Monday, December 4, 2006

Eat and Read

This past weekend, freshly recovered from a minor cold, my appetite reappeared with its typical ferocity. When I am sick, the only things I feel like consuming are hot liquid and bread. So I spent a week eating toast and drinking hot tea and mulled wine (my favorite elixir for a sore throat) and reading Heartburn by Nora Ephron (which was amusing).

To celebrate my return to gluttony and the beginning of Advent, we bought clams at the harbor to steam for dinner. I’ve never done this before, but it was glorious! If you live on the coast, give this a try. If you don’t, come visit me.

I bought 3.5 pounds of clams for two of us, because I think you can never have too many clams. Make sure the clams are alive—they should be sealed tight, or if they are slightly open with a clam foot poking out, touch the foot. If it jerks back in alarm at your giant's finger, it’s alive. Don’t store the clams in plastic—they’ll expire, filling your kitchen with the stench of death. Scrub the clam shells clean in cold water. Store the clams in an uncovered bowl in the fridge.

In a large pot with a lid, bring to boil 1/4 cup dry white wine (we used Clos du Bois’ Pinot Grigio), a handful of chopped parsley, 2-3 minced cloves garlic, and clams. Cover and steam until all clams pop open, about 8-10 minutes. Remove clams with a slotted spoon to 2 large bowls. Simmer remaining liquid in the pan, adding 3-4 tablespoons of butter to it, 1 tablespoon at a time, and reducing the liquid somewhat. Pour hot liquid over clams and serve with lemon slices, plenty of good crusty bread for dipping, the rest of the white wine, and a salad. We had it all as a picnic in front of our Christmas tree.

For more recipes like this, check out the spectacular fish cookbook that my Aunt Sara (the best cook in the world) gave me a few years ago.

I also made sugar cookies, which are endearingly fragile but not difficult to bake. Here’s the recipe. I made the lemon version, and I recommend rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar prior to baking and adding 2 teaspoons of lemon zest instead of one. I should have remembered that everything needs more zest! On Sunday I spent the afternoon eating these cookies with a glass of milk and reading The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, which is fantastically gruesome.

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