Monday, September 30, 2013

Stuffed Clams

The Martorana siblings were not the only ones who did some cooking up at Cape Cod this summer. After my aunts and uncle left and the house quieted down a little I spent a few more days with my parents doing are usual Cape Cod summer rituals like shopping, going to the beach, biking, waterside dining and of course, eating some clams.
We always get steamers at Cape Cod in the summer and this year I added a special request for my father's stuffed clams.
My father and his family spent their summers in Breezy Point, NY. In the late 1940's, the water in Jamaica Bay had not yet become polluted as it is today. My father and his sisters would walk along the tidal flats at low tide looking for little air holes and then dig up the unsuspecting clams below with their shovels, bringing home a pail full of them for my grandfather to steam.
Breezy Point, 1940's
(Mary, Ann Marie, Edward and Margaret Schmitt)

Cape Cod, 1970's
(Me and my brother, Ed)
We still eat them the same way they did back in their bungalow, rinsed in clam broth to remove any sand, dipped in butter and then eaten with a bite of buttered toast.
Stuffed clams are made with the larger, hard-shelled cherrystones. Though any hard-shelled clam will work, you probably don't want to try stuffing those little guys on the right.
My dad's family often made the recipe that follows, reminiscent of the baked clams they would get as takeout from Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay. My father enjoyed making the trip with his dad and sitting at the bar waiting for their order to be ready, a beer for grandpa, a ginger ale with a cherry for dad. Likewise, I enjoyed making and eating these with him.
That's not Opie, it's my Dad!
(and my grandfather, Henry Schmitt)
24 Cherrystone Clams
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 cup pimentos, chopped
1 stack Ritz crackers
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
bacon, cooked halfway (optional)
Steam clams in a large pot until the shells pop open. Remove from shells and chop. Reserve the shells and some of the residual clam water.
Pulse the Ritz crackers in a food processor to turn them into crumbs.
Mix with the clams and the other remaining ingredients and enough of the clam juice to moisten.
Spoon the mixture into the clam shells and top with a bacon strip.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Enjoy on the back deck with a nice cold beer (or a Ginger Ale and cherry).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Peasant Food

My mom and I always joke that some of our favorite dishes are mere peasant foods.
Peasant foods, or Cucina Povera in Italian (meaning poor or frugal cooking), are those dishes made from humble ingredients but hearty enough to be called a meal. Usually one-pot dishes, they were popular during hard economic times in many countries including during the Great Depression here in the United States.  Every nationality has their own version of peasant foods such as tacos in Latin America or succotash here in North America. In Italy, meat was often reserved for Sunday's meal and so during the week, dishes made from accessible and inexpensive ingredients filled the menu. Panzanella made great use of leftover bread and Minestrone cleaned out the vegetable bin.
The funny thing about peasant foods is that even during better times, they are still enjoyed as representatives of the cultures that gave birth to them.
A visit to my parents house is always an excuse for my mom to whip up some of our family's favorites: macaroni and anything - like macaroni and peas (above) or Broccoli and Macaroni - or String Beans and Franks.

The latter two were enjoyed during the The Martorana Cooking Weekend despite times being good....and I mean very, very good.

String Beans and Frankfurters

1 large onion, chopped
1 pkg beef hot dogs (can substitute turkey or veggie)
1 lb string beans, ends snapped off
1 large can plum tomatoes
1 cup basil (whole leaves)
My mother used to make this in a pressure cooker. Today, we both use our crock pots but it can also be made in a regular, large pot.
Saute the onions until translucent.
Add the remaining ingredients.
Cook until string beans are nice and soft (about 4 hours in a crock pot).

Broccoli and Macaroni

1/2 lb Ditalini pasta
1 large head of broccoli, cut into small pieces
Garlic salt

Begin by cooking the pasta according to directions.

When its about half way done, add the broccoli and cook until pasta is done.

Spoon into serving bowls including some of the cooking water.

Season with garlic salt.