Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 158.5 Moroccan (again) - Gingered Fruit Tagine with Pomegranate Molases

"La cuisine est l'âme parfumée de notre culture."
(Cuisine is the perfumed soul of our culture.)
-Edmond Aman el Maleh, (1917)
Preeminent Moroccan thinker, writer, teacher of philosophy

Several weeks ago I received an offer to review and test a few recipes for a new cookbook, 150 Best Tagine Recipes, by Pat Crocker. An international award winning cookbook author, culinary herbalist and professional home economist, Pat has also written books on juicing, smoothies, yogurt, as well as vegetarian and vegan cooking. And, as if that isn't enough, she is the recipient of of the 'Professional Award' for the International Herb Association as well as the Literary Award from the Herb Society of America (2009). You go, Pat!

Anyone who follows my blog knows how much I love Moroccan and North African cuisine (thank you to my Moroccan friends, Ousama and Mohammed who have so generously shared their recipes!) as well as cooking with my tagines. So, a couple of emails later with the nice folks at Robert Rose, and the cookbook was on its way to me to sample and review. But, before I get into the recipes, a little about the book.

Beginning with the quote (above), I fell in love with this book. The introduction gives an excellent overview of the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya), and how the ancient blend of these cultures has influenced North African cooking as we know it today. Known for its healthy and fresh foods, the Mediterranean diet relies far more on whole ingredients such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, garlic, spices, olive oils and scented flower water than on meat and dairy products.  One of the awesome characteristics of tagine cooking that makes it both unique and delicious is the way fruits, vegetables, meats/fish and spices are combined and juxtaposed. Somehow, knowing the history behind the cooking makes the food taste better too because it makes you think about and connect with what you're eating - something we don't do enough of.

Following the book's introduction, Crocker includes straight forward sections on traditional v.s. modern tagines and their features:  how to cook with a tagine, which kind is best for various recipes and vendor information, along with websites and sources in the back of the book. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of her book is a substantial section on North African herbs and spices, including drawings, descriptions and uses, and an accompanying section on Mediterranean ingredients. Whether you're a spice aficionado or just starting to dabble in the spice world, this section of 150 Best Tagine Recipes makes for great and informative reading.

Finally recipes are divided by poultry, lamb, beef, fish and seafood, vegetables, dips and sauces, sides and salads and beverages and sweets. Each recipe is accompanied by a side bar that includes author commentary as well as tips for optimal cooking and substitutions.  Included in the center of the book are a number of beautiful full color photographs that do justice to this interesting cooking style. One of the great things about these recipes, and tagine cooking in general, is how easy the process is. All the ingredients are slow simmered together yielding tender dishes that smell and taste wonderfully exotic and clean. The only down side to this compilation of recipes is that there are 150 to choose from and they all sound good!

So what did I cook? I settled on a Gingered Fruit Tagine (pg. 210). Why? First, because I've never made a fruit tagine and I love trying new things. Second, native fruit in New England is plentiful in August, and my local farm stand, Arcadian Farms has a beautiful variety of peaches, nectarines and plums available. Lastly, I love fruit for dessert and this recipe included Pomegranate Molasses (pg. 172), another thing I'd never made but had to try. I spooned the tagine over over Greek vanilla yogurt and garnished it with mint from my garden. Score!

How to begin to describe the finished product?  Wow! The Pomegranate Molasses truly tastes like a across between tangy pomegranate and and rich molasses. In addition to adding it to the tagine while cooking, I drizzled it over the fruit compote which tinted the yogurt a lovely shade of pink and sweetened the fruit just enough. As for the Gingered Fruit Tagine...there was a surprise in every bite. The dried apricots and dates remained chewy, while tender chunks of peaches and nectarines melted in my mouth, followed by little pieces of ginger tingling on my tongue. And, as Crocker notes in the side bar, any fruit that's in season works in this dish, so I can imagine making this in the winter with pears and any combination of dried fruit and nuts. Even my boys and husband who generally scoff at yogurt and fruit for dessert, loved this dish. If there's any left over, I'm having it for breakfast.

