Monday, May 31, 2010

Clam Booty

My excitement for living in the northwest ebbs and flows. Relentless drizzle and high clouds can start to feel oppressive, and the next thing you know the sun is out—and so is everyone in Seattle.
Despite the 2 ½ days of wet and gray we were dealt this Memorial Day weekend, I am feeling quite thrilled about my northwest home.

I went clamming on Sunday. We mucked around in the mud, dug up a bounty of clams, and didn’t worry much about the rain.

But more importantly, the trip wouldn’t have been as enjoyable and fruitful without a sunny group of amazing northwesterners who provided the following: info on the rules of clamming responsibly, hot tips on where to go, instruction on how to locate and dig up the little buggers, tools for digging, use of a big car to carry the lot of us, info about clam varieties, recipes, snacks, and best of all, really good company.

We took the ferry and drove through a web of towns that all start with the word “Port.” We harvested little neck, horse, manila and soft shell clams, and cockles. Then we drove home and ate them—three ways.

Making three different clam recipes might have been overkill, but we were so excited about our clam booty that it was hard to avoid. We had creamy chowder with bacon, thyme and potatoes; steamed clams with vermouth, garlic and serrano peppers; and linguine with basil and tomatoes. All three recipes reminded me of something I had learned in Bill Buford’s Heat: the clam meat is tasty, but it’s the juice they spit out that really makes a dish full and flavorful.

Thanks northwest, and all you amazing northwesterners!

Ann and Larry’s Clam Linguine
3 lbs clams
¼ cup butter
2 T olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cored, chopped
3 cups dry white wine
1 cup water
1/3 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh oregano
2 pinches of red pepper
8 ounces linguine

  • Melt butter with olive in heavy large pot. Add onions and cook until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  • Add white wine and 1 cup water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes until flavors blend. Broth can be made one day ahead.
  • Bring broth to boil and add clams. Cover and cook until clams open (3-5 minutes). Transfer clams to large bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.
  • Stir basil, parsley, oregano and crushed red pepper into the broth and add linguine. Boil until pasta is tender. Return clams with any juices to pot. Cover and simmer until clams are heated through.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Better Butter

It’s all. About. The butter.

At least that’s what my friend Heidi declared to sum up her feelings about pancakes. Oatmeal, blueberry, sourdough—whatever. Good pancakes are about really good butter. She has a point.
In fact, I remember salting my pancakes to simulate butter back in my adolescence when I believed that it was evils like butter and mayonnaise that stood between me and a body like Kate Moss. I have since moved on from such silliness (or my silliness has become slightly more sophisticated) and am a great appreciator of butter.

On Friday, I was having a late supper at Spinasse and they brought us an amuse-bouche—a little toast with farm fresh butter, an anchovy, and fresh ground pepper. Oh my goodness, so simple and so heavenly. And this too was all about the butter. Sweet and creamy to calm the salty fishlette.
Of course, as is the nature of an amuse-bouche, it was gone before I knew what a complete treasure it was. So I bought some good butter and made them myself. And I tried the combo on radishes as well, with much success.

I dried thin slices of baguette in the oven at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. I also tried two kinds of anchovies and would recommend the milder of the two.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mexican Train

I have played more dominos in the last seven days than I have in the last seven years. Mexican Train, to be specific. And apparently, dominos have become quite colorful. No more of those dull white tiles with black dots, the dominos I’ve been playing with are color coded. Hot pink and red, turquoise and gray, orange and gold—a good dominos board is quite the site.

If you were to judge my dominos skills by my score, you’d have to say I’m pretty bad. But I’d argue that you can be good at the game without winning. Dominos are like a good conversation, or a train of thought. Or a recipe idea. Start with something, say double twelves. Then you might be able to add a twelve with a nine on it. And hey, nine reminds me of that two I’ve been trying to get rid of, and so on.

I like to think that dominos helped me put the pieces together for cornmeal cake with rhubarb compote and sweetened mascarpone cream.

