Linguine with Clams

March 7, 2011

My friend Reed and I decided to run a half marathon together. I must admit that a large part of the lure of this half marathon is the fact that I will receive unlimited New Belgium Brewing Co. beer after I finish, but also because I would like to have goals.

And as a result of increasing the frequency and distance at which I run, I have been craving pasta more often than usual (see: Pasta Puttanesca). We ran a 6 miler on Tuesday and I found myself with an insatiable and inexplicable craving for Linguine with Clams. Inexplicable, because I’ve had this dish once in my whole life and though I enjoyed it thoroughly, I have not craved it since.

So I strolled on over to Whole Foods (I refuse to drive there, as the bursting-at-the-seams parking lot too closely resembles Grand Theft Auto) and picked up some clams and decided to have a go at it. I selected a recipe with a white-wine sauce rather than a cream or tomato because I wanted it as simple and clammy as possible.

This dish was good, but it was not what I wanted. I was hoping for the ocean-in-a-bowl effect I got the previous (and only) time I ever had linguine with clams. I was hoping it would be brinier and, well, clammier. Can you achieve that without adding canned clam juice? I don’t know. Maybe I should have used the 3lbs of clams recommended by the recipe instead of the 2lbs recommended by my fish monger? Probably. My craving is still there so if you’ve got a good, sea-salty recipe, please share with me and I will be eternally grateful.

As you can tell by this post and the last, I have not been batting 100 in the kitchen this week. I’ve been doing good, but I haven’t been doing great. So the next thing I make had better be eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head good, or I’ll consider myself in a slump. But fear not, I’ve got a pretty exciting something up my sleeve to try. Tune in next post where I heroically retrieve my domestic goddess crown. Or at least make a valiant effort.

LINGUINE WITH CLAMS (adapted from Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Parsley, and Lemon)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds fresh Manila clams or small littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti

Recipe

First, place a large pot of salted water on the burner and begin to heat it to a boil.

While the salted water boils, place a second large pot over medium heat. When it gets hot, add garlic. Saute until garlic lightly brown (a couple minutes), then add the red pepper flakes and saute 30 more seconds. Add the clams and 1/4 cup of the parsley. Stir 2 minutes longer. Add wine and simmer 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup lemon juice and simmer 2 more minutes. Cover with a lid and simmer until most of your clams are open (the recipe said that would be 6 minutes, mine took about 8). Discard any clams that did not open (they are dead). Remove from heat.

Add spaghetti to salted water. Cook until al dente. Drain, then add to pot with clams and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among four bowls. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice over spaghetti in each bowl. Enjoy.

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Sailboat Tuna Salad

February 8, 2011

I spent my summers on a sailboat for the first twelve years of my life. My parents and I would sail up and down the New England Coastline, stopping at little harbors along the way and anchoring for a few nights. Each morning we were at anchor, my dad would row to shore with rolls of quarters and make international phone calls from payphones in little fishing towns. My mom and I would row or swim to the beach and spend all day playing in the sand and looking for seashells. I made friends with other boat kids hanging out on the beach. Sometimes, we’d have sleepovers and cookouts.

It was always bittersweet to have boat kids for friends. We knew from the get go that our friendship would be short. But that made it really fun, too. We’d look for seashells, and talk about home, and sometimes even bring our parents together for family dinners.

One boat kid became my very good friend for many years. Her name was Suzanne. She had a whole bunch of brothers. We met on a beach in Rhode Island when we were 7 or 8 years old. We were the only two little girls on the beach one day, and we eventually got to talking, then swimming, then collecting hermit crabs. Pretty soon her dad was digging barbecue pits in the beach while my dad was filling them with charcoal. We’d talk for hours, bobbing around in her family’s rowboat until the overly-aggressive swans freaked us out. We tried to build card houses on a sailboat. We had tons of sleepovers.

Suzanne’s life fascinated me. Not only was she living out my childhood dream of being part of a large family, she was also allowed to eat Coco Krispies for breakfast. And, she voluntarily went to bed early. I asked her infinitely many questions (“But what about when everyone in your family has to go to the bathroom at once?”) I could ask her questions all day, and sometimes I did.

Suzanne was different from all my other boat friendships because we actually stayed friends past the summer. We remained penpals during the school year. And each year our families would meet up on the same beach at the same time. One week of vacation with my good friend. That was a blast.

Making this simple tuna salad reminds me of a lot of the dinners we had on the boat. Many dinners highlighted non-perishables with a few very special ingredients from the shore. Spaghetti with butter, garlic, and cracked pepper. Canned tomatoes warmed up with spices and served over fresh fish from the habor. Or, my childhood favorite, crackers with cheese and apples! This tuna salad would have gone over very well on the boat. Tuna fish, olives, pickled onions, and lemon.

I realize that I am unbelievably lucky to have had a childhood like this. Full of adventure and exploring, and a good friend to share it all with.