Ingredients for Pomegranate Molasses: pomegranate juice, cane sugar and lemons

Tagine Ingredients: Peaches and Nectarines;  dried dates, apricots and fresh ginger

 Tagine - available at Williams Sonoma - be sure to use a diffuser!

Voila! Served over vanilla Greek yogurt 

Pomegranate Molasses (Recipe courtesy of 150 Best Tagine Recipes, by Pat Crocker: www.robertrose.ca reprinted with permission)
(Makes one pint)

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup organic cane sugar crystals
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine pomegranate juice, sugar crystals and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and keep gently simmering for about 1 hour or until thick and syrupy. Liquid should be reduced by at least one half. Pour the hot liquid into canning jar before cooling. Cap and let cool completely
  2. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Gingered Fruit Tagine (Recipe courtesy of 150 Best Tagine Recipes, by Pat Crocker: www.robertrose.ca, reprinted with permission)
(Small Tagine)

1 lb. fresh fruit, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup sliced dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped fresh or dried dates
1/4 cup Pomegranate Molasses (see recipe above), or brown rice syrup
2 tsp. minced fresh gingerroot
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Cut larger fruit into quarters, and smaller fruit into halves. In the bottom of a flameproof tagine, combine fresh fruit, apricots, dates, molasses and ginger. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until juices release and fruit is is slightly tender.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until fruit is soft. Serve warm or chilled (the mixture will thicken when cooled), with rice or yogurt.

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 158! Senegal - Poulet Yassa (Chicken Yassa) - Up Next, Serbia

This spicy recipe comes courtesy of my friend Kafui  who is Ghanaian, but works for USAID's West Africa Trade Hub, based in Dakar, Senegal. Kafui and I worked together on the Taste of Africa cookbook, which was one of the best international cooking experiences I've ever had. Thanks to her, I'm able to bring you an authentic Senegalese meal that I hope does justice to both the beautiful country and the people tonight's dinner represents. A traditional dish from the Casamance region of Senegal, Poulet Yassa (Chicken Yassa), is best marinated overnight to produce a tender, spicy dish that is enjoyed in traditional Senegalese homes and restaurants. Thank you, Kafui - you are a wonderful and generous wealth of information!

Just a quick word about this post....yesterday as I was preparing the marinade for the chicken, and about to photograph the process, we lost our electricity due to Hurricane Irene that swept up the East Coast, taking down trees and power lines in her wake. Therefore, I didn't have enough light to photograph the process as I ordinarily would have. Hopefully, there's enough here that you'll still get the picture - so to speak.

Located in the westernmost region of the African continent, Senegal is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Guinea. The southern region of Casamance shares its border with The Gambia...all countries I've cooked in thus far! Due to a long French presence in the country, from which it gained independence in 1960, along with a lengthy tradition of trade with North African and Arab countries, Senegal has many foreign influences, but maintains its own rich and colorful traditions, evidenced by its unique customs and cuisine.  A hot, tropical climate, Sengal boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and coral reefs in the world. Dakar, the capital of the country, is a sophisticated and diverse city that is home to many Senegalese ethnic groups,  Europeans, Lebanese, Mauritanians, Moroccans, Chinese and Cape Verdeans (by no means a complete list). Food processing, mining, textile, petroleum refineries and tourism are intrinsic to the country's economy. Exports such as fish, chemicals, cotton, groundnuts and calcium phosphate make Senegal an important player in t e global economy.

Cuisine in Senegal has French, Portuguese and North African influences. From chatting with Kafui, I have a feeling much of the food can be very hot and spicy...I'm pretty sure she would have added many more hot peppers and cayenne to this dish than my western taste buds are used to! Fish, chicken, lamb (stewed and/or marinated) and eggs are all good sources of protein, but as Senegal has a very large Islamic population, pork is not eaten. Peanuts, couscous, white rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, black eyed peas, tomatoes and onions all also commonly eaten.  Bissap, ginger, mango buy (fruit from the baobab tree), along with plantains are also staple foods. Maybe someday I'll get to go to Senegal and have the honor and pleasure of sharing an authentic Senegalese meal with Kafui...until then, my attempt at recreating Poulet Yassa will have to suffice!

