Friday, October 5, 2007

Love in a Bowl

It's hard to be in beautiful southern California and not wonder every two minutes or so why I voluntarily choose to live in New York and not here. Life seems easier, lighter, less complicated in this region, and, no, not just because I'm on vacation. There is something about the combination of abundant sunshine, low humidity, and fresh ocean air that instanty lifts ones spirits; in fact, I will go so far to say that short of one grumpy cab driver in Coronado who needed a day at the beach, or a girlfriend, every person I've ever met who resides here is pretty much in a positive state of mind all the time. Unless Prozac-enriched water is flowing through the taps, the only explanation I can come up with for this collective reverie is that good weather equates to good moods.

One person who is always in a good mood, despite having what seems to be the most stressful job in all of San Diego, is Juan, who runs the Oyster Bar at the Fish Market on Harbor Drive. Plopped right on the bay, with amazing views, the freshest seafood, an unpretentious attitude, and lines stretching out the door, this restaurant is one of mine and Jerry's all-time favorites. We love hunkering down at the Oyster Bar, where over glasses of cold white wine, and thick wedges of warm sourdough bread, we sit back in awe as Juan arabesques and pirouettes his way through the kitchen, turning out hundreds of meals with ease, grace, and love. I hesitated using the word love for a millisecond there, since so few people, short of mothers, grandma's, and the occasional avuncular chef in the back kitchen of your neighborhood trattoria truly cook with love, but Juan does; I can see it in his face, I can taste it in his food. He listens when you tell him where your culinary tastes lie, and somehow--like he's been cooking for you your whole life--he translates that small soundbite, that minute-long interaction, into the most incredible, tastebud-pleasing, filled-with-love meal you've had in a good, long time. For me this week, it's been a linguini with manilla clams that is so delightful, I've ordered it five nights in a row.

I am heading back home to New York tomorrow, and inspired by Juan, I am going to prepare a big bowl of linguini with clams on Sunday. I will cook the clams in butter, wine, brandy and sherry, then add capers, tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. After ten minutes, I will pour it over just-tender linguini, then top it with a handful of parmesan cheese, before finally placing it on the dining room table with so much love, that even that crabby Coronado Island cabby would sigh with happiness.

LINGUINI WITH CLAMS (makes one serving)

Cook 1/4 lb. of linguini + set aside.

Melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter in a saute pan (I know, it's a lot of butter, feel free to use slightly less if you're watching your waistline +/or cholesterol). Add 3 cloves minced garlic, a few tablespoons chopped scallions, and 2 dozen littleneck or manilla clams. Cook on high for two minutes, then add a splash of brandy, a splash of cooking sherry, and a big splash of dry, white wine. Throw in 2 tablespoons rinsed capers, and a handful of seeded +chopped plum tomatoes (optional), then cover pan and cook on medium-high heat for around 5 minutes, or until clams open. Pour clams over linguini, top with a bit of parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

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