I was in the mood for clams this weekend. Perhaps a nod to the final days of summer….the last warm nights under my pergola, candles flickering, fountain gently gurgling, crickets chirping. Ahhh, glorious summer. With clams on my mind, I remembered a wonderful dish that I had had while sitting overlooking the sea on the western coast of Sardinia a few years ago….teeny, tiny clams (‘vongole veraci’) fresh from the sea simply dressed in a fennel broth and sprinkled with pepper. Alongside a basket of crunchy perfectly grilled bread. (My mouth is watering even now as I type this.) Perfect for these last lazy weekends of summer when I prefer to linger over a good cookbook and glass of vino in a comfy chair outside than over a hot stove. Use littleneck clams if you can find them. Don’t forget to give them a good soak in a cold water bath for at least 30 minutes to get the sand and saltiness out. And you can even sip on the wine as you give your clams a good glug for themselves. Be sure to serve with lots of crusty bread for dipping. Enjoy…
Impepata di vongole al finocchietto: Peppered clams with fennel
About 4 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked in a cold water bath
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (reserve the fronds)
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Equipment: One pot large enough to hold the clams – that’s it.
In a pot large enough to hold the clams, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 mintue. Increase heat to medium and add in the sliced fennel. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the clams and the wine. Cover and steam until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Season with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Put clams and their juice in a warmed serving bowl (or serve from the pot). Sprinkle with the fennel fronds and extra black pepper. Serve with plenty of crusty bread!