The basics for the the marinade
 For best results, marinate chicken overnight
 Reserved marinade for the sauce

 I browned my chicken on the grill 

Poulet Yassa (Chicken Yassa) (Adapted from The Congo Cookbook)

1/2 cup cooking oil
1 chicken, cut up into serving-sized pieces
four (or more onions), cut up
8 Tbsp. lemon juice
8 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
1-1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon or base
1 chili pepper, cleaned and finely chopped
cayenne or red pepper, black pepper and salt to taste
1 small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)
a few carrots, cut into chunks (optional)

Mix all ingredients (except optional vegetables), the more onions the better, and allow chicken to marinate in a glass dish in the refrigerator for a few hour or overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade, reserving marinade. Cook chicken according to one of the following methods:
  • Grill over a charcoal or gas grill until chicken is lightly browned, but not done. 
  • Saute chicken for a few minutes on each side in a hot frying pan until brown.
While chicken is browning, remove onions from marinade and saute them in a heavy pot or large pan for a few minutes. Add remaining marinade and the optional vegetables and bring to a slow boil and cook  for 10 minutes. Reduce heat.

Add chicken to the sauce, cover and simmer until chicken is done - about 45 minutes- 1 hour depending how well you browned the chicken before adding it to the pot.

Serve with rice or couscous, mixed with chick peas and raisins.

Ginger beer or green tea make a nice accompaniment.

Final Assessment: Wow! This will be a regularly featured dish in our house. Because the chicken marinated overnight, it fell off the bones once cooked through. I highly recommend browning it on the grill it if you can. The blend of lemons, garlic, onions, peppers and mustard was terrific. I served it with couscous, mixed with a handful of raisins and chickpeas...A+

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 157! Scotland - UK - Goibniu Home Brew Beer -- Up Next, Senegal!

Before I get any mail correcting this post, let me state up front that I know Scotland is not technically a sovereign country, although from a historic stand point, it could certainly be considered so. Rather, Scotland, Wales and England all make up the entity known as the UK. And, although each has their own distinct culture, food, traditions and dialects/accents, all share common citizenship, government, currency, armed forces and membership in the UN.  But, since I'm currently working my way through the "S" countries, and  my awesome friend, Michael Roman just happens to know a thing or two about home brewing, Scottish beer seemed like a logical, (slightly self-serving) choice. Hence a trip to Deja Brew, in Shrewsbury, MA, where I had the time of my life learning to brew my first ever batch of beer with the help of a generous and awesome group of brew masters.

Seeing as I am a total beer brewing newbie, I asked Michael, professional photographer extraordinaire and all around great person, to contribute a guest post, along with the beautiful photographs (with the exception of the beer in the glass and the bottles, which you can tell were taken by me, the wannabe photographer) you see on this page.  Please check out the link to view his work or to register for a class. Take it away, Michael.............

When Sarah first mentioned the idea of a guest blog about home brew, we wanted to tie it in to a country of the world. The obvious choice? Goibniu (pronounced Goiv – new)! Other than the fact that this has been one of my favorite recipes, its name comes from the Celtic god of manhood. Goibniu was a sword-smith whose place of worship was the smith-works. Before a battle, he bestowed a blessing on the swords and weapons with....wait for it...beer.  So we have a tie-in to the blog and a great excuse to go brew a batch of beer! In case you're wondering about the flavor, Goibniu is a nice malty ale, tipping the scale at 7.5% alcohol content. Twelve pounds of grain in the mash make this a delicious, smooth beer, with a slightly sweet finish.

