Linguine With Clam Sauce

Good morning, fellow cooks! After 14 months (or 80 posts!) of writing about my culinary adventures at least once a week with nary a break, I’ve decided to take a vacation from writing for a week or two. Through holidays, vacations, and  surgery, I’ve been cooking and writing, and frankly, I’m a little burned out and am finding my creative juices waning. But that’s not to say I won’t still be cooking; have no fear, springtime has sprung here and even though I’ll be taking some R& R, I’ll still be creating and keeping track of the dishes to bring to you Wednesday mornings from my Vermont kitchen. So stay tuned!

This week’s recipe I developed one night when I had 1. A craving for pasta; and 2. A craving for seafood. I had a can of chopped cans in the cupboard, fresh parsley in the vegetable bin, and it came easily together. Of course, if you have fresh clams, that’s even better. I decided to use chopped clams as opposed to minced because I really wanted the flavor of the clams. I prefer linguine to any other string pasta, but of course you can substitute your own favorite. I thought if I had a plum tomato, chopped and added to the sauce would be a welcome addition.

This is relatively light, easy to cook, and inexpensive, my three benchmarks for a great recipe!

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Cook’s Note: How you like your sauce (watery or not watery) will depend on how much you reduce the wine and juice while cooking.
• The butter adds just a little bit more richness to the sauce, but by all means, use all olive oil if you prefer.
• If you’re like me and like a little bit of heat to your pasta, add some crushed red pepper. How much depends on your own palate. 

• 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
• 2 teaspoons butter
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1-2 Tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
• 1 can chopped clams, reserve juice
• A splash or two of white wine
• A dash of crushed red pepper, optional
• ½ cup or less of chopped fresh parsley
• Pasta servings for two, cooked according to directions

In a medium-sized skillet, warm the butter and olive oil. When shimmery, add the garlic and shallots and cook at medium heat until soft. Add in the clams, setting aside the reserved juice from the can. Turn up the heat and stir. Add the splashes of wine and cook until the sauce has reduced. (If it reduces too much, add some of the reserved juice.) Turn to low, and stir in the parsley and hot peppers, if using. Place pasta on a dish, top with the sauce. Serve with a simple side salad.

Baked Artichoke Dip

With the start of springtime, which at least for me means the start of potluck season, I thought I would bring you my favorite go-to appetizer dish that will make you the star of any party!

This comes from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan. The Horn of the Moon was a restaurant in my hometown that served up delicious vegetarian fare that sadly is no longer in existence. When I got older and had money in my pocket, I would skip out on school and hang out with friends and order dishes with exotic, to me at the time, ingredients I hadn’t even heard of. Think chapatis, tempeh, and veggie burgers before they became mainstream. The air would be thick with spices and herbs and yes, there were spider plants in the window that overlooked the river. I even worked there for one day for a summer job, until a call for a more steady paycheck working in the woods took me away. I loved it and to this day, when I’m in town on a Sunday, I still miss eating Sunday brunch eggs with home fries and homemade ketchup even though the restaurant has been closed for more than ten years.

But I have the next best thing, the first cookbook from the restaurant (there are two). The salsa recipe is one I’ve used for years and have tweaked it here and there so it’s now my own. This may sound unappetizing to some, but the Mushroom Tofu Stroganoff entree is so good, even those who turn their nose up at bean curd will like it–and lick the plate! But the Artichoke Dip is the best of the bunch. I first tried it in many years ago in a book club. Another woman (who I grew up with) made it for every meeting because we all loved it so much!

If you have a food processor, that would be easier; don’t try a blender, I’ve tried that too many times and it just doesn’t work. I chop and mince everything very fine and that does the trick. It’s easy to double and you might want to, one plate never seems to be enough!

Baked Artichoke Dip
From Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987

Cook’s Notes:
• I always like to top this with just a tiny bit of cayenne for a little bit of zip and spice.
• Use a pie plate instead of a casserole dish to cook this in, it’s easier for dipping when it comes out of the oven!
• While it says to serve this with chips, crackers or raw vegetables, I find a loaf of sliced French bread to be the best!

• 1 can artichoke hearts (14 ounces), drained
• 4 large cloves garlic, minced (Cook’s note: I use 3 cloves, 4 was too overpowering for me)
• ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated or Parmesan or Romano cheese
• 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• ¼ cup cream cheese, softened (Cook’s note: This is really important, otherwise it won’t be incorporated in the dip)
• 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs (Cook’s note: I use panko crumbs for some crunch)
• Chips, crackers, or raw vegetables for dipping

Finely chop artichoke hearts or run through a food processor along with the garlic using the steel chopping blade. Combine the ½ cup cheese, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. Mix well with the artichoke-garlic mixture. Put mixture in a 1-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and the remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 375 degrees until bubbly. Serve with chips, vegetable dippers, bread or crackers.

Makes 2 cups.

White Fish with Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil

When the calendar turns to April, I don’t walk, I run to lighter dinners. Gone are the days of heavy-laden stews, soups, and meats; in comes fare that is light but still satisfies the soul, and also helps the middle waist that has grown a little in the past few months. My palate is weary and tired from yet another side dish of roasted vegetables, give me dinners that zing with just-picked freshness!

I’ve discovered my supermarket has frozen wild caught cod for a minimal price that is divided into small portions. Last week, I thawed a couple of pieces out for dinner, but yawned at the idea of yet another piece of baked fish for supper. A quick stop at the supermarket following my after-work walk led me to develop a Mediterranean-flavored dish that was easy to prepare as well as a light and healthy dish. Aside from the cost of the fish, it’s also relatively inexpensive as well. I like meals that are light on your pocketbook as well as your waistline!

This recipe can go in many directions; if you don’t like to cook with alcohol, you can leave out the wine. If you aren’t one for spicy foods, you can leave out the crushed red pepper. If you are looking to save a few calories, leave out the butter. But the main ingredients of tomatoes, olives, and fresh basil are important to keep, as well as using a light, white fish. By adding the fish to the warm sauce, you are poaching it, resulting in a light and flaky dish. Of course, if you have a thicker piece of fish, you may need to cook it just a little bit longer, until it is soft inside.

White Fish with Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil
If you have any sauce leftover, you can make a second meal by adding it to some pasta!

2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced (or a couple of tablespoons minced red onion)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
¼ cup chopped olives, Kalamata, green, or a mix
A couple splashes of white wine (about ¼ cup), optional
¼ cup or so, chopped fresh basil
A dash or two of crushed red pepper, optional
A couple teaspoons of butter to finish, optional
3-4 pieces of white fish–cod, sole, haddock

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When warm, add the garlic and shallots, cook over medium heat until soft. Raise the heat and add the tomatoes, olives, and wine, if using, and bring it to a soft boil. Cook until sauce is reduced a little but still thin. Add crushed red pepper, if using, and add basil, stirring to wilt. Tuck the fish into the sauce, covering it. Turn heat to medium and cook until fish is soft and flaky. Add butter, if using, to finish the sauce. To a plate, add a piece of fish and top it with a little bit of sauce. Serve with a simple salad or with some fresh roasted asparagus.