Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Even while on vacation I still love to cook. I know, I know - it's vacation - I shouldn't *have* to cook. I have friends who say it doesn't feel like vacation if they have to cook. But for me, it isn't a "have" or a "should." It's a"want" - especially when you have access to local produce and fresh local seafood and you've been at the beach all day breathing in the crisp salty air, running around chasing brazen seagulls who try to steal your snacks and building sand castles. There's nothing better than taking a luxurious outdoor shower in the beach-y air, pouring a glass of wine and contemplating the night's meal.

Plus, who am I kidding? Dining out for 3 meals a day, for two weeks, with a young child is nothing short of unpleasant. We learned a few years ago that renting a house is the ticket to a relatively stress-free family vacation. And yes, I mean vacation. When you stay in a hotel it's really a family trip. You are rudderless, without your "stuff" and you don't feel settled. In a house you can really hunker down and make it feel like your own.

We're back on the Cape for our 3rd summer and have returned to the house we rented last year. I'd love to tell you about it but then I'd be afraid you might rent it out from under us some time. Suffice it to say that it's a lovely 2 bedroom cottage with a large deck, sizable yard and a tree-house for the girl. We're about a 5-6 minute walk from our favorite ice cream place and it is spotless upon arrival.

There are a few traditions we've established over the years: the child will have an inexplicable meltdown minutes after we cross the Bourne Bridge; dinner the first night *has* to be from the Kream 'n Kone; Clam Chowder from Spanky's is a must and it is essential to consume home-made clam sauce within the first few days.

Be sure to have lots of crusty bread on hand - you don't want to waste even a drop of this sauce.

White Clam Sauce
Serves 3-4 for dinner or 6 as an appetizer

3 dozen Little Neck clams
2 TBS olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup clam juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS butter (optional)
1 large handful parsley, finely chopped
1/2 lb spaghetti or linguini

  • Wash the clams under running water or fill your sink with cold water and let them soak while you do all the other prep work
  • Set a big pot of water up to boil, season generously with salt and cook pasta according to package directions while making the sauce
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan or pot large enough to accommodate all of the clams - make sure it has a tight fitting lid
  • Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant but do not let it brown
  • Add in the pepper flakes (if using)
  • Pour in the wine - be careful because it may splatter if the pan is very hot
  • Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by 1/3
  • Add in the clam juice and bring to a boil again
  • Reduce to a simmer and add in the clams - discard any that are already open or cracked
  • Cover the pot tightly and allow the clams to cook 6-8 minutes or until they have all opened - discard any that do not open
  • Check the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking - the clams will release their own juices which will be salty so you may not have to season the sauce at all
  • Add in the butter (if using) - I know, I know - dairy with seafood - the HORROR!
  • Add in the parsley
  • Serve the clams and the sauce over the pasta.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lazy (Hot, Humid and Hazy) Days of Summer

Well, that's embarrassing. I haven't posted here since May. May??? Really?


I guess I can attribute it to laziness, however, this summer has been anything *but* lazy. I have tons of recipes etc. to post and hopefully, in mid September, some exciting business-related news (class schedules, personal shopping options, product reviews).

In the meantime, here's a simple recipe that is the perfect antidote to the weather we're experiencing here on the East Coast. Serve it alongside a Southwestern or Mexican themed dinner, on top of simple grilled chicken or fish or toss it over some crisp fresh salad greens for a satisfying and healthy lunch.

Black Bean and Mango Salsa (or Salad - I can't decide)
Yields 6 generous side portions

1 1/2 large mangoes, peeled and cut into a large dice (about 2 cups)
1 15 oz can or 2 cups of dried/soaked black beans, drained well
1/4 cup red onion, cut into a small dice (Unless you like really large pieces of raw onion. Me? Not so much.)
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 TBS finely chopped cilantro (Optional for all you cilantro haters out there. Substitute parsley if you must.)
Juice and zest of one lime
1-2 TBS champagne vinegar (You can substitute white if you prefer but Champagne really adds a nice mellow brightness)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS olive oil

  • Combine mango, black beans, onion, garlic and cilantro in a bowl large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients.
  • In a small bowl or, better yet, a jar combine the lime juice, zest, cumin, salt and pepper. If using a bowl slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until the dressing is emulsified and combined. If using a jar, just add in the oil and shake, shake, shake until well combined.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine well. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Can be served immediately but it tastes much better if the flavors are allowed to mingle and develop for at least an hour in the fridge.