To be honest, I have to state up front that “home brew” is a slight misnomer in this case. I actually brew my beers at a place called Deja Brew.  They have a vast collection of recipes, all the ingredients necessary, kettles that are larger than anything I could muster at home (so the amount of beer per batch is more rewarding than what one could typically produce at home), and, perhaps best of all, they handle all the clean up. It of course costs more to brew at their facility than it would at home, but the convenience is well worth the extra cost, and the beer still ends up being cheaper than what you can get at a retail store. And the fun of creating something from scratch is enhanced by the fact that you can sample some of the beers Deja Brew has on hand in order to help you decide on a recipe to use either for your batch that day or for one in the future. And it’s also a great social occasion to brew with several friends or coworkers. But on to the main point.

Happiest behind a camera, Michael
also has some mad brewing skills!
As a typical college student in the 1970’s I loved, and consumed, my share of beer. Until a funny thing happened to me, that is. While in college, I spent five months in Germany and  got to sample a wide and wonderful variety of beer. When I got back to the U.S., I quickly realized that my domestic beer drinking days were behind me. American beers were just so bland and all the same for the most part. There was a glimmer of hope for me when my good friend Greg brought over a six pack of a new beer in the mid 80’s. He was all excited about it and I felt bad having to tell him I just wasn’t all that fired up about beer. But he was right. This beer had flavor and body. It reminded me of the beer I used to have in Germany. The beer was Samuel Adams, and the timing was right at the start of the micro-brewery explosion in this country. I still didn't consider beer very often until one day at work when a couple of home brewers brought in the fruits of their labors and hosted a beer tasting party in the parking lot at the end of the day. One of the beers was so flavorful and delicious that I came to realize that beer, as my friend Kevin always used to say, “was not just for breakfast any more”! (the older readers of this post may remember the orange juice commercial from the 70’s or 80’s). The beer was Deja Brew’s Midnight Porter. Before I knew it,  I was hooked into the group of brewers who regularly meet at Deja Brew. These guys have opened my eyes to some recipes I may never have tried on my own, and it’s been a rewarding nine years in the meantime.

Okay, so Sarah and I had a mission. A mission to educate her readers to the joy and ease of making your own beer. We had to toil over a hot kettle, albeit one with some wonderful aromas coming from it, and countless time (countless because after enough sampling of the product, the concept of time got a little fuzzy) filling bottles with beer and running the capping machine, but, hey, somebody had to do this for you, the reader. And we were willing (hiccup) to suffer any sacrifice (hiccup) we had to in order to bring this post to the world (hiccup). Joining us were Sarah’s husband Liam and my brew buddy Mike, who was the one who first introduced me to Midnight Porter, which to this day remains another of my favorite recipes.

Here's how the brewing process goes: Many, many thanks to Deja Brew owners Ray and Donna, Head Brewer, Dave and Brewer Joe who patiently guided us through the process, sharing information, a little history and lots of culinary chemistry tips the night we brewed.

Our first step was to go see what was on tap that night and to pour some liquid refreshment to help us get through the task before us. The second step was to go to the recipe books and take out the one for Goibniu. There are so many recipes to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming to decide upon “the one”, but we didn’t have that problem this night.

The next step is to measure out the grains and grind them (called “milling”) in order to expose the starches. Then comes the mash process. This is where the grain, in a basket, is submerged in the kettle and steeped at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. During this time the starches are being converted into sugar, which the yeast will later convert to alcohol. The spent grain is then removed and pale malt extract is added. This is grain-based sugar that is designed to speed up the brewing process. If the extract was not added, the recipe would require a lot more grain, and a lot more time and effort in the mash process. One of the things about the extract is it carries some color and flavor from the grain that it was made from and this is reflected in the color and flavor of the beer.

The wort, as the mixture is now called, is brought to a boil which causes various chemical reactions as well as sterilizing the wort. Sterilization is important to keep wild yeast from spoiling the flavor and character of your beer. After the boil, the wort is simmered at just below the boiling point and hops are added for flavor and aroma.

