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A Recipe for the 4th of July: 2012

3 Jul

Last year at this time I posted a recipe for the 4th of July. It was for the simple grilled hot dog on a bun: A Recipe for the 4th of July.  This year I am adding a side dish that complements the tube steak like no other: Barbecued baked (that aren’t baked) beans.

Like I do in so much of my limited cooking, I choose the easy path to the hard. I like to cut corners. I admit to being lazy at times. But I try to do it without sacrificing too much flavor or quality.

As I’ve discussed in the previous posts I’ve called  The Fazool Trilogy, The quality of most beans from a can as compared to dried, is, in my estimation, minimal.  And that miniscule difference just does not justify the extra time and effort in soaking and then cooking the beans. So I cut that process out. Just make sure you drain and rinse the canned beans in cold water before using them.

I’m lazy, but not this lazy.

Some might say if you are going to be lazy, go all the way. Just buy a can of pre-made baked beans. And to be honest, there are one or two that aren’t too far off in taste. Nothing a little doctoring won’t shore up. But by doing it the way I’ve chosen, you can control the flavor; the sweetness, salt content, and even add a few tricks of your own into it.

For my version of barbecued baked beans you will need the following:

2 15 or 16 ounce cans of small white beans*

2 strips of bacon, diced

1 medium onion, chopped.

2 tbs molasses

2 tbs brown sugar

1 cup of ketchup

1 tbs of yellow mustard (the cheap, glow in the dark kind).

1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp of apple cider vinegar

2 cups of water

Dash or two of hot sauce.

Salt and pepper to taste

*The traditional bean of choice for baked beans is the Navy bean. Some recipes call for the “Great Northern” bean while others prefer the pinto bean. Any of the above, as long as they are about pebble size, will suffice and absorb the flavors of the barbecue sauce.

Rinse the beans in cold water and strain.

Rinsing the beans.

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat renders.

Add the onion and fry in the bacon fat for about five minutes or until softened.

Softening the onions in the bacon fat.

Pour in the water and deglaze the bottom of the pan.

Add the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar.

The liquid ingredients getting ready for the arrival of the beans.

Stir and bring to a boil and then simmer for about ten minutes.

Add the beans.

Cooking down the beans.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about a half hour or 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is cooked off and thickened to what resembles a barbecue sauce.

Drop in a few dashes of hot sauce.

Stir again and serve.

The baked beans not only are one of my favorite side dishes for a barbecue, they also make a delicious topping to a Fourth of  July hot dog.

A Lime Cut Three Ways: The Second Cut

20 Jun

The Mojito

I always thought of the mojito as an amateur’s drink. Part of my thinking was because of the rum used. I’m partial to the rums of either the West Indies; Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, etc., which are molasses-based, and robust, or the exquisite French island “agricole” rums of Martinique and Guadeloupe, made from distilled sugar cane juice. The rum traditionally used for the mojito is of the smoother, Spanish variety; Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc. So smooth, in fact, that to me, the rum is indistinguishable; practically devoid of any flavor.

Further damaging the mojito appeal in my narrow mind was that the rum usually poured into the drink was the one with the enormous marketing budget making it, in my estimation, the Coca Cola of rums. And speaking of Coca Cola, the rum in question is usually best enjoyed in that abomination: rum and coke. But there I go again, displaying my rum snobbery by thrashing a drink enjoyed over the years by millions of people. It’s an unseemly trait of mine that, as I grow older, hope I am losing. Who am I, some sort of food and beverage critic or something? It’s not my place to belittle one’s rum preference?

Cuba Libre??

A big part of my conversion to the mojito was the forest of mint that, since we moved to our new apartment, has accumulated on our terrace. Mint, along with lime, are the dominating flavors of the mojito and excellent bedfellows they make.

A forest of mint.

