, outer skin of the bulb and root end removed, white and green parts thinly sliced

Add 1 cup cubes of cooked, peeled potato, preferably Yukon Gold or fingerlings, unpeeled and quartered

Add kernels from 1 grilled corn on the cob

Substitute cilantro for the parsley

Saute thin rounds of Italian sausage or chorizo, add to the broth

Use 1/4 cup white instead of water

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Clams Go Grilling

Just when you think you know everything about a person, an unseen facet of their life reveals itself. My good friend, accomplished cook, and popular cookbook writer, Valerie Peterson has just revealed herself as a fellow shellfishaholic. In today's New York Times she writes a charming remembrance about summer days at the beach, picnicking and clamming at Sherwood Island State Park in Connecticut in "Digging for Summer".

Sadly this is a remembrance of things past because Sherwood Island where she and her family used to gather now prohibits clamming because of pollution. There are alternative beaches to try but her personal experiences speak eloquently about why environmental protection is not just an abstract notion.

Reading Valerie's description of clams cooked at the beach after being gathered by her cousins is a near-perfect scene: packing the steamers into "coffee pots with a couple of inches of water" and heated on the hibachis carried in by cooperative uncles; watching the water boil, the shells open, broth being seasoned, butter added, and then the adults happily eating the sweet chewy clams. As she says though this was an experience seen from two perspectives. While the adults appreciated the rubbery bivalves, "for us children, the thrill was the hunt..."

Finding steamers in Los Angeles is near-impossible so my experience is with Manila clams from Carlsbad Aquafarms at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. My own remembrance of eating clams is from a very brief stint crewing on a Gulf Coast fishing boat. I remember the work as tedious, back-breaking, dangerous, and hot. The clams however were the best I've ever eaten. The captain of the boat showed me how to make what he called sop which he applied liberally to the clams, creating a perfect mixture of the bivalve's brine, butter's sweetness, beer's sourness, and Tabasco's heat.

Clams Barbecued on the Half-Shell with Sop

Yield
4 servings
Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 dozen Manila, Littleneck or Butter clams (washed, scrubbed clean)
1/4 cup sweet butter (melted)
1/4 cup beer
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Pepper

Method

Season the melted butter, beer, and Tabasco sauce mixture with a little black pepper. Put the clams in a a covered saucepan with 1/4 cup water on high heat for 2-3 minutes or until all the clams open. Discard any that don't open. Reserve the broth to use as a base for clam chowder or a pasta sauce.

Let the clams cool, then tear off and discard the shell that doesn't have a clam. Pour a little sauce over each clam in its half-shell (about 1/2 teaspoon/clam) and put on a hot barbecue grill or in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, then serve with a fresh baguette.

Variations

Sauté until lightly brown 1/4 cup Italian parsley or cilantro (leaves only, finely chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped) in olive oil and add to the sauce.

Sauté until lightly brown 1/4 cup Basil (leaves only, finely chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped) in olive oil and add to the sauce.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bivalves Reign Supreme During Father's Day Week

I have a Father's Day recommendation: visit One for the Table, a web site devoted to "Food, Politics, and Love"--a good mix of interests in my book--and read the Father's Day essays.

For these dozen writers the memory of their fathers and grandfathers is forever tied to food: eggs over easy, mackerel, crustaceans, deli food, apple pie and caviar... Amy Ephron, who created this beautifully written site, was kind enough to include the post I published in February with Frank and Michael's remembrance of my cooking their favorite dishes: rosemary chickens and flourless chocolate cakes.

If my sons write another essay and talk about my favorite food, I'm certain they'd focus on my love of shellfish. I would eat lobster, crab, oysters, scallops, clams and mussels regularly if anyone else in the family liked them. Since I prefer to cook what my family wants to eat, I stick with beef, chicken, and pork.

When I went to the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market, I hadn't intended to buy any shellfish, but talking with Rob at Carlsbad Aquafarm, I couldn't resist. Michelle was at Sundance for the month. Frank has his own apartment. Michael was working late. I was going to be eating dinner alone anyway. Besides which, this was Father's Day-week, so a little shellfish indulgence could be tolerated.

I bought clams and mussels and had one of those exceptionally agreeable Home Alone evenings. They were deliciously tender and sweet. I was very happy.

For those of you who don't care for clams or mussels, please indulge me and read the recipes. There's always the off-chance that you didn't realize your father or grandfather loves bivavles and now you'll know how to prepare them.

If you get the urge to cook bivalves for Father's Day, fresh shellfish is available at Santa Monica Seafood. Carlsbad Aquafarm will be at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Saturday. If you're in New York on the Upper West Side, stop by Fairway Market or Citarella.

Steamed Mussels

Yield 2 servings
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds live mussels (washed, "beards" removed)
2 slices bacon (finely chopped)
2 shallots (peeled, sliced)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, sliced)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, stems removed, finely chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan sauté the bacon, shallots, garlic, and parsley with a little olive oil until lightly browned. Add 1/4 cup water and the mussels. Cover and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium for 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that haven't opened.

Serve the mussels and broth in bowls with a fresh baguette.

The mussels can be removed from their shells and served with the broth as a soup, topped with croutons.

Clams with Pasta

Any pasta goes well with clams. Usually I like spaghetti, ziti, or shells, but for this meal I used a small pasta called tubetti. The effect was very good. The pasta was so small, the clam flavor dominated each bite.

Yield 2 servings
Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds live clams (washed)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
2 bacon slices (finely chopped)
1/4 cup corn kernels (fresh not canned)
3 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, sliced thin)
2 tablespoons onion or shallot (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 box De Cecco pasta (tubetti, ziti, spaghetti, or shells)
1 cup pasta water
1/2 cup chicken stock (homemade) or water
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the clams in a large saucepan with 1/4 cup of water, cover, boil on high heat for 5 minutes, remove all the clams that have opened, continue cooking another 5 minutes, discard any clams that have not opened, and reserve the clam juice. Strain the juice to remove any grit or shell fragments.

The clams are delicious by themselves and no one would blame you for eating them all at this point. If you have the discipline to continue on, you'll be rewarded with a superlative pasta dish.

Boil 4 quarts of salted water, add the pasta, stir frequently, taste after 8 minutes, and drain. Remember to capture 1 cup of pasta water to use in the sauce.

Drizzle olive oil in the saucepan and sauté the parsley, bacon, corn, garlic, mushrooms, and shallots until lightly browned, add the butter, pasta water, and chicken stock--if you don't have stock, use plain water--season with pepper. Hold off adding sea salt until the very end. The clams are salty, as is the pasta water.

Reduce the sauce by half, add the pasta, toss to coat well, taste and adjust the seasoning (for more sweetness add butter and chicken stock; sea salt and pepper if needed) remove to a bowl and top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano.

Variations

For more heat add pepper flakes or a dusting of cayenne.

Substitute cilantro for parsley and add grated fresh ginger.

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped spinach leaves to the sauté.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Udon Finds the Perfect Partners: Clams, Mushrooms, and Garlic

These days udon is almost as ubiquitous as ramen. Served in a hot bowl of fragrant soup, udon satisfies as much with its texture as its flavor. Fat and chewy, the soft noodles are as comforting as dumplings.

Recently we visited Musha, a Tokyo style Izakaya restaurant (424 Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Santa Monica, 310/576-6330). Serving drinks and Japanese tapas--meats grilled at the table on charcoal braziers, sushi, noodles, and soups--the restaurant serves a delicious example of fusion cuisine: Udon Vongole. Using a European approach, the salty clam broth is sweetened with slices of garlic and handfuls of mushrooms.

Since Carlsbad Aquafarm had more of their delicious clams at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, tonight seemed like the perfect time to make the dish at home.

Udon with Clams, Mushrooms, and Garlic


Fresh udon is sold in Asian markets like Nijiya Markets and even some supermarkets. Following Musha's example I used several varieties of mushrooms. The different textures and flavors added to the pleasures of the dish.

