Freshly foraged briny little sea beans pair beautifully with just-dug quahogs for a hearty, down-home tangle of linguine alle vongole. And the best part is out here in East Hampton the ingredients are only as far away as the water.
At water’s edge of our favorite clam bed in Three Mile Harbor is a healthy stretch of sea beans. Also known as salicornia, glass wort and sea asparagus, these wild vegetable stalks grow in segments that resemble mini saguaro cacti or bamboo and are about 6-8″ high .
It doesn’t take long to pick a pint or two. You can also use scissors to gather small handfuls at once. This doesn’t really save much time because it’s then more work to pick out stray grasses and other weedy bits when you wash them.
If you’re not familiar with the term quahogs, they’re just very large hard shell clams. Same as cherrystones and littlenecks but all grown up. Very flavorful but also chewier, and not quite as cute as their younger siblings. Therefor chopping them up for pasta or chowder is a must.
This season’s first clam digging expedition over July 4th weekend was triumphant – 84 hefty hard shells in about 90 minutes. We could easily have reached the limit (100 clams per day) but when the holding bag ripped open we decided to (get ready) throw in the towel. (ha ha).
This recipe seems to have a lot of steps but it’s really pretty straight forward.
2 dozen quahogs (large hard shell clams, a.k.a. chowder clams)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. hot red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. butter
salt and pepper
1 pint seabeans, washed and picked over
1 lb. linguine
1. Wash the sea beans, pick out any grass leaves or other random stalks. Trim off any dead ends. Blanch in a skillet of simmering water for 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
2. Wash quahogs under running water. If need be use a brush to remove excess sand and silt.
3. In a large, heavy pot with a lid place 1/2″ water. Put the clams in. They can make a double layer but not more than that, so you might have to do this in batches.
4. Cover and bring heat to high. After the water starts boiling full, check the clams very minute or so and remove the opened ones with tongs.
5. After all the clams have opened (or most of them – discard any that remain closed after the others have opened. Repeat as necessary.
6. When all the clams have been removed, boil down the liquid to make 2 cups.
7. Reserve 4 of the smallest clams for garnish. Pull the remaining clams out of the opened shells, discard the shells. Put the clams into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the clams are roughly chopped.
8. Pour the liquid that accumulates in the bowl and the reduced clam broth in the pot into a large glass measuring cup. Let sit for 5 minutes or more, until the silt settles to the bottom.
9. Wipe out the large pot. Heat the oil, add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic starts to brown. Slowly pour in the reserved clam broth, taking care not to get any of the solids at the bottom. Add the wine. Simmer on low while you prepare the linguine according to package directions. Add the chopped clams during the last minute of cooking the pasta (otherwise they’ll get tough).
10. When the pasta is done, drain and mix with the sauce. Stir in the parsley, toss well. Stir in the butter. Stir in the cheese. Toss in the reserved seabeans. Add black pepper to taste.Print This Post