You can take your mint tea, mint ice cream, mint and lamb and whatever else you might use fresh mint for. I use it exclusively for the mojito. And yes, I do use smooth—err—bland, Puerto Rican rum in the drink (though not the Coca Cola of rums whose name will not be mentioned here). I wouldn’t dare attempt a mojito with a rum from Martinique or Trinidad. The result would be a completely different drink. The neutral rum from Puerto Rico seems to meld the other two dominant flavors of lime and mint perfectly in the cocktail.

Mojito mix

What follows is my version of the  mojito.

Ingredients:

1 lime cut into tenths.

10 or more fresh mint leaves including sprigs.

4 teaspoons simple sugar syrup*

2 ounces of white Spanish rum (Puerto Rican or Domincan, if you can get Cuban, I’m sure that would work well too).

A splash or two of seltzer

*You can use superfine sugar, granulated sugar, or even confectioner’s sugar instead of simple syrup, but I prefer homemade syrup which eliminates having to dissolve the sugar into the drink. The recipe for simple sugar syrup can be found on my post, A Lime Cut Three Ways: The First Cut.

Add most of the lime and mint leaves, saving a few of each, to a highball glass. Mash and muddle the mint and lime together with a pestle or whatever type of apparatus you might have on hand.

Add the sugar syrup, the rum, and ice and stir.

Pour in a splash or two of seltzer to top off the cocktail and stir again.

A splash of seltzer.

Garnish with a couple of lime pieces and a sprig or two of mint.

Sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy.

The mojito

I no longer demean the mojito and want to admit here that I was very wrong about its many merits. It is a summer cocktail supreme and I now count it as one of my go to drinks. Could it be that this public admission is testament that I am finally maturing? One can only hope.

The Fazool Trilogy: Part Three

9 May

Of the Italian-American all star bean trio I have written about in the Fazool Trilogy, it is this dish that most refer to when they speak in that slang my high school Italian teacher reviled, “fazool.”

And in honor of my high school Italian teacher’s pet name for me, “pigrone” or lazybones, I’ve titled my version of pasta e fagioli accordingly.

It’s not just because I was a lazy student  in my high school Italian class that I’ve named the dish this way but because, by using canned beans instead of dried, which require soaking and then cooking on their own, I’ve cut a huge corner in preparation. I’m all for cutting corners in cooking if the results are pretty much negligible either way. And in my experience, I find little difference between taking the time to soak the dried beans instead of using canned. Certainly not enough to warrant the extra time and effort.

Unlike pasta e ceci, and pasta lenticchie, my grandmother did not make pasta e fagioli much for me. I remember her serving heaping bowls of it to my grandfather at lunch when he would come in from gardening, construction, house painting; whatever  handy work he was doing at the time. I don’t recall my brothers and I being forced fed what my grandfather ate heartily. Maybe she assumed that we would totally reject the concept of the pale cannellini bean and rather have a tuna fish or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And looking back now, that’s a shame. As a result, I came to my appreciation of pasta e fagioli later in life.

When they say “fazool” this is what they mean.

My grandmother, I do know, made pasta e fagioli with the legume of choice for the dish, the cannellini bean. I have known Italians, however, who swear by the kidney bean when making their “fazool.” To me that changes the dish completely, but who am I to judge anyone on their fagioli preference?

All of the bean dishes in the Fazool Trilogy are unique and not just because of the type of bean. The first in the Trilogy, Pasta e Ceci, is more like a pasta dish; the pasta being the dominant part of the dish with the chick peas folded into the pasta.

In the Fazool Trilogy: Part Two, Pasta e Lenticchie, the lentils are the main attraction while the strands of broken spaghetti fill out and balance the dish by adding much needed starch to the heftiness of the lentils.

Pasta e fagioli, at least the way I like to make it, is more like a soup, or stew, than the other two. And because it has a more liquid consistency, unlike the others, I add a little meat flavoring, chopped smoked ham or pancetta. If you want to keep it meatless, you won’t lose much; the same can be said with adding meat to the other two in the Trilogy.

What follows below is my pretty standard, and hopefully not too difficult, recipe.

Lazybones Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients

1 tbs of olive oil

2 cans of cannellini beans, (15-16 ounces) drained and rinsed.

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 celery rib, chopped fine

1 medium carrot chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

3 to 4 cups of chicken broth (beef broth works too)

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1 28 ounce can of diced or chopped tomatoes with juices (I like pieces of tomato in my broth, so I usually go with diced or chopped; sometimes crushed is just puree)

3 ounces smoked ham, pancetta, or bacon (I prefer the first two to bacon just because bacon’s strong flavor influences the dish more than I like, but it still works. For this batch I’ve used smoked ham).

1 secret ingredient (that’s not so secret anymore, to find out what it is, refer to The Fazool Trilogy: Part Two.)

Secret ingredient

8 ounces of a small pasta shape (I like ditalini, but small shells, elbows, and tubetini also work).

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Grated Parmesan cheese

The pasta of Pasta Fagioli

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch oven or wide bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Add the ham, pancetta or bacon and cook until it browns lightly, around 5 minutes.

Chopped smoked ham

Stir in the onions, celery, and carrots, until they are softened. Around 7 minutes.

Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, stir for about 1 minute.

Pour in tomatoes and the secret ingredient that’s not so secret anymore and bring to a boil.

Pasta e Fagioli minus the pasta and the fagioli.

Add the broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, beans, and bring to a boil and then simmer for about ten minutes.

Drop the pasta into the pot and cook until it is a minute from being al dente. Timing depends on the pasta shape and brand; check the package. (Beware of overcooking the pasta; you don’t want mush).

Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, ladle into bowls, and add the desired amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Pasta e Fagioli

Like the others in the Trilogy, Pasta e Fagioli is best served with a crusty bread and a green salad.

Thus concludes the Fazool Trilogy, however, I am always open to suggestions and ideas on how this series can be continued and transformed into epic status. So please don’t hesitate to comment with your fazool insight.

The Fazool Trilogy: Part Two

30 Mar

Part Two of the Fazool Trilogy features a dish that I have never seen on a restaurant menu anywhere. And I wonder why? Thankfully, my grandmother, known in the family as “Nanny,”  introduced me to the tiny legume and the hearty, almost meat-like broth it made when cooked and then combined with broken bits of spaghetti.

When I would call to say I was coming over for lunch, she would say, “I’ll make lentichhie. Or ceci.” (Pasta e Ceci). The pasta part was a given.  She would serve a big bowl  with her homemade loaf bread and a salad; the lunch would fortify me easily until dinner.

As I have said, there were never any written recipes.  And back when I was younger, I didn’t really pay attention to what went into Nanny’s meals. It was the end result that was my only concern.

So now  I’ve tried my best to recreate her simple, Calabrese dishes. There always, however, seems to be something missing. I can never exactly duplicate what I remember. Still, I get close enough to continue trying.

Pasta e Lenticchie

1lb bag of dried lentils (Some use the fancy French lentils, but fancy was not in Nanny’s vocabulary;. She used, and so do I, the basic green, most inexpensive lentils).

1 onion-diced

2 garlic cloves-minced

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

6-8 cups chicken broth or water, or a combination of both. (The more liquid, the soupier the dish, which, in this case, is not a bad thing. It just depends on your mood and taste).

1 cup plum tomatoes, chopped, juice retained.

½ lb of spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces (you can also use tubetti, ditalini, or small elbows)

4 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper

Grated pecorino Romano or Parmesean  Reggiano.

1 secret ingredient (the picture of which, you will find below).*

Name that ingredient.

Rinse the lentils in cold water a few times to remove any dirt or grit.

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.

Sauté the onions until soft; about five minutes over medium heat.

Add the garlic and thyme for another one to two minutes.

Toss in the lentils and sauté for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth/water and the tomatoes.

Add the bay leaf.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft, but not mushy.

You can add the spaghetti and cook it with the lentils, but I prefer to cook them separately.

So, in another pot, boil water and add the spaghetti pieces. Cook until al dente, drain, but reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti pieces and the remains of the pasta cooking liquid to the lentils.

Stir, and cook for another minute or two.

Scoop into bowls.

Top with grated cheese and a little chopped parsely.

Enjoy with crusty bread and a salad

Pasta e lenticchie

*You correctly guessed the secret ingredient as a parmesean Reggiano rind. I  really don’t know what the rind adds to the dish; many include one when they make Sunday sauce and pasta e fagioli (Part Three of the Trilogy  to come).  If nothing else, the rind imparts a salty, aged flavor to the creation that maybe is just in our heads. Or maybe not. If you have one lying around, toss it in. It won’t hurt the dish.

The Fazool Trilogy: Part One

1 Mar

I had an Italian teacher in high school who was about four and a half feet tall. She had gray-hair she wore in a strict conservative bun and dressed like a Sicilian widow. She was no-nonsense in class and compensated for her diminutive size by never hesitating to come down hard and loud on a slacker. Her pet word for me was “pigrone,” or lazybones. She was also a stickler for classic, traditional Italian; no dialect, and definitely no Italian-American slang was tolerated. Whenever she heard the hated, vulgar misuse of her native Italian, she would spew venomously: “It’s fagioli. Not ‘fazooool.’ It’s capicola, not ‘gabagool!’ And this was way before Soprano’s speak made the slang even more popular.

Just getting some sun while waiting for an order of gabagool.

I don’t know where my teacher is now, but I hope she doesn’t mind too much that I’ve titled this series, The Fazool Trilogy. I promise I’ll never utter such an abomination in public.  What follows is part one of the trilogy.

Pasta e Ceci a la Nanny

After my grandfather died, I would try, whenever my schedule permitted, to visit my grandmother for lunch. If it wasn’t a Sunday, when lunch was red sauce, polpette and other meats, the lunch would usually include some sort of pasta and bean combination. My grandmother, we called Nanny, knew that I loved her pasta e ceci (pasta with chick peas); one of the few in the family, besides my grandfather, who did.

So a big hearty bowl would be waiting for me which I would devour much to my Nanny’s pleasure. Nothing made her happier than having the food she prepared devoured.

Now Nanny is also gone and with it the recipes that were in her head alone…she never wrote any down.

Over the years I’ve done my best to re-create her dishes, including pasta e ceci.

The recipe that follows is my version and incorporates the lazybones label I earned in my high school Italian class. I cut a few little corners, but the result, I found, really hasn’t suffered.

This is what you’ll need.

1 15 ounce can of chick peas, preferably Italian*

1 garlic clove, sliced thin

½ cup of chopped onion

½ tsp of dried oregano

¼ teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes

¼ cup of olive oil

¾ pound of dried pasta (medium shells, pipette, or any other medium-sized cut)

½ cup of grated parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino Romano.

Salt to taste.

Chopped parsley for garnish

*Where I’ve cut a huge corner is using canned chick peas instead of dried. I’ve done the bean soaking thing and though it is slightly more economical, I find it not only time consuming, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you end up with beans that never soften. And maybe it’s my unsophisticated palate, but I really don’t notice a major difference in bean quality or taste; certainly not enough to justify the effort. Though some canned beans are better than others, but I’m not naming names.

Drain the beans and rinse with cold water.

Heat the olive oil on a medium flame and then add the onion. Sauté for about three minutes or until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for about two more minutes. Toss in the oregano and red pepper flakes and toast for one minute. Add the beans and a quarter cup of water.

Simmer all on low.

Pipette: the preferred pasta cut for ceci.

Meanwhile, boil a big pasta pot full of water. When it boils add salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente or a minute less and then add the pasta to the saucepan with the chick peas. Scoop in about three tablespoons of the pasta water to the chick peas and cook together for about another minute or so. Toss in a quarter cup of the grated cheese, mix, pour into a big bowl and garnish with the parsley.

