It isn’t easy to teach your partner Italian, or well,
anything. The dynamic changes and not in a good way. With the calendar, we can
discuss vocabulary and grammar without hierarchical, didactic lessons. Plus, it’s
fun. (Well, at least on the days when we’ve had enough coffee before we flip
the calendar page.)
Here's a Buono! post to dispel any fears that preparing pasta with clams (in a white sauce) is difficult to make:
Based on a southern Italian tradition, many
Italian-Americans will eat seven different fish on Christmas Eve. Vaguely following in the tradition of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve,
I prepared Linguine with Clams as our Christmas Eve entrée.
The recipe I followed is fairly simple, although the prep work required of the clams – especially
when serving six people – can take some time.
My husband picked up 50 small clams (probably Little Necks)
from the Washington Fish Market.
Remarkably, out of all those clams, only one refused to open. Clearly, that's a fish market to return to!
We chose fresh pasta from Vace in Cleveland Park (I started at the Italian store, but they didn’t have any linguine or
fettuccini, only smaller, filled pastas.) Everything else we could find at the
slowly cooked small batches of clams in olive oil and garlic in an effort to save the clam juice (instead of adding bottled clam juice.) Before too many
clams had opened, I added just a little water to the pot. Then, I placed in the clams in a separate bowl as they opened. To make things easier for our guests, I took the
clam meat out of the shells (usually I like to leave it in), saving the juice
from the bowl with the open clams, too. In the end, I mixed the two liquids (the cooking liquid and
the open clam liquid) and strained it through cheese cloth. And, ta da!, fresh
If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you know that I offered my guests
(and used myself), freshly grated cheese on the pasta. If you’ve been to Italy,
you know that Italians are firmly against mixing cheese and fish. That is to
say, if you ask for grated cheese over your fish dish, you’ll probably be denied it. This article outlines some
possible reasons why the cheese/fish mixture is forbidden.
The winter holidays are prime eating cooking and eating
season. For the Christmas entrée, my father and I prepared osso buco and
saffron risotto. We followed recipes from the cookbook, Once Upon a Tuscan Table. The cookbook is about and from the beautiful Trattoria Gargani (formerly called “Garga”) in Florence, Italy. I have tasty memories of many meals surrounded by the murals on the walls there.
I chose to make the dish because my husband brought home
saffron this fall from a trip to Madrid and we wanted to share it with our
family visiting for the holidays. I also wanted to serve something that would be primarily prepared and finished before our guests arrived to avoid last minute kitchen fuss.
Most of the ingredients, from the Arborio rice to the
vegetable base for the osso buco were easy to find at any supermarket. I also saw fairly inexpensive saffron at a local Trader Joe's. I
ordered the bone-in veal shanks from Whole Foods (there’s a general dearth of butchers
in our neighborhood and the District in general, as Kojo Nnamdi discusses in a fall episode.)
I’m afraid that I failed to take any food pictures over the
holidays. Too busy cooking and eating, as, perhaps, it should be. What were
some of your favorite holiday dishes this year?
I am a published poet and freelance writer with an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in NY. I studied Italian language and literature at Smith College. My poetry chapbook, Unrest, is published by Finishing Line Press.
I teach creative and composition writing online at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Northampton Community College, Thomas Edison State College and University of Maryland University College. I also work individually with adult students as a writing coach.