Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's for Dinner? Linguine with Clams. *Check out the clamity in the kitchen!*

What's for Dinner?

Linguine with Clams

Linguine with Clams
                                                                  courtesy of

~This delicious recipe for linguine with clams is from "Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen," by Lucinda Scala Quinn

$-Made for under $25 for a family of 5 (assuming you only needed to purchase clams, parsley and linguine)

    ***Prep in advance since clams need to soak and olive oil mix needs to rest for at least an hour***


Makes 4 to 6 servings                                      
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 smashed and 2 thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 dozen littleneck clams or 4 dozen cockles, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal or all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • Coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Spicy Olive Oil, optional


  1. Place olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a large serving bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.
  2. Place clams in a large bowl; fill with enough cold water to cover. Sprinkle over cornmeal or flour. Clams should open to ingest cornmeal or flour, releasing any sand that may be trapped inside. Let soak 10 minutes. Drain clams and scrub under running water to remove any dirt from shells. Repeat soaking and scrubbing process until clams are completely clean and soaking water is free of sand. Chill cleaned clams until ready to cook.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt water, return to a boil and add linguine. Cook until al dente, about 2 minutes less than package instructions; drain.
  4. Meanwhile, in another large pot with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1/4 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add clams, cover immediately, and steam until clams have opened, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard any clams that have not opened.
  5. Transfer cooked clams, in their shells, to serving bowl with olive oil mixture. Strain clam cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve over clams. Add linguine and fresh parsley; toss to combine. Serve immediately, drizzled with spicy olive oil, if desired.
Read more at Linguine with Clams - Martha Stewart Recipes

Clams, scientifically known as Mya arenaria, and I have more in common than you might think.  Unless physically moved, often a clam is content spending its entire life in one place. As long as I’m content, I can easily do the same. They are strong creatures, never letting go of what little space they have worked hard to find.  Tenacious, you could say.  In many ways, I feel quite similar.  Existing alone in their double shelled world of harmony, they seem kind of mysterious in there.  They are content being solo I guess. That is where we differ.  I’m a little more social. 

Gabriel and Sarah playing with something they have never seen before...clams

Clams have strong religious purposes in many cultures.  For example, the Moche people of Peru worshiped the sea and clams were often depicted in their art.  In the Jewish tradition, all Mollusca are considered non kosher, and for this reason not eaten.  Other species of clams were used by the Algonquins to make wampum, a type of shell money.  Not only prized for their beauty, they also had practical purposes as well. 

Here I am having fun while waiting for the clams to open

I've always like the presentation of clams more than their taste.  While eating them, I notice that I slightly tense my shoulders as I open my mouth to take a bite.  Often, I don't chew, I swallow.  When I chew, the grit and grainy sand particles from the inside of the clam scrape my teeth. So I let them slide down, like a swimmer going down a huge, steep slide.  Yet, I still eat clams.  I enjoy the sophisticated, oceanic look that they bring to the dish.  Like a loved one bringing you flowers, these guys show up bringing you their shells.  They are cute little things.

When purchasing a clam, or any seafood for that matter, make sure that you purchase it from a knowledgeable fishmonger.  Seems like common sense, huh?  Well, wait until I tell you what happened.  Frequently, I shop at my local grocery store because of the convenience.  You know how it is, often with a busy schedule and all. 

Here's what I look like after purchasing clams from a novice fishmonger

Typically, I go to the nearest place with an electric sign and big parking lot.  Oh no, no, no I shouldn’t sacrifice quality for convenience.  Not only is there a strange gentleman there that is in love with me, but apparently the fishmonger dude told me to soak my littleneck clams in a bowl of freshwater.  Not having a clue that I was supposed to do otherwise, I did exactly what he said.  He's the expert; I'm just the confused customer depending on his expertise.

Needless to say, my three dozen littleneck clams died.  In retrospect, it makes sense that one would not soak saltwater clams in freshwater because they live in the ocean.  You really don’t need to have a biology background like I have to figure that one out.  Anyway, once home, I made sure to let Ben know that I had to immediately put the Littleneck Clams into a bowl of water, covered half way.  Partially because I'm a mom and partially because I seem to get stuck taking care of every pet around here, I felt very purposeful filling that bowl with water.  

To prepare the clams for steaming, I poured exactly 1 tablespoon of cornmeal into the bowl of clams. I opted for the cornmeal because it seemed more substantial than my other choice of flour.  Within ten minutes, my clams were supposed to crack open their little shells, like a hermit peeking through a door.  I waited, and waited and waited.  Then, I thought maybe I could entice them to come out with a little flour, in addition to the cornmeal that was already added.  I added the flour and still I waited a few minutes with the clam shells closed tightly like a door. 

The above mentioned bowl of clams before cornmeal and flour addition

Wooohooo! I did find one lone clam alive and well...temporarily at least

At this point, I decided to get a little help from the Internet.  I desperately needed to figure out how to coax these guys out, so that I could feed the family. “The hell with this”, I was whispering to myself.  Frustration and confusion was beginning to creep in.  Not wanting to clam up, I rinsed the clams off in water and just added them to the 1/4 cup of water, like the recipe called for. Doors still closed and all.  I decided to be a rebel.  It worked!  Sure enough, the hermit decided to come on out. Ha!  I got them!  And then I moved on, following the recipe to completion. I should note here that I did try to use my clam opener before steaming, but for the life of me, those double doors weren’t going to open.  After slicing my right thumb finger nearly to the bone the other day, I was a bit shy and decided to steam instead of pry.

Purchasing/Prep Tips

-Only purchase clams that are closed

-If you notice that some of your clams are open, gently touch their shell.  If they are still alive, the clams will quickly close.  If not, they are no longer viable and you should throw them away.   

-Only keep live clams for up to two days.  Keep clams on a moistened paper towel in the refrigerator.  Never store in water, on ice or in an airtight container, they WILL DIE.

*NEVER eat a dead clam, as they are more prone to harbor harmful bacteria!*  The family has survived, although my stomach has been a little “off” today.  Last night Ben went to bed early with chills.  It might have been nice to have a little clam how to beforehand.  Hope this helps you though J *

Photo Gallery: What a clam up!

 Spectrum olive oil good on salads and cooks well too.

The spicy olive oil sauce with garlic and red pepper flakes
When using garlic, I have recently switched to the pre packaged kind.  It's faster and more convenient.
The flowers are from my garden. They looked like they wanted to be in the picture,too.
At first, Gabriel was having fun and being silly...then...
Gabriel 30min later. He is so ready for dinner!
Ben is happy to be eating.

This mineral water is from Germany.  It tasted wonderful and was less than $2.00!

I know, dad...we are going to work on table manners soon *giggles*

Dinner is served!


Carl said...

Looks so good! Very amusing and entertains. I liked the closed clam drama. The presentation was so professional!

By the way, the best seafood cookbook out there is Complete Seafood by Rick Stein...seafood restaurant owner-chef. He also has owns, and teaches, at his own small seafood culinary school.

Why re-invent the wheel...with this on hand you will never be stumped if clams are involved, or any other seafood. His book is the James Beard Foundation's choice for best seafood cookbook on their 20 Must Have Cookbooks List.

Keep up the good work. Always looking forward to another episode. This is great stuff, Morgan.

Carl said...

Oh! Right. Not just Cafe Mediterraneum but other such coffee houses in Berkeley and Oakland. On a few occasions we visited Cafe Trieste in SF, in North Beach. Fond memories for sure!

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