Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Meal #7 Heroism, asceticism, existentialism February 7, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:40 AM
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Every week I check to see if the recipes are posted on Martha Stewart’s web site, so I can post a link here. This is the first time one shows up, and it’s the entire menu, originally published in the February 2002 issue of MS Living. I demand a refund of 1/52 of the cost of this book, since this is a reprint, including the photos. I am surprised this is considered a Valentine’s Day recipe. Fish kisses, anyone?

You can see the recipes, and prep schedule here

Menu: Spaghetti with Clams: Artichokes on Toast; Wilted Chicory and Radicchio Salad; Grapefruit in Moscoto

I have made spaghetti with clam sauce before, but with minced, canned clams and this recipe calls for clams in the shell. I was worried about finding little neck clams in a “snow storm” (we got out of work at 1 pm Friday because of the storm, which dropped a whopping 1 1/2″ of snow by 5 pm, when it turned to rain).  We found them at the Yellow Umbrella on Patterson, a local seafood shop. I hadn’t been there in a while, and they carry more prepared foods than I remember, like crab cakes, tomato aspic, and escargot, ready to be cooked however one does.

The store is located on a corner, and the side street has a slight incline. As we were walking into the store, two of the employees sprinted out into the street to help a (young, cute) woman whose car was stopped halfway up the “hill.” She rolled down her window and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my car!” They had her back up a tad, and then pushed her car over the crest of the hill.

Your car was stuck, honey, that’s what was wrong with it. Girlfriend needs some new tires, because we had made it up just fine two minutes before. But, big ups to the guys for helping her out!

Artichokes on Toast:

Aka bruschetta.  Sliced rustic bread is toasted in the oven, then rubbed with a piece of garlic on both sides, while a jar of drained, marinated artichokes sautés  with sliced garlic until golden. The recipe calls for spreading ricotta on the toast, but since that’s the worst cheese for our lactose issues, we used a goat cheese. The cheese is  topped with salt and pepper, the artichoke heart mixture, and a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

OMG. This was excellent!!!! When I had my first bite, I thought it was pretty good but needed something. Then I noticed that I had forgotten to rub the garlic on the toast. I promptly rubbed the bottoms (since the tops were topped) with the garlic, and it was like the heavens had opened and a beam of lightning struck my mouth!

Seriously, this is our favorite thing from this cookbook thus far. I was sad that I had bought a smaller jar of artichoke hearts for the two of us. We may be braving the snowy streets to get some more this afternoon. I need shampoo, too.

The salad:

The hateful, hateful salad. The star of the Year of Terrible Salads.

The recipe calls for sautéing two anchovies, which are optional, in olive oil, then wilting a head each of radicchio and chicory. Then the salad is drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

I’ve never noticed chicory at the stores here, and wasn’t about to go running all over town to look for it in the snow.  I thought of using something else, but as far as I know, it’s bitter like the radicchio so why add another bitter element, like spinach? I have no problems with anchovies dissolved in a salad dressing, so we used them. Thank goodness we did because I imagine it would have been worse without, if that is even possible.

WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW AWFUL THIS WAS. I NEED TO USE CAPS TO CONVEY ITS HORRID NATURE. Think of the most bitter, horrible thing you have ever eaten, then multiple that by 100.

The Husband said, “This is the hair shirt of the salad world. You would serve this salad to people who need to do penance.”

Salad of Bitterness, Consternation, and Despair:

(Note how the demonic salad blurs the camera)

The Spaghetti and Clam Sauce:

I will admit, cleaning and cooking the clams intimidated me. We aren’t big shell-type-food cookers, as The Husband is allergic to shell fish, and I don’t like most bivalves, as previously discussed.  I love shrimp but don’t cook it at home because the smell of if makes him gag. I can’t wait for shrimp recipe night!

