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Along with other Seattle treasures like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Amazon, hiking, boating and skiing literally in our back yard, lush green, beautiful mountains and a few decent professional sports teams…we have Chef Tom Douglas.  He and his wife, Jackie, are the owners of five restaurants:  Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, Palace Kitchen, Lola, and Serious Pie, all in downtown Seattle.  You simply cannot talk about great food in Seattle without mentioning Tom!  Now, I have yet to try Lola and Serious Pie, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s and the Palace Kitchen.  I smile and remember grabbing brunch at Etta’s one morning with friends and walking up a few blocks to catch a matinee performance of the symphony at Benaroya Hall.  A blissful Seattle day!  This was a few years ago, and I remember it was hard finding restaurants downtown that were open for breakfast or brunch.  So a walk down to Etta’s it was.  I hear Lola has an incredible breakfast.  Definitely on the to-try list.

I was suprised to learn that he’s originally from Delaware!  His dishes capture Pacific Northwest flavors to a T; his signature is using fresh, local ingredients to put a fresh twist on a classic dish.  Charred ahi tuna with pasta puttanesca anyone?  This is next on my list to make…I’m curious how the tuna will taste with a pungent puttanesca sauce!

I was definitely craving some food variety this weekend and that’s a good sign.  I’ve been a little run down…not with a flu or cold or anything I could put my finger on.  Just tired.  And not really motivated to cook.  When I get home from work and am exhausted it’s all I can do to whip up some pasta and pesto…my own form of comfort food.  But even that gets boring after awhile.

So this weekend it was off to the grocery store.  I thumbed through Tom’s Seattle Kitchen cookbook, savoring the wonderful ingredients and the stories behind the recipes, looking for inspiration on what to cook.  Sometimes I like to play a game with myself and just randomly pick a page in a cookbook and THAT’S what I’ll be making for dinner that night.  Ooops…not up to making a dish with octopus in it, so I kept flipping the pages.

Then I found it:  a clam linguine recipe with pancetta, jalapenos and garlic.  See what I mean about a fresh twist on a classic?  Never would have thought about pairing up jalapenos with clams.  But it sounded intriguing!  And delicious!  Then I realized I had some shrimp that needed to be used up soon in my fridge and decided to use that instead of clams.  Now, normally when I try something for the first time I follow the recipe pretty much exactly as written and then make my own notes on what to tweak.  But the shrimp won out.  I’m sure Tom won’t mind.

Here’s a confession:  I absolutely adore grocery shopping.  Roaming the aisles, wondering what wonderful dishes are just dying to come out of all these wonderful foods.  Looking at the spices and wondering what else I need to add to my collection.  Cheeses, vegetables, wines…fantastic, glorious food!  Now I’m sure I would feel differently about grocery shopping if I had kids to feed.  Might be more of a chore than a joy.  Sure, we all need to eat, but for me being single with no kids, grocery shopping is an adventure.  Yep, I’m a true Taurus…I LOVE my food and take it damn seriously.  But not so serious to also have a little humor and play around with it.  Try new things!  Take risks!  The food isn’t going to bite you. 

There are a lot of ingredients, but this goes together quickly – serves 4

  • 2 jalapenos, cut in half and seeded
  • 1/4 C olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ox pancetta, diced (1/2 C)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 lbs clams, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 1 lb linguine
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 C fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 C shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Start a pot of salted water boiling to cook the pasta later.  Brush the jalapeno halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, dice finely.

Put a large saute pan over medium high heat. Heat 1/4 C olive oil, add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until browned, about 2 minutes.  Add the jalapeno, garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, another minute. Turn the heat to high.  Add the clams and wine and cover. Cook until the clams open, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente.  Add the butter, chopped parsley, lemon juice and zest to the clams in the pan and toss until the butter melts into the sauce.  Drain the pasta.

In a large serving bowl, toss the pasta with the clam sauce and whole parsley leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE:  feel free to put Parmesan on this dish, despite the Italian thing about “no cheese with fish.”  Use grated cheese or make Parmesan curls with a potato peeler. Make sure the clams mostly end up on top of the pasta, facing up.  Move them around with tongs if you need to. Discard any unopened clams.  Garnish with lemon wedges.

This is absolutely delicious…even substituting shrimp for the clams!  Now, as I’ve always said (and learned the hard way awhile back), be sure to read a recipe all the way through before you start.  A recipe is not a mystery novel with a surprise ending!  You don’t want to get caught with your pants down getting ingredients prepared only to then read, “Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.”  Oops…you’ll be ordering pizza for dinner probably instead.   So when I read about roasting the jalapenos in the oven, I laughed a little.  Is it ridiculous to heat up a whole oven to 400 degrees to just roast four small jalapeno halves?  Answer:  YES.  Does it really make a difference?  YES.  Be sure to take the time to roast the peppers…the flavor would be totally different if they had been just thrown into the saute pan uncooked.  So trust me (and Tom) on this.

Buon appetito!

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