Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter con Vongole at the Union Square Green Market

Confession - I go to the green market all winter. Sometimes in a January snow, there are at most 3 or 4 vendors out there, amid the surrounding construction and selling their maple syrup and beetroots and potatoes and apples - those are some pretty hearty people.

So come mid-February I'm chomping at the bit to see some spring vegetables. Beautiful, tasty and useful as the roots and apples are, something really bright green and local will be most welcome. There's nothing like the first asparagus of the season, gently roasted, grilled, steamed, boiled or thinly shaved raw with some grated pecorino on top.

Well, imagine my surprise when on a February Wednesday (with temps in the mid-50's), there was one of my favorite vendors - Pura Vida - with seafood from Hampton Bays and beyond...the weather must've been good enough to go out, as the seafood vendors generally disappear for a few months in the dead of winter. Around here February is the dead of winter, but with a hint of spring every now and then. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to buy seafood that day, as I wasn't heading home, but I returned the following Wednesday, and there they were again. So I brought home a bagful of these, which are a favorite of ours...

Those, my friends, are some Long Island littlenecks; not Manila clams, not cockles, not those other heinous things that are often imported from China or who knows where - and taste like crap - but real, honest-to-goodness Long Island littleneck clams...tasting like the ocean or bay they were dug from, or just like that mouthful of seawater you swallowed while swimming...

Anyway, I digress...First, I like to steam 'em open (as soon as they open, they're done - check often) in a bit of white wine and garlic, deshell them, cut them in half if large and set 'em aside. SAVE THE COOKING LIQUID, PLEASE. Then make a quick red sauce by sautéing a thinly sliced garlic clove and a fat pinch of crushed red pepper in olive oil, add a cup of diced tomatoes with the clam juice, cook it down, taste for salt and toss the pasta into the saute pan with a handful of chopped parsley and a few scallions. It'll look like this.

Let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two to absorb the flavors - taste it, sometimes it needs more salt, sometimes not. At the last minute, add back the clams and any accumulated juices, give a final stir and serve. Some people like to set aside a few clams in the shells to garnish the plates with. Some people cook up a shitload of manilas or whatever, and toss them with the pasta right in the shells. I don't, so here's what it looks like...Linguine alle Vongole.

No comments:

Post a Comment