Yield: 2 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 packages fresh udon
2 pounds live clams, washed
6 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced thin
2 large shallots, peeled, sliced thin
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 pound mushrooms (shiitake, brown, King trumpet, oyster mushrooms), washed, dried, cut in half
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, washed, stems removed
Olive oil
Pepper

Method

Steam the clams in 1/2 cup water in a covered pot for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Remove the clams from their shells. Pour the broth into a bowl, being careful to discard any grit. You should have 1 1/2 cups of broth.

Sauté the garlic, shallots, and mushrooms with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the clam broth and butter. Simmer 15 minutes. Season with pepper but don't add salt since the clam broth is salty.

Boil a quart of water. Add the packages of udon. The boiling water will soften the udon in 2-3 minutes. Drain the udon and add to the mushrooms and garlic and stir.

Taste the broth. If it's too salty, add a bit more butter. Add the clams at the last minute so they don't over cook. Serve in deep bowls and top with the cilantro leaves.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Promise is a Promise, but...

When I promised my wife I wouldn't talk about shellfish anymore, I'd forgotten that I'd given Mark Bittman a recipe for "Carb-Free Clams, With a Fried-Spicy Crunch". The dish is the epitome of easy-to-make. The clams are steamed for a few minutes with water and butter, which is pretty standard. The trick is the topping. That's where the "fried-spicy" part comes in. I'm very proud of the recipe. I hope you'll take a look on Mark's web site Bitten. As always, the clams are from Carlsbad Aquafarms, a regular vendor now at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Care and Feeding of a Shellfishaholic

Hi, I'm Dave and I'm a shellfishaholic. My wife wants me to stop writing about shellfish because they aren't everyone's cup of tea. But I can't resist the temptation. When we were in Boston recently, the one restaurant I had to visit was the Union Oyster House. While Michael and Michelle rested at the hotel, I snuck away and happily indulged in a dozen oysters and a bowl of clam chowder.

Today at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, Carlsbad Aquafarm had fresh oysters, clams, mussels, and live abalone. I wanted to buy everything. I showed some restraint. I only bought the oysters and clams.

A nice thing about shellfish is they keep in the refrigerator for several days as long as you follow a couple of suggestions. Oysters need to be stacked in a bowl with the rounded part of the shell down, so the oyster sits in its own liquid. Clams will drown if they're submerged in water. Save a plastic basket that comes with strawberries. Cut it in half, put it on the bottom of a bowl and the clams on top. That will keep the clams above any water they spit out while they're waiting in the refrigerator.

Breaded Oyster Sandwich

Breading usually means dredging the oysters in a egg-milk wash before rolling them in breadcrumbs. I prefer a simply seasoned olive oil mixture. The resulting oysters are lighter and crisper. As a condiment I recommend making homemade tartar sauce.

1 dozen oysters, shucked, nectar reserved for later use
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, leaves only, finely
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper
2 tablespoons tartar sauce
2 small baguettes, cut in half
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced (optional)
Romaine lettuce or arugula leaves (optional)

Drizzle the baguettes with a little olive oil, then toast or grill. Pour the olive oil into a shallow bowl and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a second bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and parsley. Roll each oyster first in the seasoned olive oil, then in the breadcrumb-parsley mix. Heat olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. Lightly brown each oyster. Turn carefully so they brown on all sides, then drain on a paper towel.

Spread the tartar sauce on the baguettes. Arrange 6 of the oysters on each baguette. Adding sliced avocado and lettuce is optional but recommended.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Steamed Clams

Cooking clams is no more complicated than boiling water. The Carlsbad Aquafarm's clams are exceptionally fresh and sweet tasting.

2 pounds clams (butter clams or little necks)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sweet butter

Put the clams, water, and butter into a pot on medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Pick out any clams that haven't opened and discard. Serve the clams and their nectar in a bowl with a buttered baguette. Adding a salad turns the clams into a full meal.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 2 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Old Friend, Two New Dishes

When you see an old friend after many years' absence, what's the right thing to do? In my case, it means cook a great meal for my buddy, Hank Gilpin. Years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island after growing up in LA. It's difficult to imagine two places more different in culture and size. When I first arrived in Providence, I was invited to a party. With the directions came the instruction, "I live on the other side of town." I drove for twenty minutes, the time it takes to drive across LA, but twenty minutes in Providence meant I ended up in Massachusetts.

