Mom’s Favorite Clams

I was thinking of doing something nice for my mom when I picked up a dozen Littleneck clams at Whole Foods.

I was thinking about New York City, about Little Italy, this clam house we both love there and always go back to. I find myself fending off the impulse to apologize for loving Little Italy. The thing is, my mother and I are perfectly content to be tourists when that’s exactly what we are. So this October, when we were seated on that patio again, and ordered, for the third time, oysters, white wine and baked clams, it was completely without irony.

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Two More for the Smorgasbord


I met crisp bread this weekend.

It is a Nordic cross between cracker and bread (think matzah) made of rye flour. The Scandinavian poor have been eating it for centuries. The hearty crackers travel well and keep for months. This fact hints at crisp bread’s gastronomic charms. It is, in every way–appearance, texture, taste–a little like cardboard. The earliest form of crisp bread was probably carried into battle by the Vikings. That dates this food at at least 1000 years old. Continue reading

Curry Yellow Pea Soup


I’m one quarter Swedish, but it might be more accurate to say that I’m three-quarters not-Swedish.

Though one set of great-grandparents came directly from the motherland knowing only the language and culture of Sweden, most of what I know about Sweden comes not from family history but – like all good things – from Ikea.

When “The Spinning Plate” decided to do a short series of posts on Scandinavian cuisine, my thoughts first drifted towards lutfisk and ostkaka, two foods that have remained in my family’s lexicon if not in our cookbooks. But both lye soaked fish and milk curd cake seemed too… daunting. So instead, I settled on another Scandinavian standard: ärtsoppa (i.e. pea soup).

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Button Mushrooms, Lemon, Feta

I feel a strange tenderness for mushrooms.

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated to learn that fungi had their very own taxonomic kingdom, being neither plant nor animal.  In fact, they are considered biologically closer to animals because they do not create their own food, as plants do, but feed off surrounding detritus, like vultures.  Food for thought. 

Despite their scavenging qualities, I think they’re charming little alien creatures. I have never been much of a forager for wild mushrooms, afraid as I am of the secret death lurking inside some of them. This is lucky, because I’ve never met a mushroom I didn’t want to eat. Continue reading

Oysters on the Half Shell Three Ways for Valentine’s Day

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Before we set to work preparing these guys, Alan was in our dining room shucking 20 blue point oysters with a flat edged screwdriver. His hands were cut and red and the floor and his sweater were littered impossibly with oyster shell shavings.

But then our apartment was filled with the smell of the sea, which he said he loved. From floor to ceiling the atmosphere was all salt water, sand, tide pool, sea anemone. Oysters. There is no smell like it in the world.

To me it smells like memory, like watching the gray backs of dolphins peep out from beneath the white caps at Zuma beach. I can’t think of a more romantic food in the world.

When buying oysters, ask your fish monger when they were harvested. If they have been out of the water for less than a week, you’re good to go. And as for the flat-edged screwdriver, it’s a great tool for shucking oysters if you don’t have a shucking knife. Just be sure to hold the oyster with a kitchen towel to protect your hands from small cuts.

The best way to eat oysters is plain. A squeeze of lemon juice and you’re golden. But for Valentine’s Day, these three oysters are a nice departure from the norm and a fancier take on a food I love.

– Angela M.

Oysters with Lemon Chive Cream and Caviar

– 6 blue point oysters
– 3 tsp sour cream
– 6 tsp American black caviar
– Chives cut into 1/2 inch pieces
– 1 lemon

Top each oyster with 1/2 tsp of sour cream and 1 tsp of American black caviar. Place 2 1/2 inch chive slices over the sour cream and caviar. Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto each.

Oysters with Summery Watermelon Relish

– 1/2 dozen blue point oysters, shucked
– 6 tbsp diced salted watermelon
– 1 tbsp julienned mint
– 1 tsp minced ginger
– 1 lemon
Place 1 tbsp diced salted watermelon onto each oyster, along with a small dab each of julienned mint and minced ginger. Finish it off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Japanese Style Oysters

– 1/2 dozen blue point oysters
– 3 tbsp smelt roe
– 1 tbsp thinly sliced scallions
– 6 tsp ponzu sauce
– 1 lemon

Place 1/2 tbsp of smelt roe on each oyster along with a pinch of thinly sliced scallions. Top each with a tsp of ponzu sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice.