Simple Simplicity [Linguine with Fennel and Clams]

Isn’t it such a pain when you decide to make a recipe that coins itself ”simple” and it turns out it has to sit or marinade for 12 hours, or calls for a bunch of random ingredients or kitchen equipment you might never use again? 

Simple should be -gasp - SIMPLE.  There is a time and place for those long-winded, 40 ingredient recipes that call for 24 hours of your time and require a sous-vide machine (is that what it’s called? errr.. machine? I’m not very technical, guys) or specific cookware the average person would never have laying around their homes. My knickers get in a bunch over this sort of thing.

Being honest in recipe writing/descriptions is paramount for the people who are just getting their start in cooking and likely don’t understand more complex cooking methods or ingredients. I know when I was clumsily finding my footing in the kitchen, which I still am, I relied heavily on the use of “simple” recipes that helped me understand the basics. And so we’re clear, simple/easy doesn’t have to mean ho-hum, boring or pedestrian. It’s all in using the best ingredients (so you can use fewer), straightforward cooking methods, and clearly explaining the whats and the whys so it all makes sense. 

I made this pasta last week but hadn’t really planned on sharing on here because of it’s almost laughable ease. But as I slurped my way through the bowl, I thought it might be a perfect dish for someone who was just getting grounded in the kitchen and wanted to cook a meal for a loved one that tasted more complex than it’s parts combined.

Linguine with Fennel and Clams
adapted from Bon Appetit 
serves 2 - 4 depending on appetite 

Notes on Clams:

I used BC littleneck clams as they were what my local monger, The Whalesbone Sustainable Retail Oyster and Fish Shop, had on hand. They run from sweet to salty in taste and have a slightly chewy texture (delicious!) when cooked.

If the clams are not shut tightly when you’re ready to cook, toss them. If they do not open once you’ve cooked them, toss them. Clams can leave your pasta tasting gritty if you don’t scrub them well before cooking. It’s absolutely necessary to rinse them as well as scrubbing the shells with a brush if needed. 

1lb linguine
1 cup starchy pasta water
3 tbsp olive oil + extra for garnish
1 small head fennel with fronds (green tops), finely chopped + 3 tbsp fennel fronds
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
3lbs small clams (littleneck, Manila or cockles), scrubbed
salt and pepper
1tsp fennel pollen or 1 tsp fennel seeds (toasted and fine ground in a spice/pepper mill) 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook linguine 1 minute less than package calls for Al Dente (usually about 9 minutes). Stir frequently so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Strain and toss with a bit of oil so they don’t stick. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot (one with a lid) over medium heat. Add the garlic and fennel and stir frequently until soft but not browning, about 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and the clams and increase heat to high. Cover and cook until clams open, 4-7 minutes. Remove clams with tongs as they open and place in a bowl. Any clams that do not open should be thrown out. Once all the clams have been removed, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the clam juices. Bring to a boil and add pasta, tossing until pasta has reached al-dente; it should be almost cooked but still have a bit of bite in the center, 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Add the clams along with any juices in the bowl. Add 1 tbsp fennel fronds along with the pollen or grond fennel - toss to combine. 

Divide among bowls and top with remaining fronds and drizzle of olive oil. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy! 

Wine note: I asked Claire, my go-to wine gal, what might work best with this and she pointed me to a lovely Pouilly Fume from Loire, France. I would highly recommend. I loved it with the dish. 


Find Your Joy [Lemon-Yogurt Linguine w Arugula, Sugar Peas & Roasted Hazelnuts]

Things have been sad this week. A close loss that’s left many feeling a constant aching numbness. 

It never feels completely real - and leaves us all feeling slightly less invincible and secure of our place in life.  I’ve been through a few of these by now, and I’m familiar with the unique numbness that only a death can cause a family, their friends, and their friends friends. The hurt and pain that seems to expand as wide and long as an ocean, tremendous and gaping, filled with grief and sadness. 

My place in life, to be sure, is the mother hen. Always doting, always trying to offer comfort, whether needed or not, always acting out in hopes of a smile or even the slightest upturn of a frown. I have an unquenchable need to be needed, which can be a downfall at the best of times. I yearn to make others feel at ease, to usher away the bad thoughts and tears. Death is a hardship I am left defenseless against. It makes no mind of life plans or kindness paid. It’s ugly and mean and howls irrationally in the face of logic and love. It changes every single thing, in a mere blink.

Without being able to help or provide any lasting comfort, I’m finding myself increasingly lost. In moments of scattered thoughts, I turn to my kitchen, the only other thing that makes sense in a world of uncertain timing and premature endings. I’ve spent much time toiling in there this week, trying to make sense of life, to wrap my head around the why’s and the how’s. Of course, there will never be an answer - but it feels right to be surrounded by the beautiful ingredients, sun streaming through my dusty kitchen windows, everything placed on the counter with purpose and meaning. My kitchen is my joy. My truest happy place.

Life is far too short. Love hard and long, linger a while in the moments of happiness (and sadness), forgive quickly and find your joy, wherever it may rest.

Lemon-Yogurt Linguine with Arugula, Sugar Peas and Roasted Hazelnuts 
serves 4

A pasta made for my fellow lemon-lovers. Tangy, bright and tart balanced with peppery arugula, sweet sugar peas and a deep, toasty crunch from the roasted hazelnuts.

If I may, try to find some locally-grown arugula - it’s flavour is incomparable to that found at the super market.  

Lemon-Yogurt Sauce
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp good quality Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes

1/2lb linguine (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup starchy pasta water
2 big handfuls arugula
1/3 cup hulled sugar peas
1/3 cup Roasted Hazelnuts (recipe to follow), crushed
Fresh Ground Pepper

For the Sauce: 
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice + zest, Dijon, salt and a few grinds of pepper together. Set aside. 

For the Pasta: 
Cook the pasta to Al Dente according to package instructions. Before straining, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Strain and return to large pot. 

Add 1/2 the pasta water to the yogurt sauce and whisk well. Pour into the pasta pot and toss well until the pasta is coated. Add the arugula, peas to the pot. Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if needed. If the pasta is dry, add more of the starch water to loosen it. 

Divide the pasta among plates and garnish with the crushed hazelnuts and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. 

Roasted Hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Move nuts to a kitchen towel or paper bag and cover (or seal) for 5 minutes. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.