I needed to make a good dessert, and didn’t have much time. My friend Chris said rhubarb, that’s in season (think double twelves). Rhubarb compote: easy and nice to look at (twelve and nine). Many years ago I had a rhubarb compote dessert with polenta cookies (nine and two). Rhubarb and cornmeal…..searched epicurious on my phone and found a simple recipe for cornmeal cake.

I topped the whole thing with mascarpone cream, to give an Italian flair to the cornmeal. The ensemble was great, and quite the site. Let me know what you think.

Cornmeal Cake  Adapted from Epicurious
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside
  • Cream sugar and butter in a mixer
  • Add eggs, vanilla, lemon peel, yogurt
  • Mix in the dry ingredients, one cup at a time
  • Transfer to 9" round cake pan, lined with parchment, buttered, and dusted with flour.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 min
Mascarpone cream
½ pint heavy whipping cream
8 oz mascarpone
1-2 t powdered sugar
  • Whip all ingredients until thick
Rhubarb Compote
3 cups chopped rhubarb
¼ cup sugar
2 t lemon juice
½ bottle of red wine

  • Boil all ingredients until the rhubarb is soft but still holds its shape
  • Remove the rhubarb and boil the remaining syrup until it is thick, about 10 minutes
  • Fold the rhubarb back into the syrup.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Slaw is short for salad. Short in that slurred, mangled-over-time way, like Seattle is short Si'ahl. It’s also easily adaptable and quite an adept culinary globe trotter as it seems to pop up on menus in many different forms: with dill and citrus next to crab cakes, aside Italian dishes with fennel and capers, Thai-style with ginger and peanuts—to name a few. 

Coleslaw, as it’s more formally referred to, is a fresh salad of shredded cabbage, and I ate it twice this weekend.

The first time, I made it for friends to go along side jerk chicken and grilled corn. The yellow-tan meal, albeit incredibly flavorful and rewarding, demanded a bright and colorful side. Purple cabbage with cilantro, chives and radishes not only brought the other ¾ of the color wheel to the plate, but also served as a fresh balance to the earthy chicken and sweet corn.
My second slaw of the weekend was a traditional, creamy, green slaw that my brother and sister-in-law made to go along side pulled pork sandwiches for Mother’s Day dinner. Different for sure, but equally as tasty and balancing.
Slaw is really easy: chop and toss, and let it sit. I think this weekend may have been a kick-off to a little slaw phase. I’m ready for more. Bring on the brassica.

Rainbow Slaw

1 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
10-15 radishes, julienned
¼ c chopped chives
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 T apple cider vinegard
1 T grainy mustard
1 t sugar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Chop and toss, and let it sit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Way Gray Changes Me

My approach to laundry has changed quite a bit since I left Florida.

Mostly it’s because I had a lot of free time in Florida. So even though I had my own dryer in my own house, I used to hang all my clothes on the line to dry because I liked to.
Picture warm, dry, Florida breezes, grassy fields, cotton sun dresses—there was a certain romance about the whole thing. I took pleasure in hauling my basket of wet clothes out to the yard and pinning them up on the line. And in the crispness of sun dried cotton sheets.

Now I fit loads in when I can, air dry only the things that would be ruined by the dryer, and generally approach the task of laundry as something that needs to get done.
This weekend, I dyed my own fabric a yummy, mottled gray.  And for the first time since I moved away from Florida, I longed for that romantic laundry experience. I was so pleased with the whole process of soaking and stirring and mixing, and even more pleased with how the fabric came out when I was finished, that I wanted to give it the love of hanging it in the warm breeze to dry.

I didn’t, mind you. I threw it in the dryer like I did my gym clothes and my jeans. But I thought about it.
I am starting a sewing project that will be a rainbow of warm grays. Warm grays that I am attempting to make myself. It’s made me think about all the things I love that are gray—to eat, to look at, to be around.

Here are a few:
  • Trout
  • Gray salt
  • Squid ink risotto
  • Soba noodles
  • The concrete wall in my back patio
  • My Ann Piper painting
  • Campfire smoke