It’s now time to move the wort to the fermentation tank where the yeast can be added to do their job. But first the wort needs to be cooled down which would otherwise kill the yeast. Deja Brew sends the wort through a heat exchanger on its way to the fermentation tank so there is no delay before adding the yeast. The fermentation process runs for 7 to 10 days during which time either all of the sugar is converted to alcohol or the amount of alcohol reaches the point where it kills off the yeast. I’m thinking the latter happened in our case. Goibniu is a very “high octane” beer. Yeast converts sugar into two waste products – alcohol and carbon dioxide. There is a valve on top of the tank that allows the carbon dioxide to escape but not let anything in from the outside. The valve is transparent and filled with water and you can see the CO2 bubbles going through it which makes it easy to know when the fermentation is done.

At this point the beer is moved to the “bright” tank, being filtered in the transfer process to remove the dead yeast and any other material that may have made it though the filter between the kettle and the fermentation tank. The “bright” tank is pressurized with CO2 and sits in a cold room for up to a week or so, at which point the beer is ready to be bottled.

The final step in the process is a return trip to Deja Brew on bottling day. The bottles are run through a sterilizing process and then the beer is transferred to the bottles and a hand operated capper adds the finishing touch. Again, it’s a rewarding time and a great social get together. And the fruits of your labors can be shared and enjoyed for months to come. 

But don’t wait too long to enjoy your beer. There are no preservatives and it will spoil over time, especially if you don’t keep it cool or cold. In fact, the beers all seem to peak in flavor about two weeks after bottling after which point they will slowly go downhill. I find it best to keep the beer in a “beer fridge” and finish them off within three months or so. Beers that are high in alcohol, like Goibniu, and/or lots of hops will last longer, but, hey, it’s beer, so why wait to drink it? My brewing buddy Mike has found some Goibnius in the back of his beer fridge more than a year after they were bottled, and reports that they are still a delicious treat.

Goibniu (recipe courtesy of Deja Brew and Dave Thompson, Head Brewer)

3 lbs. caravienne
3 lbs. crystal
3lbs. munich
2 lbs. caramalt
1 lb. roasted barley

7 qts. pale malt
2 qts. adjunct
2 lbs. brown sugar

Bittering Hops
3 oz. kent golding

Finishing Hops
2 oz. fuggle
1 scoop Irish moss

Irish dry yeat

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 156! Saudi Arabia - Fish Kabsa with Cilantro and Pine Nuts - Up Next, Senegal

Few smells and spices transport me to a place is quickly as Middle Eastern cooking can. Now, I have never been to the Middle East, but in my highly over active imagination, the aromas that wafted from my kitchen while grinding tonight's Arabian Spice mix and simmering a big pot of Fish Kabsa transported me to Saudi Arabia in a super magical way. Plus, my hands are totally stained yellow by the turmeric I knocked over, so you could say my body has been transported as well. No Star Trek transponder needed.

Sometimes referred to as "The Land of Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam, The Kingdom of Saudia Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East. The country borders Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemin and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway. To the northeast, is the Persian Gulf and to the West, the Red Sea. Founded in 1932 by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, the country is an absolute monarchy. This beautiful country also boasts the largest oil reserves and exports in the world.

Cuisine in Saudi Arabia is heavily influenced by nomadic traditions that began with sheep and goat herders. Although the country is now well developed and most no longer follow the nomadic ways of life, traditional food continues to be an important part of Saudi life and customs.  Dates, flat breads, hawayij (a spice blend) are all enjoyed along with grilled lamb, goat and chicken, falafel, humus, kabsa and of course, strong brewed coffee -- by no means an exhaustive list!  The country now produces all of its own dairy and most of its vegetables, but strict Islamic principles dictate dietary restrictions of pork and alcohol consumption.

The Basics: Pollock, Cilantro, Garlic and Onions and Basmati Rice

Arabian Spice Mix - A Heavenly and Aromatic Blend

Toast up the Pine Nuts

Layer the Fish on top of the Rice and Cook for about 20-30 Minutes (until rice is tender but not mushy)

Fish Kabsa (Adapted from Food.com)
(4-6 portions)

2 lbs. white fish, cut into medium chunks
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups basmati rice, soaked
3 cups water
1 tsp. vegetable bouillon or base
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp. Arabic Spice mix (recipe below)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan
1/4 cup cilantro

In a heavy, large pan,  heat and add butter, onions and garlic and cook until tender.
Add Arabic Spice mix, blend well.
Carefully add fish and cook half-way on each side until lightly pink-white (about 1 minute).
Remove fish onion mixture from pan and set aside.
Add tomato paste, vegetable base to pan, cook a little and add rice and water.
Carefully place fish mixture back on top of rice.
Raise heat to high to bring to a full boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.
Cook covered until rice and fish are cooked.
Arrange on platter and top with cilantro and pine nuts and serve with green salad.

