Thursday, September 13, 2007

Linguine and Clams, for Families

One time in France I got my daughter, who was three and adventurous, to take a sip from an ice cold oyster I was about to eat. She wasn't too crazy about it, but I felt like it was a triumph. At least she tried it! That taste memory is in there. It's a reference point she'll have for the rest of her life.

In general, though, my kids are not big on seafood, which is a problem, because I love seafood. One of my favorite things to eat is linguine with clams. What, am I supposed to just not eat it for the next 15 years?

This isn't feasible, so I started making the dish in the mothership style: deconstructed. One bowl of linguine, surrounded by smaller bowls of the other things I like to serve it with: diced tomatoes, sauteed spinach, parsley and lemon zest, and clams.

The sly beauty of this method is that the linguine is tossed with the clam juice sauce. Unbeknownst to my children, they are locking in sense memories even as they think they are eating plain pasta. Fools! I'll have them eating oysters by the time they are teenagers.

Linguine With Clams and Greens
serves 4

1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb clams (more, if you have more than 2 clam-eaters), thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch spinach, washed and loosely chopped
1 lb linguine
1 bunch parsely chopped finely
Zest from one lemon
Sea salt and pepper
Hard grating cheese, such as Asiago or Parmesan

Put water on to boil, and begin cooking the linguine. If the linguine is ready before everything else, drain and toss with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, and toss thoroughly to coat the strands of pasta.

In a large saucepan, heat the onion and the olive oil over medium-low heat until soft.
Add the garlic and continue gently cooking.

Meanwhile, heat the wine in a small pot with a tightly fitting lid. Add a sprig of parsley, a twist of lemon peel and a pat of butter if you like. When the wine is boiling add the clams and cover.

By now the garlic and onions are translucent. Turn up the heat, place the spinach directly on top of the onions and garlic, with a pat of butter if desired, and cover. Steam until the spinach is thoroughly wilted. Gently remove it with tongs (leaving the onions and garlic behind) and place in a warmed bowl. Cover and set aside.

When the clams are opened, use tongs to pluck them from the pot and place in a warmed bowl. Set aside.

Mix the chopped parsley and lemon zest togther and serve in a small dish.

Pour the clam-wine liquid in with the onions. Turn the heat to high and reduce slightly. Toss with linguine.

Serve the linguine, surrounded by the sauteed spinach, diced tomatoes, clams, parsley-zest and Asiago cheese. Allow each diner to assemble his or own plate.

Season with salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy!

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