I was researching little neck clams on the web, and discovered that I was supposed to have put them in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp towel covering them. I had no idea, so I just threw the paper bag they came in into the refrigerator and left it at that overnight. Gee, I would hate to kill my clams before I really needed to kill them! Supposedly you can tell if they’re alive by tapping on their shells, to see if they close, but they were already tightly closed so that told me nothing. So, I put them in a bowl, covered with a towel. The cookbook has a helpful hints section in the back that explained how to clean the clams, and it was pretty easy: scrub with a brush, soak in cold water with some corn meal, then rinse.

First, I cooked the pasta for two minutes less than the package instructions, and then drained it, reserving some pasta water. Meanwhile, I browned some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, then added the clams and some vermouth (we didn’t have a dry white handy), and cooked them covered for 2-3 minutes. Voila! They all opened. I hadn’t killed them prematurely after all.

The clams were removed from the pan, and some lemon juice and the pasta water were simmered until slightly reduced, then butter was whisked in off the heat. The clams and pasta were added back into the pan, and then cooked until the pasta was al dente. Salt, pepper and parsley finished the dish.

The results:

The dish was fine. The clams had the most flavor, but the noodles were a bit oily (and I didn’t use the full 3 T of butter, since Martha tried to kill us last time we made noodles). If I made this again I would use less butter, and more garlic, lemon and red pepper flakes.  I actually don’t know if I would make this again, only because I like minced clam sauce better, as the clam taste is more pervasive.  It’s good to know that clams are easy to cook and clean, though, in case I ever have to do it again. (Note, this does not count as a life lesson.)

The Grapefruit in Moscato d’Asti:

Moscato d’Asti is a sweet, Italian sparkler. The recipe says you can substitute an off-dry sparkler or Champagne, but we are never ones to turn down an opportunity to try new booze, so we went with the Moscato. On its own, it’s like a not-very-good sparkling ice wine. We didn’t get a high end version, though, so that may be part of it.

This is one of her recipes that more resembles assembly instructions: Peel a grapefruit, place sections in a glass with a sugar cube, and fill the glass with Moscato. A two year old could make this. She recommends turbinado or demerara sugar cubes, but she’s lucky we happened to have sugar in cube form at all, even if it’s white.

This one left us scratching our heads. It was unclear how to approach it. Do you eat the grapefruit first, which results in the wine dripping back into the glass inelegantly, or do you drink the Moscato, then eat the grapefruit after? The cube resulted in some initial fizziness, but never dissolved.  I don’t think having the slightly bitter grapefruit after the Hell Salad was a good idea. In the end, we just ate the rest of the grapefruit plain, and tried mixing various juices in with the remaining Moscato–cherry, cranberry, etc. None were a winner.

The sidebar says you can consider this an “invigorating” dessert or an after-dinner cocktail. This could lead to some existential dilemmas. What is the meaning of this dish, Martha?????


It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times…..

By the way, this meal (with the exception of peeling the grapefruit and opening the wine) took exactly 60 minutes to prepare, including cleaning the clams!  :::faints:::

Artichokes on Toast: A+ (unanimous) I heartily recommend using the goat cheese, as I don’t think it would be as flavorful with the ricotta.

Salad Of Doom: F (also unanimous) If there was a grade lower than an F, it would get it.

Spaghetti w/Clams: B+

Grapefruit: I (and this grapefruit) may not exist, so what does it matter?


8 Responses to “Meal #7 Heroism, asceticism, existentialism”

  1. lorraine Says:

    as I wipe the tears from my eyes: “hair shirt of the salad world…”

  2. sunny Says:

    omg, echo lorraine…

    i’m a 47 yr. old woman…you made me pee my pants..is that right??

  3. lsaspacey Says:

    Do really think Spinach is bitter? I can and have eaten it raw, so am I just a weirdo? Wait, don’t answer that….

  4. I do, even the raw baby spinach. Sorry, you’re a weirdo! 🙂

  5. Kristen Says:

    Moscato d’Asti is my favorite wine!! Maybe you got a dud bottle. I thought your claims looked quite professional!

  6. […]   It was weird and burnt my tongue with its acid, but was it as bad as the raddichio horror of last winter? The flavor was not as bad as the salad, but it caused me bodily harm. […]

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