SAILBOAT TUNA SALAD (by me)

Serves 1

Click here for the pickled onion recipe. The onions need one day to rest before being eaten.

You may notice that I did not include a picture of the final product. Tuna salad is tasty, but tuna salad is not beautiful.

Ingredients

1 pouch (2.5 oz) tuna packed in water

1 teaspoon capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped pickled onions (if you don’t have pickled, use one tablespoon chopped raw onions)

5 olives, quartered

1/4 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cracked black pepper

Recipe

Mix all ingredients together. Eat on crackers.

This is the finished product. Roasted asparagus, french fries, and grilled lobster. It was a messy road to this glorious feast, I’ll tell you that. Because for you, my bloggers, I… killed a lobster. It was so disgusting. Will took pictures as I murdered. Here’s my lobster friend, alive.

Spritely, virile. Just as we all are. And here is my Kill Room (Dexter?)

Here I am stroking him. My dad told me to stroke the lobster because it puts them at ease before you stab a knife into their brainstem. I stroke while looking guilty.

Next, I take a big gulp and jab the knife into what I hope is his brainstem. I make a big T-shaped cut. Despite separating his head in half, his eyes continue to move. Result of a decentralized nervous system. Ew.

Here I am, my dead-but-still-twitching Lobster Friend flipped over as I yank apart his chest cavity and begin to remove the nastiness that is his guts.

Oh, God, the things I do for my readers! (This was not posed, by the way).

Here it is being gutted.

Now here is the freshly sliced and gutted lobster on the grill

And here he is almost done.

Well, he was delicious, if extremely messy. This pictorial account demonstrates my father’s preferred method of killing a lobster: stoke it’s back/head to help it relax, make a big T-shaped cut though the head and along its back (until your knife hits the first ridged prominence on the lobster’s back). Then, flip the lobster over and make a vertical slice all the way through it’s body. Next, pull apart the lobsters chest cavity and scoop out the guts (neon green and brown in color). Then, run some water through the lobster to make sure all the nasty bits are out.

I did a bit of research online after this, and found a method that would involve fewer cuts. Next time I kill a lobster, I’ll probably use this method. Click here to see it. I would recommend trying this, then pulling open the cavity, scooping out the insides, and running water through the lobster.

Well, this experience was different. I didn’t realize how long it would twitch after it was dead. I also would recommend using an apron you don’t like very much (see above pictures for old Mickey Mouse Apron with price tag still attached), as well as doing this outside for the first time. While it doesn’t top my list of favorite cooking experiences, I will say it’s the most vivid. Perhaps I’ll make something vegetarian next.

Marinade Basics

March 7, 2010

I am very lazy when it comes to going to the grocery store. This is what caused me to become good at improvising. When I’m missing an ingredient from a recipe, I am much more likely to change the recipe slightly and make a substitution from something in my pantry then I am to go to the grocery store next to my apartment. Literally, next to my apartment. It’s actually a little embarrassing, but it did make me develop mad improvising skillz! After a few mishaps, I became good at improvising by doing a little research. A lot of cooking runs on general principles. One such principle, that will make your kitchen life exponentially easier and more exciting, is the Marinade Principle. All marinades are comprised of three components: A fat (almost always olive oil), an acid (usually vinegar or citrus), and an aromatic (herbs and/or garlic). 

Last night, Will and I had a swordfish filet we’d bought on super sale at Sunflower Farmer’s Market. We wanted to marinate it but let me tell you, our cupboard was BARE. I looked up a few recipes for swordfish marinades on cooks.com. I saw a few recurring themes among various swordfish marinades: lemon for the acid, thyme and garlic for the aromatic. So I made up a marinade using olive oil, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. I dumped it over my swordfish, sealed it in a plastic bag, let it sit in the fridge for an hour, flipping it on the opposite side at the 30 minute mark. I took it out of the bag, placed in on a cookie sheet, and broiled it on each side until they became golden brown (about 7 minutes per side). I boiled the remaining marinade and served it over the fish as a sauce. This swordfish was delicious, and I never had to leave my apartment. 

I really encourage you to marinate your meats and fishes. Even just a little time in a marinade (30 minutes) can bring the protein to a whole new level of flavor. Marinades are cheap and easy to make once you get the hang of them. After you take out your protein, boil the marinade and serve it over the protein as a sauce. 

So, a summary of how I improvise: Google general principles of what you are trying to make. Look up some recipes with good ratings. See what you have in your pantry and fridge, and where those ingredients overlap with what you’ve read on the internet. Then, experiment! Even if you mess up and have to go out to the store, it’s no worse than the fact that you would have had to go to the store if you’d followed a recipe in the first place.

ELIZABETH’S SWORDFISH MARINADE

Ingredients

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Recipe

Zest and juice the lemon. Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix together, pour over 3/4-1lb fish. Let sit in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.