It has been a slow recovery from the big event in April, and from a series of over-commitments that marks 2011-2012 “school” year as one of the craziest I’ve experienced. With things winding down, and summer break just around the corner, I see a light at the end of this tunnel. In this part of Colorado, we’ve had the most beautiful spring. That’s code for: flowers in bloom, leaves on trees, and very little snow. Our growing season seems to be about 6 weeks “early” which just puts a smile on my face, especially when I look down and see my herb garden perking up.
So, despite the fact that my sleep quota has reached a record low in the last few months, I stayed up until the wee hours last night just relishing the chance to finally peruse my growing stack of unread food magazines. I was determined to find a few new ideas and get my kitchen back to playground status.
An article caught my attention from this month’s Bon Appetit: Pack Your Knives and Go. All about traveling to cook. This, I totally understand. The author, Christine Muhlke, cleverly describes those of us who have moved from traveling to eat to traveling to cook and takes us on a little salivatory trip through Marin County and all of its abundance. Of the tempting recipes listed from her trip, the simple composition of linguine, clams and fennel called to me, and having nothing else planned for dinner tonight, I was sold. It’s a quick preparation, and though the recipe calls for small clams, I could only find Little Necks which worked out perfectly. The recipe also calls for fennel pollen, but I substituted toasted and then ground fennel seeds which really did complete this dish. Don’t even think about skipping that step. That and a light sprinkling of chopped fennel leaves. A new favorite for me, and a delicious way to usher in warm-weather food.
Linguine with Clams & Fennel
from Bon Appetit, May 2012
recipe by Oliver Strand
- kosher salt
- 1 lb. linguine
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fennel fronds plus some for garnish
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fennel leaves for garnish
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 lb. smalls clams (such as Manila) or cockles, scrubbed
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. (or more) fennel pollen or 1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and finely ground in a spice mill
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in another large heavy pot over medium heat. Add chopped fennel and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 2-3 minutes. Add wine, then clams. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook until clams open, 4-7 minutes, depending on the size of clams. As clams open, use tongs to transfer them to a large bowl (discard any that do not open).
- Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid to clam juices in pot; bring to a boil. Add pasta to pot. Cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the sauce, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add clams with any juices from bowl and 2 Tbsp. fennel fronds; toss to combine, adding more pasta liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry.
- Over medium heat, toast 1 tsp. fennel seeds, stirring frequently, in a dry saucepan until they give off their aroma and just begin to turn a toasted color. This will take about 3-5 minutes. Grind to a powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder.
- Divide among bowls. Drizzle with oil; garnish with fennel fronds, fennel pollen/ground seeds, and a light scattering of fennel leaves.