The hot weather is starting to give way to salads and seafood, enjoyed on the deck with a glass of crisp cider. Okay, or maybe just grabbing handfuls of granola and sweet peas as summer parties start occurring in earnest (crazy teenagers) and the heat has taken my pleasant evening bike home and turned it into a hot, sore feet experience filled with grease and sweat, which encourages me to throw on dresses and eat whatever can be conjured right NOW while I collapse on the couch to “watch TV” (aka nap). It’s this sort of cycle that makes me realize that I need a reminder of what real, prepared food tastes like. I mean, its not like I’m about to drive up to any fast food windows, but there have been a good number of plate-less meals going on (how many things can I balance on a piece of bread and then fit it into my mouth?). This soup is that rut buster. Just thinking of it makes me commit to try and make things equally as good as this every possible night. It has every single bold flavor that I love, and features one of my favorite vegetable: the simple, unabashed onion. As versatile as ever, the onion can range from sweet to tangy, and promises an experience that no other vegetable can mimic. Adapted from “The New Basics” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, this is a broth recipe originally for mussels. I changed a few things, including making it a little creamier, and kicking the onion-y goodness up a notch. I served it with a simple spinach salad (because it is coming out of the garden in buckets full now, and we are on the brink of having to freeze the stuff) and garlic-parmesan bread sticks to make the ultimate summer meal. This is a family favorite, and a real treat if you don’t eat a lot of shellfish. The list of ingredients looks rather long, but it is actually a very quick recipe. No need for long simmering, just five minutes then in go the clams for about another five. So, it can be conjured right about NOW if that’s the desire!
This serves as a filling meal for 2-3 people, or a nice light course with sides for up to 5 people.
3 dozen clams, rinsed (see Step 1)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 roughly diced onions (Spanish onions do a really nice job here)
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Tbsp caper, drained
1 c white wine
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1) Prepare the clams, starting by scrubbing the surfaces of the shells in a strainer with a trickle of water running as you do so, to catch and run off any sand. Some people say to soak the clams in cold water with a tablespoon of flour, with the theory that it spits out all the sand; I’ve never had this work any better then a good long rinse. Someone else might swear by it, but I tend to not use that method. After rinsing, you are going to want to debeard the clams. Beards are the hairy looking feathers sticking out of the edge of the shell. Use a paring knife and press the beard between the flat part of the blade and your thumb, then pull. It should pull off relatively easy.
2) Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, zest, both ginger, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. You should start to be able to smell all the ingredients at this point. Stir in the wine, capers, and tomatoes (keeping all those good tomato juices with those tomatoes to bulk up the broth). Heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, mix the butter and flour into a paste. Add to the broth to give it a little creaminess (you can skip this step if you want a nice clear broth).
3) Add the clams, covering with the lid at this point. Cook until the clams have opened up, which should take a maximum of five minutes.
4) Discard any clams that are unopened. Serve with lots of parsley on top and garlic-parmesan sticks to dip in the lovely broth!
Garlic-Parmesan Bread Sticks
This makes enough for two people.
2 slices of bread
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
2 Tbsp freshly grated very fine parmesan
pat of butter
Use enough butter to mix the parmesan and garlic into a spreadable paste, and generously cover the bread. Toast in the toaster oven or oven until crisp. Cut into strips, and dip right into the broth!