Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Under the Sea

Rachel here: Seriously? I have an awesome husband. Not to gloat, but I really do, and only one of the reasons is that he is a great cook. Throughout our relationship he has been making me linguini (almost always freshly made with his own two hands) with clams and other various undersea creatures, and every time he does, it feels wonderfully decadent, partly because I have never made clams in my life and so it's a food I feel like I access through his culinary prowess. The other night, though, I asked him to teach me how one deals with these little shelled critters, and he did. John doesn't use recipes; he just thinks about food and then makes it and so, what you'll find below are loose guidelines for approaching a seriously delicious (and, to my surprise, rather easy if you don't make the pasta) and hearty dinner.

linguini (As I mentioned above, John usually makes it fresh; this time we bought it freshly made at the grocery store)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how garlicky you like your food)
1 small shallot, diced
chicken stock (see recipe)
white wine (see recipe)
2 T. butter
clams (we used 8 small ones per person, although John prefers using the large ones--and thus fewer per person--for better flavor)
2+ T. parsley, chopped
grape tomatoes, large handful, cut in half

Make your linguini, cooking it until it is nearly done. Remove from heat and douse in cold water to stop the cooking. If you are using fresh pasta, toss with olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself. Wash your clams. In a large pan, saute the shallot and then the garlic. Add 1/2 c. to 1 c. white wine and 1/2 c. to 1 c. chicken stock (using less will make a less brothy meal, more will make it brothier...this second way is how we prefer it) plus the 2 T. butter to pan. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon in and add the clams. Cover the pan and simmer until the clams are cooked. Once the clams are cooked (they'll all be open now), add the pasta, parsley and a large handful of grape tomatoes. Other additions that are yummy include capers, chili flakes, or a little cayenne. Serve with crusty bread and a wedge of lemon and enjoy!

Janet here: I am a huge shrimp fan and was very excited to discover this recipe in Ellie Krieger's cookbook, The Food You Crave. My parents loved to eat out and on Saturday nights, we often traveled an hour away to a restaurant my dad had somehow discovered in the pre-internet era in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Cows munched contentedly in a field across from the farmhouse restaurant. Inside, my sister and I had run of the place while my parents enjoyed a cocktail with the innkeeper before we ordered dinner in front of a roaring fire.

Shrimp cocktail was one of my favorite hors d'oeuvres. I felt so grown up munching on jumbo shrimp and sipping my Shirley Temple (later named a Barbra Streisand by my father when I was older). This baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta isn't the same obviously, but if you love shrimp, you'll love this. I served it over orzo, which worked quite well.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
serves 4 (with plenty for leftovers)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 ounc cans diced tomatoes with their juices
1/4 finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill (I used dried because I didn't have fresh and it was fine)
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste
2/3 cup crumbled feta

Heat oven to 425 degrees
In an ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook one minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoe juices thicken.

Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley, dill, shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Springl the feta over the top. Back until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese melts, about 12 minutes. Enjoy.

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