Steamed Winter Littlenecks

Surprise! Yes, dear blog, it's been a while. While I haven't been staying up late with you, I've been getting up early to extract kids from their beds and sometimes take one or the other to school. I'm still taking care of livestock - carrying water when the spigots are shut off, rotating pens like some labor-intensive do-see-do, and the almost-daily collection of pre-consumer waste veggies and bread (see bottom of link for photo.) When it's nice out we get into the woods for hiking and tracking, and we play on the beach, now empty of everyone but the occasional dog-walker and the hard-core winter surfers. If it's above freezing and the ice is off the flats, we go clamming. It's almost more fun this time of year, knowing how difficult it is to get anything else from the inshore waters for dinner. I say almost because if your hands get wet the party's over. Use elbow-length gloves and caution.

Our gardens last summer produced far too much food for us to consume at harvest. We ended up putting away some 300-pounds of tomatoes, for example - those and the cukes and zukes ruled my life. As if the work of getting the food to harvest weren't enough, I was then tied to the hot stove on hot summer nights, canning and pickling and thinking about how our advances in agriculture and [trade] have freed us to work on and enjoy other things. I venture that it has freed women in particular. The next time I pick up a jar of pickles at the store, I will have a huge grin on my face, thinking, "I didn't can that!" Yes, there is great satisfaction in knowing exactly where our food came from, what went into it, and what it looked like when it was a baby and when it was picked. But some of this food, like a big, ugly-type Brandywine tomato, is just so much better fresh. I haven't completely made up my mind about this, but I think we may throw some veggies up on the roadside with our eggs this coming growing season. Or maybe give some excess to the food pantry, like I used to do with eggs when I had 60-layers going.

This does have something to do with clams, I promise. See, we grew almost 300 heads of garlic last summer. That's a crazy amount of garlic for us. The days are getting longer and the garlic baskets in the root cellar seem to be just as full, in some kind of bottomless-cup homesteading fantasy. I will have to do something drastic like roast and can a whole heap of heads. In the meantime, we have been just-short-of-frivolous with our surplus, even making garlic tea to fend off colds (simmer 5 or 10 cloves in several cups of water until "cooked", drink water, eat garlic if desired.) Our winter favorite has been littleneck clams steamed open in garlic and wine, and it happens to be the easiest dish to make.

  

First, get the fresh clams, enough to fill a frying pan in a single layer, or as many as you want to eat. Littlenecks are perfect, cherrystones are okay, but save the bigger 'stones and the chowders for, well, chowder. Place in a colander and scrub each clam with a brush under cool running water to remove sand. Do not submerge saltwater clams in tap water. Peel and smash 6 to 10 cloves of garlic and add to several tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, then cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add half-a-cup of white wine and the clams, then cover and simmer until all the clams open. Sprinkle with a handful of chopped parsley. Do not salt this dish, as saltwater clams have plenty of their own. Serve clams in the the shell in shallow bowls over small cup-shaped pasta, perfect for holding some of the juice. This is broth not sauce. It will not cling to your spoon or coat your pasta - for that, you will want to make a more involved white clam sauce. This one is just simple, easy, fast, and delicious.

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