Cooking Clams With What’s On Hand: Mediterranean Style

spicy clams with sausagesI love Mediterranean flavors. Italian, French, Spanish, North African, Lebanese, Sephardic…

I love the Mediterranean style of cooking too.

I also know there is a Mediterranean Diet gaining buzz out there. Heart healthy oils, tomatoes, blah, blah, blah. But once something has developed into a cult (and anything with the word diet in it just try googling it) then I tend to steer well clear. Besides, that is not really what I am talking about.

To me Mediterranean “cooking” is instinctual cooking. It’s taking a few simple ingredients that you know and love and following your instincts in pairing them. Mediterranean cooking is guided by simplicity– further proof that humble ingredients produce the most amazing fare.

Recipes are not really necessary because Mediterranean cooking embodies the tradition of cooking from what you have on hand.

It’s knowing that salt and lemon bring out the sweet in certain vegetables. But not becoming consumed with how many teaspoons, grams or pinches!

But it’s good to have some guidelines when working with some foods.

Click for more on Burgans AlbarinoClick for more on Burgans AlbarinoShellfish is a great example of cooking with guidelines. The basic technique is this:

Add stunningly fresh shellfish to a large pot of flavorful boiling liquid. Cover the pot, lower the heat and shake a few times while they simmer. In less than 8 minutes the shells should have opened and the shellfish will be fragrant and cooked to perfection. Remove the pot from the heat and get those babies into a serving bowl as quick as possible. Garnish with something you like and instinctually works with the other flavors. Serve it, broth and all, with really good crusty bread.

Once you have the basic technique mastered. You can let your instincts take over and cook any sort of shellfish with what is in the pantry, house, or garden.

Well, using this line of thought I developed what I will call Spicy Clams with Abruzzese Sausage.

I always have good Italian canned tomatoes in the pantry. I add red-pepper flakes to almost everything. Who doesn’t have garlic? So it’s a safe bet that these three ingredients are always in my house.

I also went a bit crazy a few months back and bought way too many Abruzzese sausages. They are so damn good and they keep forever. I could not stop myself.

In case you do not know Abruzzese sausage is a style of Italian dry sausage known for its spiciness. It pairs well with salty cheese and I love it sliced and served with whole raw, teeny-tiny fava beans. But I have gotten quite far off track.

Anyway, Abruzzese sausage is not always easy to find, so snatch up all you see whenever you come across it (dry Spanish chorizo is an acceptable substitution). But you knew that because you have instincts too.

spicy sausages with abruzzese sausageBut as good as these sausages are all by themselves, it’s hard for me not to consider them an ingredient as well. Shellfish and spicy sausage is an instinctual pairing in my book.

But back to the matter at hand.

The last step in developing this recipe was to step out the back door and grab a handful of parsley from the garden.

So like I said, “let your instincts take over and cook with what is in the, pantry, house and garden. I may be sputtering on about no recipes here, but if you need more precise instruction Click Here or on the photo to the right and I will provide you with that.

I am going to let my brother Grant’s instincts take over and ask him to do a wine pairing for this dish. I see he has stuck with the Mediterranean theme. Smart man! Smart men (and women) run in my family.


Greg Henry