There should be enough to feed four adults. Sprinkle more cheese into your individual bowl if desired. Serve with a salad and a hard crusty bread. Devour heartily

Pasta e ceci a la Nanny

The Ham Hock Hangover Cure

30 Dec

Start with a pound of black eyed peas.

Chop up a few cloves of garlic and a large onion.

Take a good-sized ham hock, it’s restorative powers never factually documented, yet hotly debated among nutrition professionals, and add it and all the other  ingredients to a big pot.

Sprinkle in at least six dashes of hot sauce.

Cover with water and cook over very low heat for about eight hours.

While the peas cook, enjoy your beverage of choice, be it alcoholic or not. By the time a headache or general malaise ensues, the peas should be cooked and the meat easily shredded from the bone. Consume even if you feel like you might retch.  Eat with rice and greens.

While you eat, try not to dwell on the mistakes you made the previous year and direct your positive thoughts to the 365 days ahead, beginning with the most delicious Ham Hock Hangover Cure in front of you.

A Green(s) Thanksgiving

24 Nov

Chop and wash the collard greens (enough to fill up a large pot).

Chop one large onion.

Mince two cloves of garlic.

Take a big pot and saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until they soften, careful, don’t burn the garlic.

Throw in a few smoked turkey necks or turkey wings (optional).

Add the chopped greens until the top of the pot can barely be covered.

Add about three cups of chicken or vegetable stock.

Sprinkle in some dried hot red pepper.

Salt to taste.

Bring to simmer and cook about an hour or until the greens are tender.

Add a tablespoon of cider vinegar and a few dashes of Tabasco for some extra kick.

Enjoy with turkey.

He who hesitates…

Neck Bones Anniversary Tomato Sauce

14 Oct

Not that I need a reason to make a big batch of Neck Bone Tomato Sauce, but I figured the one year anniversary of this site, Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, would be as good a time as any to share my recipe.

The sauce, called by many of the misinformed as “Sunday Gravy” (more on that in a future post), is thick and rich, almost like a tomato stew, but don’t be fooled, it is most definitely a sauce. And the combination of the sauce and the meat from the slow cooked, fatty pork neck bones and the sauce poured over a sizable pasta cut (rigatoni preferably) produces what to me is the ultimate comfort food.

Instead of neck bones, you could use any variety of spare ribs; country, baby back, or St. Louis cut, but that’s usually more expensive. Pork neck bones are not only cheaper, they also produce the heartiest sauce and the meat from the bones, no matter how long you cook them, is always moist and tender.

Though not a difficult recipe, it is time consuming. My grandmother didn’t mind making a version of this (minus the neck bones) every Sunday. While she was working in the kitchen from 6 am until Sunday dinner around 3 pm,  I was wasting all Sunday watching Abbott and Costello movies on television. Occasionally she would mutter from the kitchen, “piu pigro” or “your lazy” to me. And yes, I still can be lazy, certainly  lazy enough not to spend every Sunday, or Saturday (the sauce is even better made a day or two in advance giving the ingredients more time to get to know each other) making sauce. So I make enough for leftovers (the sauce freezes very well) and spare me a few weekends of work until I run out of whatever I have in the freezer.

The neck bones alone will flavor the sauce, but I like to throw in some other meats along with the neck bones, usually chunks of pork shoulder I’ve trimmed and browned, or Italian sausage and/or braciole and whatever else I can fit into the pot. If I also want meatballs to be part of the meal, I’ll make them separately (see Goomba Joe’s Polpetti https://friedneckbones.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/goomba-joes-polpette/ for the meatball recipe) and add them to the bowl of cooked meats, just before serving.

Goomba Joe’s Polpetti

Here then, is my Neck Bone Tomato Sauce recipe starting with the basic ingredients.

