clams in crazy water

“What’s crazy water got to do with cooking and anyway, who wants to eat fish in water?” ~ Marcella Hazan, Marcella Cucina

From where I’m sitting at my desk, I can hear the sound of water streaming in the room below me. It’s pleasant; Zen-like. It’s a gurgling fountain sound you’d hear while reclining on a heated, padded table with eye pillows on your face, in a dark room while aromatic oils are being soothed onto your stressed out body. SNAP! 

Actually, the sound is coming from my basement, which is not an organic spa retreat; just an ordinary partially finished one with a brand-spanking-new-just-installed-this-morning four-hundred-dollar sump pump. Hot and stone and massage are way nicer to say than sump. Or pump.

Isn’t it crazy that water is at once the beautiful blue sea or babbling brook, the very thing we want to escape to, and also a monstrous enemy when it’s flowing like a river into your house and you need it to be gone?

My heart goes out to you and anyone you know suffering from the effects of stormy flood waters. It’s happened to me before, in another house and it’s awful. This time - thank god – there was no flooding in our home; just an overwhelmed drain system that threatened to cause trouble into the wee hours last night. The trickling sound is the water table getting restored to normal. Thank you, sump pump. French drain – you too.

Anyway, there is the coincidence of my planning to write about these clams in Neapolitan crazy water – acqua pazza, as they say – and all the watery weather in my life today.

Marcella writes “water is what brings together all the seasoning ingredients, the tomatoes, garlic, parsley, chili pepper, salt and olive oil.” So simple. It’s the beauty of a brodo, or Italian broth.


Since the clams and crazy water come together to make a beautiful soupy-zuppa, I decided to fortify it with fregola (sometimes spelled fregula), a special type of pasta from Sardinia. I love the artisanal pasta produced by Rustichella D’Abruzzo; the fregola sarda they make is made from semolina. It’s much like large grains of couscous, only toasted. It’s got this great, toothy texture and sweet, nutty flavor, perfect for rustic broths like this one.

Recipe inspired by Fish in Crazy Water in Marcella Cucina by Marcella Hazan

clams in crazy water

clams in crazy water

Ingredients

  1. 20-24 littleneck clams or cockles, rinsed
  2. 1 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  3. 3 whole garlic cloves, lightly smashed the side of a large knife
  4. 1 handful flat leaf parsley leaves plus 2 tablespoons chopped
  5. 1 fresh red chili pepper, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. Pinch saffron threads
  8. Extra virgin olive oil
  9. 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  10. 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  11. Juice of 1 lemon
  12. 1 cup fregola sarda

Instructions

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Add a teaspoon sea salt and add the clams. Swish them around a little then let them soak one hour. Lift the clams out of the water, leaving any sand or grit that settled on the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Set aside 1 cup of the tomatoes; put the rest in a saucepan with the garlic, parsley leaves, chili, salt, saffron and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow bubbling simmer and cook 30 minutes. Pour the broth through a strainer set over a bowl of small saucepan, (discard the vegetables).
  3. Cook the fregola sarda in boiling salted water - in my experience it can take longer to cook than other types of small pasta before becoming tender – about 20 minutes. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon oil; cover and keep warm
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a saute pan large enough to hold all the clams (12 inches diameter should do it); add the garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant and sizzling. Toss in the clams, reserved tomatoes, broth and lemon juice. Cover the pan and turn up the heat to high and cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that haven't opened. Taste the broth to see if it needs salt (or more chili).
  5. Spoon the fregola sarda into individual bowls and ladle with the clams and broth. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
http://familystylefood.com/2014/05/clams-in-crazy-water/

steel cut oats, pecorino and poached egg

steel cut oats, pecorino and poached egg www.familystylefood.com

I don’t skip breakfast (or any meal, for that matter); in fact it’s my growling stomach that motivates me out of bed and into the kitchen every morning.

Many days I like to make oatmeal with cherries or blueberries, with some homemade almond milk. Otherwise, I’m a person in search of savories and a soft-boiled or poached egg is usually my go-to. Going out for breakfast doesn’t happen often either, but last time I had a friend visiting from out of town I took her to one of my favorite local restaurants, where we had brunch on a Sunday morning.

steel cut oats, pecorino and poached egg www.familystylefood.com

One of the specials on the menu that day were steel cut oats with olive oil and black pepper; the unexpected twist on a usually sweet breakfast preparation made me very happy. I wondered why I didn’t cook steel cut oats at home regularly..hmm, let’s see. Could it be that 2 minutes in the microwave for rolled oats versus more than 10 times that much on the stovetop has something to do with it? Um, yeah.  [Read more…]

tuscan kale, ricotta and mushroom pizza

tuscan kale, ricotta and mushroom pizza www.familystylefood.com
I laughed through “The Celery Incident“, a teaser episode from the new season of Portlandia; Steve Buscemi plays a sad sack salesman at Produce Sales Headquarters, taken to task for the sorry state of his account – celery – on the vegetable totem pole.

It’s pretty funny; in the episode,  heirloom tomatoes, kale and brussels sprouts are the hot, sexy IT foods (bacon and corn play some parts, too), while celery struggles for some love.  It did make me wonder if in reality kale has its own marketing board; no question kale (and healthy, green food in general) has gone viral over the past few years. But as far as I know kale ads aren’t taking the place of huge displays of Victoria’s Secret models in Times Square.

I’ve been trying to give celery a second chance in my kitchen. I use it as part of a flavor base – the soffritto - when I start cooking certain soups or sauces, but other than that I find its flavor can be overpowering when used raw or else it goes completely benign and unpleasantly mushy when cooked.

tuscan kale, mushroom and ricotta pizza www.familystylefood.com

But to get back to kale, the co-star in this pizza recipe: I couldn’t be happier everybody wants some. I kind of hope it’s not just a fad that every restaurant in the land has some version of a kale salad on the menu (not so in France: The Kale Project is attempting to stir the pot).  [Read more…]