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Clam Sauce

Mediterranean Inspiration

Between fish tacos and margaritas, I got quite a bit of reading in during our visit to SayulitaMediterranean Summer by David Shalleck, the story of his summer as a chef on a private sailing yacht in the Mediterranean, was a perfect beach read, except that it made me want to race to my kitchen.  But on Sunday night, when I had retrieved my daughters from their annual week in Massachusetts with my parents, it was time for David’s Linguine with Clams and Zucchini.  Additionally, Greta informed me as we were driving home from our Connecticut rendezvous spot that she was feeling the need to do a little baking.

“Can we do that, Mommy?  Can we bake something?”

“Well, I picked up some nectarines at the farm stand this morning.  How about a nectarine crumble?  And we could use some of those blueberries you’ve got there from your blueberry picking expedition with Nana and Grampa.  How’s that sound?”

“Good!”

The thing that made me want to give this clam recipe a try, was the idea that the almost over-cooked zucchini provides a coating that allows the sauce to better adhere to the linguine.  (Plus, as you know, I’ve just got a thing for linguine and clams.  New twists always welcome!)   You cook the zucchini in garlic and a nice amount of olive oil, remove the zucchini, and then cook the littlenecks (I had to use mahogany clams from Maine on this night) in the zucchini-garlic-flavored oil.  Add some hot red pepper (which I had to forgo in consideration of my daughters’ sensitive palates) and parsley, toss it all (including zucchini) together, using a bit of pasta water to make a bit more of a sauce, and va bene!

As for the crumble, we peeled the nectarines, added the blueberries, and Greta did her magic with cinnamon and grated nutmeg.  She then mixed together some whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, dash of salt, and pinched it all together into crumbles with half a stick or so of butter.   Many would insist that vanilla ice cream is the only appropriate accompaniment, but I prefer something to cut the sweetness a bit – honeyed yogurt or creme fraiche will do the trick.  If you’ve got some heavy cream in the fridge, how about that?




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Clam Sauce

I grew up eating linguine with clam sauce with regularity.  My mom’s version originated in one of those Junior League-type cookbooks, but over the years it became more her own.  When I had my first apartment, the recipe came with me to Boston’s North End, where I prepared it often for my roommate and friends.  It was budget-friendly and made for a great left-over lunch.  Later, it was one of my (now former) husband’s favorite dinners, and I could whip it up in a flash on a work night.   But here’s the thing.  This clam sauce is made with canned clams.

Now, I grew up outside of Boston and shellfish are not difficult to come by.   But the clam sauce we made at home never, ever involved live clams, and I never thought one whit about it.  Sure, I’d eaten linguine with real clams in restaurants, but, in my mind, clam sauce made at home was made with canned clams, end of story.   However, I’ve shared this recipe with acquaintances on several occasions, and I observed a certain reaction when I mentioned the canned clams.  It wasn’t much – perhaps just a “canned clams?” sort of thing – but after a few of these reactions, I began to wonder if it might be worth rethinking the whole canned clam idea.  And so I found myself buying a bag of New Jersey little necks at Whole Foods, in advance of my parents’ visit one recent evening.

If my mom’s recipe was quick, this one is like a lightning flash.  After scrubbing the clams, there just isn’t much else to do.  Mash a few garlic cloves, chop some parsley, cook the pasta.   The experience of eating this version is also more pleasing – nudging the clams out of their shells, the satisfying clinking the empty shells make when you drop them in another bowl, the ocean-like taste that is simply missing from the canned version.

My mom’s recipe, however, will remain in my repertoire.  It’s economical ($2.60 for two cans of clams vs. $20 for the Whole Food bag) and the ingredients are easily at the ready in the pantry.  But perhaps most important, it reminds me of home, my mom, and some of my first cooking experiences.

Mom’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

2 cloves of garlic (or much more)
1/4 c. olive oil
4 Tbsp. butter
2 cans of clams (minced or chopped)
1/2 c. white wine
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. rosemary, chopped
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 – 1/2 c. clam juice (optional)

Saute garlic in oil and butter.  Drain clams (reserving liquid) and add reserved liquid, wine, and herbs to pan. (You may add additional clam juice to increase amount of sauce.)  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Simmer approximately 5 minutes or so.  Add clams and cook until heated through – do not overcook or clams will be tough.  Pepper to taste.  Serve over linguine.  Serves 4 to 6.

Spaghetti with Little Necks

50 little neck clams, scrubbed
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, mashed
1 c. white wine
Pepper
1/4 c. chopped parsley
Juice of half a lemon

While spaghetti is cooking, heat oil in bottom of a large pot, add garlic and sweat until soft.  Add clams, wine, and few grindings of pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Stir occasionally and cook until clams have opened, approximately 8-10 minutes.  Add parsley and lemon juice.  Discard any unopened clams.  Spoon sauce over spaghetti.

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