2 lbs of neck bones

4 28 ounce cans of Italian whole peeled tomatoes, not San Marzano.*

6 ounce can of tomato paste**

1/2cup of olive oil

8 cloves of garlic (chopped)***

2 cups of water

¼ teaspoon of dried red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Rigatoni (How much depends on how many you are feeding. Always err on too much rather than too little)

Pork shoulder, braciole, sausage, and meatballs (optional)

Rigatoni

*Spending the extra money for genuine San Marzano tomatoes for this sauce is a waste. The flavor will be overwhelmed by the meat. Stick with your favorite brand of  Italian whole peeled tomatoes, preferably imported from Italy and with a basil leaf or two included in the can.

Canned Italian tomatoes

**I like to use tomato paste, but you can substitute a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes instead; both add density to the sauce. And this should be a dense sauce.

***My general rule is two cloves of garlic per one 28 ounce can of tomatoes. I can be swayed to alter my rule depending on the size of the garlic cloves.

Run the tomatoes through a food mill, separating the seeds and whatever skin might be on the tomatoes. If you are lucky enough to have an electric “passata” machine that basically does the same thing as a food mill minus the physical labor, the muscles of your forearms will be grateful.

Elbow grease required.

Salt and pepper the neck bones.

Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a skillet.

Brown the neck bones, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Browning the neck bones.

Drain on a paper towel and put aside

Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a very large soup kettle or pasta pot with a heavy bottom.  Turn the heat on to medium and add the garlic. Cook just until the garlic begins to lightly brown and quickly lower the heat so it does not burn.

Add the can of tomato paste or a can of crushed tomatoes. If using tomato paste, sauté with the garlic and then add two cup of water, stirring until the tomato paste is looser and all chunks are gone. Cook until it bubbles and then add the strained tomatoes and bring to a boil.

The sauce

Once the tomatoes begin to boil, add the neck bones and any other meats, but make sure there is enough room in the pot to stir it. If you can’t stir, you’ve put too much meat in.

Turn the heat to medium low and leave, uncovered.  If your burners are hot and medium low brings on too rapid a boil, lower it to a slow bubbling simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for two to three hours and then turn off the heat.

Let the sauce sit, covered, on the stove for another three hours and then, if the sauce is for the next day, put the pot in the refrigerator. The next day, skim some of the fat off the top of the sauce—or don’t. I’ll leave that up to you.

Neck bones ready to be shredded.

With tongs, take the neck bones out of the sauce making sure you fish around the pot for any loose small bones that might have fallen apart in the cooking process. You really don’t want your guests or family to take a tooth-loosening bite out of a neck bone instead of the meat that was once connected to it. Cut away the meat from the bones and the fat and then put the chopped bits of meat back in the sauce. You could skip this process and just leave the bones in the sauce, but that would depend on who you are serving and if they don’t mind gnawing on neck bones. Some people enjoy gnawing on bones and you don’t want to deny them that pleasure.

Boil water in a big pasta pot(s). Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Just before the pasta is done, remove the other meats from the sauce and put them in a bowl.

Rigatoni and Neck Bone Sauce

Drain the pasta, pour into a big bowl and coat with a generous portion of the sauce, but please don’t drown it. Serve into individual bowls and let guests add freshly grated cheese;  parmesean Reggiano or pecorino Romano work, but never use a grated cheese that comes in a green cardboard container. I’m not mentioning names here, but you know the kind I mean. If more sauce is desired, have a bowl of extra sauce on the table along with the bowl of the other cooked meats; the meatballs, sausage, braciole and whatever.

Enjoy and if you are lucky, there might be leftovers for next Sunday.

You call those leftovers?

Linguini and Cape Cod Clams: Manhattan-Style

30 Aug

Nauset Beach Clams

Thanks to the hard work of the very generous owner of the 100-year-old house I rent with my family each summer in Cape Cod, a bucket of freshly dug little neck and cherrystone clams was waiting for us when we returned one day from the beach. I could make chowdah, New England-style with potatoes, milk, onions and bacon. I could just open them up and eat them raw. I could steam them and dip them in butter and broth. Or, considering I had several ripe, in season, tomatoes that I wanted to use before they became overripe, I could make linguini with clam sauce, Manhattan-style (meaning a tomato-based sauce).

