If you dig for clams, you know a fresh clam when you see it. For the rest of us at the market, look for hard-shelled clams that are tightly closed. If a shell is slightly open, tap it lightly. If it doesn’t snap shut, the clam is dead and should be discarded. Scrub clams with a stiff brush and rinse under cold running water. Keep live clams in their shell on ice, up to one day in a 40 degrees F. refrigerator. Clams are high in protein and contain fair amounts of calcium and iron.
For raw clams, serve shucked clams on a bed of ice with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce. If you like spicy food, add a few squirts of Sriracha (chili sauce) to your favorite cocktail sauce. Pour a glass of chilled Gewürztraminer or Prosecco and enjoy the clams.
Clams in a Pink Bean Sauce is an adaptation of my recollection of dining at a small cafe in Sicily, devouring a bowl of steaming hot clams and beans. It’s perfect for a Saturday or Sunday lunch when autumn is in the air with a class of crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Feel free to substitute your favorite beans in the recipe.
My Italian friend Antoinette makes the best Zuppa Di Vongole I’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic. This recipe is as close to matching hers as I can get without her assistance in the kitchen. How about serving it over pasta with a class of Chianti for dinner one evening this week? Bon appetit!
CLAMS IN PINK BEAN SAUCE(Serves 4 to 5)1, 15-ounce can pink beans, cannelloni or your favorite beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 fennel bulb, washed, trimmed, fronds reserved, halved
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 to 5 parsley stems, tied together with kitchen string
1 large lemon, 2 strips zest peeled and lemon juiced
1/4 cup dry vermouth
Large handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 dozen little neck clams, well scrubbed
2 dozen Manila clams, well scrubbed
Optional: 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Lemon wedges for garnish
4 thick slices country style bread, toasted, drizzled with extra virgin olive oilTo prepare:Toss beans into a medium bowl and drizzle with a little oil; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice one half of the fennel bulb, transfer it to a medium bowl and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Cover the fennel with a few fronds directly on top of the fennel to help prevent browning and reserve. Chop the remaining half of fennel and set aside.
In a large heavy pot over medium heat, add olive oil, when it is hot, add chopped fennel, onion, sliced garlic, rosemary sprig and parsley stems tied together. Sauté until the fennel is translucent and tender but still slightly crunchy, about five to six minutes. Watch closely so as not to burn the garlic.
With a vegetable peeler, remove two wide strips of lemon zest, halve, and squeeze the juice.
Add little neck clams and lemon zest, half the lemon juice, to the vegetables in the pot. Cover and cook until the little neck clams begin to open, about 5 minutes. Toss and stir clams with a slotted spoon transfer open clams to a bowl and replace the cover on the pot. Add the manila clams, cover the pot and cook until they open. (Check every so often and transfer the clams as they open.) After 10 minutes discard un-opened clams. Add parsley stems, reserved seasoned beans, and vermouth, half of the chopped parsley to the pot and stir well. Return the clams to the pot and toss. Add butter, cover the pot and reheat. If using, stir in olives.
Add remaining lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper to the sliced fennel salad. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well. Pass the remainder of the salad at the table.
Spoon the clams with the beans and vegetables into shallow soup bowls, garnish with parsley. Top with a spoonful of fennel salad, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with lemon wedge. Pass the toast at the table for dipping into the sauce. ANTOINETTE’S ZUPPA DI VONGOLE (CLAMS) WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA(Serves 8)6 to 7 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed, checked, and washed
1 cup water and 1 cup white wine for steaming
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Greek oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 to 6 large fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded, coarsely chopped, with juices
(Or 1 large can Italian tomatoes and their juices)
1 cup full bodied red wine
2 pounds angel hair pasta
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil for drizzlingTo prepare:Scrub the clams and refrigerate until ready to steam.
For the sauce: In a large heavy saucepan over moderate high heat, coat the bottom with olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper and briefly sauté until aromatic.
Add tomatoes and wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer sauce with the lid ajar, about 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Can be done ahead and reheated just before serving.
For the pasta, meanwhile, in a large pot set over high heat, add cold water, a tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the side of the package, or until al dente. Drain well and transfer the pasta to soup bowls, keep warm.
While pasta cooks, on another burner, in a large skillet with a lid over high heat, add water and white wine and bring to a boil. Add clams, cover tightly and steam until they open, remove clams when they open, about 5 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer clams in their shells to a bowl, and keep warm. Strain all the clam juice from the skillet through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any sand, add the juices to the simmering tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
To serve divide the clams among the bowls of pasta and ladle the sauce over the clams, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley. Serve at once.
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