Ah yes, Valentine’s day. A day so seemingly contrived that you feel silly sometimes that you are obligated to profess your love to your significant other. As if every other day of the year should or could be taken off from these duties. In the past, I saw this day as a groan inducing, wallet mugging, materialistic “holiday” for suckers. While some of those same feeling do apply for the general sell job of this “holiday” from our corporate overlords, it is nice to finally have someone worthy of celebration.
It was a strange feeling to be excited to celebrate Valentines day this year, even if my plans of a surprise were foiled before they could truly begin. I guess the appeal to this years Valentines day is that my lovely lady knows how much I appreciate her and doesn’t demand that I prove it to the world on one very specific day. The pressure was off, so why not have a little fun with it? She enjoys surprises. So while my “Surprise!” lunch visit on Valentines day was spotted a mile away (Thanks Out of Office assistant, glad you had my back…), the rest of the festivities were slowly revealed in an attempt to keep her guessing.
It made it fun, even for me!
I made reservations to her favorite lunch spot, which happens to have the best view of the iconic Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Matt’s in the Market. I arrived at her office with a small bag of World Market treats, a love letter and fresh tulips from the market. She giggled at the cheese of the approach, just as I had expected and hoped.
Matt’s in the Market is fantastic by the way, especially for lunch, I highly recommend it!
Overjoyed at the surprise of the lunch spot selection, she thought that was it. When we finished eating, I asked her to take a short stroll through the crowded Friday morning market to pick up the items that would become her dinner.
Let the guessing begin. First stop, Uli’s Famous Sausage for two tasty links of fresh Spanish Chorizo. Next stop, a fresh produce stand for tomatoes and parsley, followed by a stop at a fish monger to get some delicious little manila clams. The puzzle was coming together for her, and our next stop helped her place the final piece, as we walked over the Pappardelle’s Pasta of Pike Place Market to get some exquisite lemon garlic linguine pasta! Now that we both had dinner plans to look forward to, I walked her back to her office on 4th and University, 4 blocks away, and said farewell.
Full belly, warm heart, and the chance to cook for the woman I love. Pretty solid way to turn this Grinch’s heart on Valentines day.
This is a dish to share and enjoy with loved ones, even if Valentine’s day has mercifully passed.
I chose linguine with clams quite literally after arriving at the market that morning. The seafood stands are mesmerizing and Katie is always making little hints that I never make her pasta. So with that thought in mind, I decided on a favorite dish of mine, and one that I have made many times, each time with different additions. Smokey, paprika rich chorizo was the first thing I spotted as I entered that morning and I knew it would match well with the briny, bright and acidic lemon and clam heavy dish.
In contrast to American renditions of this dish, which often feature a heavy tomato sauce, the Italian version focuses on the pasta itself. I used a market fresh linguine that was already strongly flavored with lemon and garlic. The clam and tomato accompaniment was to be light and simple, but my insistence to add in chorizo made it a richer, more filling affair. Red pepper flakes add a bit of heat, but you can reduce the amount if you prefer less spice.
In Italy, the clams would most often be the small-shelled variety known as carpet-shells. In America, the best substitutes are cockles or Manila or littleneck clams. Up here in Seattle, we have an abundant source of many varieties, but my preference is always to the sweet little manila clams.
- 1-2 lbs of fresh manila clams
- 1 lb dry linguine pasta (I used lemon garlic linguine)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 roma tomatoes
- 2 links (1/2 lb) fresh spanish chorizo sausage
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 2-3 large cloves of minced garlic
- 1/4 lemon for juicing
- 2 Tbsp olive oil for saute
- 2 Tbsp olive oil for brushing bread
- Fresh sliced bread (I used a olive and rosemary rustic loaf)
- 1 Tbsp fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese
- 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flake
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Before you begin cleaning your clams, inspect them for quality. Some clams will be closed, while others may be slightly open. Tap on them to see if they automatically close. If they respond, they are alive. Do not choose any wide open clams, as they are more than likely dead. Shells that are broken may also mean the clam is dead or unhealthy. Discard these all immediately.
- Place your clams in a bowl of cool, fresh water with a damp towel over the top and refrigerate for roughly 20 minutes to 1 hour. You may repeat this process a few times if you would like.
- Additionally, I like to perform one final cleaning as I begin the cooking phase with my other ingredients. To do this, under cold running water scrub your clams of any residual sand and place into a colander over a pot in your sink. Once clams are scrubbed clean and all in your colander, run a slow steady stream of water over your clams to maintain a fresh supply or water filtering through.
- Moving on to the cooking phase, bring a frying pan up to medium heat. Slice your chorizo down the length of its body and remove its casing.
- Drop uncased chorizo into frying pan and break apart to ensure even cooking and lots of crumbled crispy bits of chorizo. Cook until slightly crispy and chorizo has become a deep orange, about 5-7 minutes.
- At this point, bring a pot of salted water to boil in preparation of your linguine.
- Remove chorizo and place on a paper towel donned place to help soak up residual grease from the sausage.
- Wipe out pan and pour in you olive oil. Bring pan back to medium heat and toss in your minced garlic. Saute for 2 minutes until fragrant and garlic just barely begins to turn golden.
- Return sausage along with 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley and stir.
- Continue cooking for another minute then add in your chopped tomatoes. When the tomatoes release some water, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the mixture. Continue cooking for 2 minutes until the mixture begins to simmer and bubble a bit.
- Add in half of your white wine and stir thoroughly. Slowly add in your clams to the mixture and distribute evenly across the pan. Pour in your remaining wine and cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat slightly.
- This is the time to drop your pasta into the boiling pot of water and cook until al dente. Feel free to undercook just slightly, as the pasta will be finished off in the reduced clam and sausage mixture.
- As your clams begin to open up one by one, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Once all of your clams have opened, remove cooked pasta from the pot of water and drop into the reduced thick clam and chorizo broth. Stir the pasta into the sauce and toss thoroughly until evenly coated.
- Brush sliced bread with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and grill or broil until charred and golden.
- Return opened clams to the tossed pasta mixture in the pan and turn off the heat. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, red pepper flakes and fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.