Local tomatoes

Given the option at a restaurant between red or white clam sauce, I always prefer the latter; the hearty red tomato sauce usually obscuring the distinct flavor of the clams. White clam sauce works for me. The garlic, olive oil, white wine, some red pepper flakes, and then the broth from the just opened clams makes for the perfect complement to either spaghetti or linguini. It’s easy to make and really, the only danger to screwing it up is to overcook the clams.

But with those ripe tomatoes and the bucket of clams, I decided to take a chance and combine the two over linguini.

This is what I used for the sauce:

4 overly ripe fresh, large tomatoes, diced.

20 clams (Cherrystone and Little Necks combined)

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of chopped white onion

2 tbs of chopped basil

1 ½ pounds of linguini

¼ cup of olive oil

½ teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes

I first diced the tomatoes not bothering with skinning or seeding them and put them in a bowl with a few sprinkles of Kosher salt. While the tomatoes macerated, I rinsed the clams in cold water to remove whatever sand was clinging to them. Once cleaned, I put the clams in a big pot adding about an inch of water to steam them.* Covering the pot and turning the fire on high, I steamed the clams just until their shells opened and then put them aside.

The clams now steamed open.

Using a large skillet, I added the olive oil and softened the onions and garlic sprinkling the red pepper flakes into the pan. When the onions and garlic were cooked, I tossed in the tomatoes adding the broth from the steamed clams and brought it all to a low simmer.

Cooking the tomatoes down

While the tomatoes cooked down, I removed the clams from the shells and roughly chopped them. Chopped clams, in my opinion, should not be uniform in size. I like the surprise of a big, juicy belly along with the tougher tail end of the clam.

The clams chopped.

After chopping the clams, I boiled the water for the linguini. Once the water boiled, I tossed in the pasta, adding salt to the water. Just before the linguini was cooked al dente I folded the chopped clams and the chopped basil into the sauce, keeping it on a fire just hot enough to heat them.

The sauce.

Using tongs, I tossed the linguini in the sauce and then into bowls.

The result was a light, fresh, briny tomato sauce where, in this case, the flavor of the clams and the broth balanced each other perfectly.

Linguini and Cape Cod Clam sauce: Manhattan-Style: As pretty as it gets after too much “limeade.”

*Before I began preparing the meal, I had told myself to save about a half dozen of the smallest of the little necks to steam open directly in the sauce. The clams in their shells would not only look nice, but because of their size, also remain tender. But while preparing the above dish, I began to consume multiple glasses of limeade spiked with vodka and when it came time to steam the clams, dumped them all into the pot including the few I was hoping to reserve.  Once I realized my mistake, it was too late. The little necks were cooked.

Rooftop Fried Eggs

22 Jul

They say it’s so hot out you can fry an egg on a city sidewalk. I tried, but not on a sidewalk. My egg frying experiment was on my roof. I used two methods; both fuel efficient. Method one was placing a frying pan on the roof and letting the100 degree temperature heat it up.

Method One: Note the slightly cooked egg whites on the edge

I also tried cooking an egg the old fashioned way; directly on the roof’s surface.

Eggs the old fashioned way: fried directly on the rooftop surface.

Though it was 100 degrees plus on this day, these eggs had no choice but to be slow-cooked.

Method one: 20 minutes later.

The sun was definitely cooking the egg, but unless you like your eggs very rare, it was not quite done yet.

Old fashioned eggs 20 minutes later

And after another 15 minutes.

Cooked, but…

I forgot to grease the “sidewalk.”

After scraping both out of pan and off the roof, respectively, this is what I got.

Unless you have too much time on your hands or are working on your summer in the city survival skills, I do not recommend frying an egg on a sidewalk or on a rooftop. However, method one could work if the pan is properly greased and allowed at least an hour in 100 plus degree sun before cracking the egg into it.

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