shellfish

Linguine with Clams

LINGUINE WITH CLAMS

And, just like that, we're in August. How the heck did that happen? The other night, I told Eric that we need to make more of an effort to enjoy the Cape house. The whole family has put in a lot of work this year, but it's important that we take a little time off to relax. Even a swim at the end of the day would do a lot to help us decompress. I don't want the summer to go by and for us to feel like we didn't take some time for ourselves.  The hard work is paying off though. The kitchen is done (wooooo) and now one of the bathrooms is being tackled. It's very exciting to be staying there. I'm starting to get used to it... but it's also a little weird still.

I'm not usually one for pasta in the summer, but something came over me the other day and I just needed a big bowl of linguine with clams. The addition of chopped tomatoes, fresh arugula, and a bunch of parsley keep it from being too heavy. It's a dish best served to dinner guests al fresco with a bottle of red. But it works just as well for one or two, providing leftovers for at least another meal. And who doesn't love leftovers? 

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LINGUINE WITH CLAMS

SERVINGS
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 pound linguine
2 pounds littleneck clams
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups arugula
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Salt
Olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Bring a 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt, olive oil and the linguine and cook according to packaging, approximately 9 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or a large lidded pot) set over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add clams and white wine. Cover the Dutch oven and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until all the clams have are wide open. Remove the lid and set heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook sauce until liquid has reduced a little, about 4 minutes. 

4. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain linguine and add to pan with the sauce. Add butter, chopped parsley and arugula and toss to combine. 

5. Serve pasta in bowls, along with a few clams and, if desired, grated Parmesan cheese.

Mussels with Sweet Potato Fries and Garlic Aioli

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If there was ever a question that global warming is real, just ask anyone in New England what the last few weeks have been like and we'll tell you something isn't right. We had very little snow in January, but by the beginning of February we got nailed with back to back storms. In a single five day stretch, close to thirty inches fell. Two weeks later, however, the temperatures were in the fifties and crept up into the sixties, which is unseasonably warm for these parts.  Now, I'm sure some folks are saying "That sounds awesome. Stop complaining!" And, don't worry, I've been enjoying it. But this isn't normal. 

The spike in temps brought out all the little critters, too, including a skunk that sprayed Maki in our backyard. I'm not sure there is any smell worse than skunk. A friend compared it to that of burning tires, but I have to throw gasoline in there too. It's just awful. And it got into our house. Maki received multiple baths that night and the next day Eric took her to get another wash. Even with all of that, she still has a bit of a funk to her (especially her head, where she got sprayed). The irony of it all is that while the warm weather brought the skunk out of hibernation, because it was so warm we could leave the windows open for three straight days to air it out. It all worked out. But it was a bit traumatizing for everyone. 

This bowl of mussels was our Valentine's Day meal from a few weeks ago. I'd meant to share it earlier, but things have just been a bit crazy over here and I never got around to it. Sorry about that. Better late than never, right? I am a huge fan of mussels. It always feels so elegant and decadent, but takes very little work to prepare. To elevate it further, I served them with sweet potato fries and a garlic aioli. A spin on moules frites. I tried to resist eating the whole thing, but failed miserably. Go ahead and make it and you'll see what I mean. 

MUSSELS WITH SWEET POTATO FRIES and garlic AIOLI

SERVINGS
4 servings

INGREDIENTS
For the sweet potato fries
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the aioli
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil

For the mussels
2 1/2 lbs mussels, debearded
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 plum tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons dry vermouth

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While it is heating, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut sweet potatoes into sticks that are 1/4 inch by 1/2 inch wide by 3 inch long. In a small bowl, stir together salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and paprika. In a large mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato with the cornstarch until lightly coated. Toss with olive oil and season with salt mixture. 

2. Spread the potatoes in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, until brown and crispy on one side. Take out of oven and flip potatoes. Return to oven for another 10-12 minutes until crispy. 

3. To make the aioli, put the egg yolk in a medium-sized mixing bowl, along with the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.  Using a whisk, gently blend the ingredients. Now, whisking continuously, but not too quickly, start to pour in the olive oil a couple drops at a time. Do this until you've used half of the oil and the aioli starts to take form. At this point, you don't have to be as careful and can pour in a larger stream of oil. Whisk in the remaining oil. Taste for seasoning and, if necessary, add salt. Transfer to a bowl with a lid and transfer to the refrigerator. 

4. For the mussels, heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and, stirring continuously, cook for 30 seconds. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add chopped tomato and, stirring occasionally, cook for 1 minute.  Sprinkle in thyme. Add mussels, heavy cream and dry vermouth. Season with salt and pepper and cover skillet. Cook, occasionally shaking the skillet, until the mussels have opened.  Spoon mussels into bowls. Serve with sweet potato fries and mayonnaise.

Oysters with Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Mignonette

I keep trying to rack my brain, but I honestly can't remember the first time I consumed raw oysters. It's quite possible I had one as a teenager, but I'm pretty sure I was in my twenties (maybe after meeting Eric) that I had my first experience with these bivalves. Now, however, I'd list them as one of my favorite foods. Some of my favorite food memories revolve around oysters. Being served the Oysters and Pearls at The French Laundry (paired, of course, with a glass of Champagne) when we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and Eric's 30th birthday. Or the Kumamoto oyster with cucumber mignonette at O Ya (during my birthday dinner). But, mostly, I prefer my oysters treated with a little squeeze of lemon, maybe a small spoonful of mignonette. Ideally, a platter will be consumed outdoors, overlooking a body of water. However, that's not always possible (As I type, it's snowing. Hello winter!) and we've taken to shucking them at home, often slurping them down over the kitchen sink. It's not elegant, but it does feel intimate. Sometimes that's how romance is, right? :-)

While oysters are wonderful on their own, there are some simple ways to accentuate their robust ocean flavor. A little acid does a lot to make them pop. For this mignonette, I've combined two types of seasonal citrus, grapefruit and Meyer lemons, to make a simple dressing to spoon on top. 

Oysters with Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Mignonette

YIELD
12 oysters

INGREDIENTS
12 oysters, shucked
1 large red grapefruit, segmented
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh chive
Coarsely ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Chop the segmented grapefruit sections into small pieces and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add the Meyer lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, salt, chive, and black pepper. Give it a quick whisk to combine.

Before eating, top an oyster with the grapefruit and Meyer lemon mignonette.