Fresh, local, and in season depends on where you live and what is accessible. During the summer, I have easy access to clams because my local greenmarket is on the south shore of Long Island and offers a constant supply of fresh, local fish and shellfish. All last summer I cooked flounder, bluefish, porgies, tuna, even a swordfish caught off Montauk Point. And all last year I kept looking at those delicate Long Island little neck clams. I never bought them because I’m just not used to clams. Love to eat them and never cooked them. So this year I decided to do it. How else can you keep on learning if you don’t try new things? I pulled out my best reference sources, put together a starting structure, and am ready to share the results. Steaming little neck clams open is easy once you get the hang of it. I used a 3 liter pot (actually the bottom of my steamer) as you can see in the picture below. White wine or dry vermouth can be substituted for all or part of the water needed to steam the clams. 100 grams linguine gripped firmly in the hand measures about ¾ inches or 2 cm in diameter. You will also need a medium sized sauté pan and a 2 liter saucepan to cook the pasta. Proportions listed below are for 2 modest servings.
makes 2 cups
440 calories per serving
2 dozen little neck clams (about 900g measured raw in shell), scrubbed and de-sanded as required
1 cup water (¼ liter) for steaming
4 robust cloves fresh garlic (25g), peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (30ml)
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon oregano
3 ½ ounces dry linguine (100g), made with 100% hard durum wheat or semolina flour
½ cup chopped parsley (15g)
Assemble all ingredients before starting.
Bring water to boil in the bottom of a large pot. When the water is boiling, add the clams. As the clams open, remove each one carefully to a bowl retaining every drop of the flavorful liquid. Steaming the clams open takes about 5 minutes. As soon as the shells are cool, remove clams from shells. Keep clams in a small bowl and strain the remaining liquid to remove any remaining sand or grit. Put aside keeping clams and juice separate. As the clams are steaming, add olive oil to the sauté pan and slowly soften garlic over low heat. Add crushed red pepper and oregano to garlic oil, letting the mixture steep for about five minutes. Add reserved clam juice, increase heat, and reduce volume to about half. Keep sauce warm.
Cook linguine al dente in salted water. Remove with a pasta fork and transfer to the sauté pan. Retain cooking water. Stir in clams and parsley. If more liquid is required, add some from the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.
Clams are a significant source of protein as well as many essential vitamins and minerals. Olive oil is a natural source of oleic acid.
Total fat exceeds “healthy” limits, but please remember to put this disclaimer in the context of the great fat debate. Saturated fats are within “healthy” range. Your may be asking where does the saturated fat come from? It is the olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, olive also contains a fraction (14%) saturated fatty acid so a couple tablespoons adds up. Sodium is within the current standard of less than 480mg per serving and 140mg per 100 grams. Now let’s step back a moment and consider carbohydrate metrics. My favorite Italian recipe source, Le Reccette Regionali Italiane, lists 100 grams dry pasta per person. My version reduces that amount by half to 50 grams per person. My preference is less pasta and more clams. But that’s the joy of cooking! It is completely up to you.
References: Le Riccette Regionali Italiane (La Cucina Italiana, Quart edizione: settembre 1976), Fish without a doubt, Rick Moonen (Houghton Mifflin Company 2008)
Pper Serving (255g): 440 Calories, Fat 17g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Sodium 240mg, Carbohydrate 45g, Fiber 3g, Protein 25g. Excellent Source: Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B12, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron. Good Source: Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc.