I’m not opposed to using frozen ingredients to make my life easier! Hey, I get the whole “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee” concept. So when I saw frozen steamer clams at Trader Joe’s, I thought this could be good or really, really bad. Verdict was good! However, I thought, this was one of those cooking challenges that required the right technique for it to turn out just right. Clams are tricky. The shells can be sandy and gritty, making for a very unpleasant eating experience if the shells are used inside the actual dish. Also, the little critters can get overdone and too chewy and make you just want to spit out the whole mouthful.
So what I noticed was there were two ways listed on the package to actually heat the clams all the way through–in the microwave or using a pan. My plan was that I wanted to toss them in olive oil with a plentiful amount of basil from the monstrosity of a house plant that I’ve so carefully nurtured this summer and some cut-up tomatoes and garlic and serve it all over spaghetti. Simple. Classic. And most importantly, scrumptious! So I knew heating them in the pan before or during the sauteing process could be volatile. They could either not heat through evenly or they could get overcooked and be aesthetically terrible. So I decided on concentrating my fresh flavors of olive oil, basil and tomato in the pan, and to heat the steamer clams in the microwave–using the “steaming” method they listed on the package. Then I would toss them with the mixture in the pan at the last minute and mix the whole thing with the pasta. My only concern was: would there be enough liquid or broth to coat the pasta since I didn’t have any chicken broth? Well, I thought, I could always add some pasta water.
|Basil plants kept indoors can be an endless source of inspiration for aromatic dishes.|
Here’s the ingredients I use for this dish:
-1 box of steamer clams from Trader Joe’s
-Three large roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
-A huge hand full of basil leaves rolled up together lengthwise and cut into thin strips
-Three large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
-2 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil
-3/4 pound of pasta
I start by boiling the water for the pasta and cooking until al dente. After sauteing the fresh ingredients together in the olive oil until just soft, I add my drained spaghetti to the mixture and toss. Then lastly, I add the microwave-steamed clams and toss everything together. Luckily, there is some clam broth left from the steaming process, giving me enough liquid to coat the pasta along with the olive oil. You can also add more olive oil at the end. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Wow, talk about the perfect combo for summertime. Light, fresh, perfectly-cooked little clams and a classic combo of tomatoes and basil to top the pasta. My recommendation for wine is a crisp pinot grigio. Manga!