Going on a tour of East Coast colleges with our son, we knew we would drive through Rhode Island. We definitely had to stay overnight at Hank's converted church in Lincoln, a few miles outside of Providence. Hank established himself as a major voice in woodworking decades ago. His furniture is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. He is one of those rare individuals who proves that art can be a business.

When I first met Hank, I was pretty unhappy. I didn't like Providence, East Coast weather, or all those ubiquitous trees. In California I was used to an uncluttered landscape. Driving the freeways, I could see for miles. In New England, the forests ruined the view. Hank took me for walks in the woods where he talked about the different kinds of trees, how the wood changed over time, and how he took that into account when making a piece of furniture. In time, he made me appreciate Rhode Island. If events hadn't conspired otherwise, I probably wouldn't have moved back to LA.

When we got to Hank's, it was still early enough that Michelle and Michael decided to drive over to Tufts and have a look around. That gave us a couple of hours to catch up, check out places I remembered, and prepare dinner. Rhode Island has great lobsters and clams, so our first stop was Captains Catch. We also went by Federal Hill, the Italian part of Providence, where we picked up a fresh whole chicken at Antonelli Poultry and a good pecorino romano at Costantino's. On the way back to the car, we bought a delicious chocolate cake at Pastiche. After a coffee and more catching up, we realized we better get dinner started. It had gotten late.

Back at the church, Hank poured bourbon shots and the work began. The lobster was washed, waiting its turn in the sink. Artichokes were trimmed and ready to cook. Chicken stock was started. A mushroom, garlic chicken ragout was bubbling away. Steamers were steaming. Pasta water was boiling. Chicken breasts were marinating. The parsley-caper salsa was ready to serve with the fresh mozzarella.

When I cut open the lobster I saw something completely unexpected: perfectly fresh tomalley and coral, the colors bright and clean. In LA when we buy a New England lobster, how long has it been out of the sea? Days? Weeks? This lobster had been caught the day before. The chicken also yielded a surprise: a beautifully plump liver. Again, freshness made the difference. I decided we'd have some impromptu appetizers. Hank opened a bottle of Merlot.

Figuring out what to make came quickly. A simple sauté for both. To serve the chicken livers, toasted pieces of Italian bread in olive oil, but for the tomally and coral something more delicate was needed. Lavash cut into 2" squares, dredged in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, and roasted in a 350 degree oven for 2 minutes created crispy squares that were the perfect compliment to the creamy tomalley and coral.

With the rest of the dinner under control, Hank and I enjoyed our appetizers and Merlot, then we set the kitchen counter with plates and platters full of food. Michael and Michelle returned from their adventure, tired but happy to have seen Tufts. They were revived by the dinner waiting for them. Nice what two old friends can do when they have time to visit.

Chicken Livers on Toast

Freshness is the key. The livers need to be plump and firm, with no discoloration. Chopping the livers into dime-sized pieces means they will cook quickly.

1 large chicken liver, washed, the membrane removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shallot or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
1 slice of Italian bread, crusts removed
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the slice of bread into ½" by 1" rectangles and sauté them in the olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. In the same frying pan, on a medium flame, sauté the parsley, garlic, onions, and capers until lightly browned, add the butter, then the livers, carefully browning them on each side. Serve on the toasts.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Lobster Tomalley and Coral on Lavash

Bake the lavash ahead as described above.

Tomalley and Coral from 1 lobster, washed
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
½ garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
6 2" squares of baked lavash
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate the tomalley and coral with the garlic, shallot, 1 teaspoon of the parsley, and olive oil for 30 minutes, then sauté with the butter in a hot pan until the coral turns red. Put a small mound of the tomalley and coral on the lavash square, topped with the avocado and parsley.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Marinating Time: 30 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.