Friday, July 3, 2009

Family Meal: Steamed Clams, Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula, Crisp Cooked Jerusalem Artichokes

I count myself really lucky: I love having dinner with my family. It's not a chore, it's not something I have to be guilted into doing. It's something I know I'm really lucky to be able to do at all, and on top of that, enjoying it is a real added bonus. My brother's hilarious, my dad keeps the wine flowing, and getting down with my mother in the kitchen is always a blast. The dishwasher in their new apartment is yet another added bonus.


So Saturday, my brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Eva and I decided on the spur of the moment to go over for dinner. I went to the Greenmarket to see what looked good, then came home and decided what to make. What I ended up with was littleneck clams, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, spring garlic (like green garlic, but different), strawberries, arugula, and some fresh chevre. Pretty much a list of ingredients that was going to end up delicious no matter what I did to it. So I cracked open How to Cook Everything and decided on the following.


I've been using clams more and more, because I love them, they're not as expensive as I initially thought, and they bring their own sauce to the party, which is always appreciated. So far I've made the linguine with clams twice, actually, but this was the first time I made them all by themselves. For the steamed clams recipe, you sauté some garlic and shallots in olive oil, then add the clams, then pour in some white wine, beer, or even water (I used beer). Cover, cook until they all open up, and you're good to go.


The broth left in the bottom of the pot alone made this one worthwhile, and luckily we had the foresight to acquire a nice crusty baguette for sopping it all up when we were done with the clams.

To take advantage of strawberry season, I decided to make Bittman's Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula salad. This recipe was a favorite of mine in the original HTCE, where it was a desert of just the strawberries, but I was intrigued by the combination of the bitter arugula and the sweet berries. Bittman says you can add some fresh goat cheese as well, so I figured I may as well do that too (in retrospect, though, I'd leave it out next time--I don't think it added much to the salad).


You cut up the strawberries and let them soak in a bit of balsamic vinegar (this is a recipe where its worth it to use really good vinegar) and a tiny bit of pepper, for about ten minutes or so. Then you just toss with the arugula and cheese and some olive oil and it's good to go. The flavor combination is incredible. This one's going into heavy rotation--it's really easy, complex, and it borders on fancy, something I don't always get to pull off. The only catch with this one is that it's only going to taste this good during strawberry season.


Finally, the Jerusalem artichoke dish that I've already made a handful of times. This time I also added the mushrooms I got at the market, which only made the dish earthier and more complex.


I can't believe I didn't know about this funny looking vegetable sooner! The HTCE project keeps on giving.


So that was it: wine, food, family. What else is there?
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