Arabian Spice Mix (Adapted from Food.com)

1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. black pepper corns
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. fennel seeds

Blend in a mortar and pestle until crushed.
Store extra in an airtight jar.

Final Assessment: A wonderful, one pot meal that scented the house with a heavenly aroma of spices. The dish was satisfying, healthy and the addition of pine nuts and cilantro was a really nice touch. Served along-side a green salad, this was an excellent meal. We loved it!

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 155! São Tomé and Príncipe- Matata: Clams Cooked in Port Wine - Up Next, Saudi Arabia

Tonight's meal was a toss up between Calulu, a Sao Tomean stew made with grouper and prawns or Matata, clams cooked in Port Wine. Both are typical of Sao Tome and Principe's cooking (and I believe Matata is also cooked in Mozambique as well), but since we just wrote out the check for my son's college tuition, the clam dish won out, as grouper and prawns are significantly more expensive than clams. And, I already had Port in the house.  I must confess that I may have poured myself a little glass before adding it to the pot -- you know, just to ea$e the money-drain pain.

Located in the Gulf of Guinea in Western Africa, Sao Tome and Principe consists of two main islands which sit on a mountain range of non-active volcanoes and is the second smallest country in Africa after the Seychelles.  The country has two distinct seasons (rainy and dry), and has a hot, tropical climate. The country was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the late 15th century. Following colonization, the Portuguese used manly slave labor to grow sugar cane plantations, making Sao Tome and Principe Africa's greatest exporter of sugar in the 1500's.  By the 19th century, cocoa and coffee plantations replaced sugar, and by 1908, the country lead the world in cocoa production. Today, coffee and cocoa remain important to the country's economy.  In 1876, the Portuguese abolished slavery, but the indigenous people continued to be exploited, until the "Batepa Massacre" in 1953. Finally in 1974, Marcello Caltano was overthrown and in 1975 the country gained independence, instituting multi-party elections in 1991. This beautiful country boast waterfalls and jungles teeming with 135 species of birds as well as and beaches that are home to spectacular hawks-bill sea turtles and Humpback whales.

Cuisine in Sao Tome and Principe is strongly influenced by its Portuguese as well as African traditions. Cornmeal, millet, rice, hot stews, curries, chicken, peanuts, coconut, cucumber, bananas and plantains are commonly eaten. Fishing on these islands yields plentiful seafood such as shellfish, lobster tails, shrimp and prawns. Coffee, Tea and Portuguese wines are also highly regarded as some of the finest in the African continent.

A quick note about clams a.k.a, bi-valve mollusks - If you can get fresh clams, these are ideal, however, a wonderful frozen substitute can be found in Sam's Clams, right out of Warren, Rhode Island. I get these in the frozen seafood section of my grocery store which is great, especially in winter months when fresh seafood is harder to come by. Sam's Clams are 100% natural (no salt or preservatives added), hand shucked sea clams which are chopped in good sized chunks. I use them for chowder, clam sauce and fish stews. Check out the link for a bunch of other tasty clam recipes....some I may just try later on in the week! And, please, please, please try to avoid using canned clams as they really do a disservice to your dish.

The basics

 Port 'n Pepper ... perfect
Everything in one pot - easy, right?

Matata - Clams Cooked in Port Wine (recipe courtesy of www.africa.upenn.edu)

1 cup onions, finely chopped
2 ounces olive oil
4 cups chopped clams in their juice (use fresh or frozen)
1 cup Port wine (don't be afraid to be generous)
1 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, finely chopped (or lightly salted)
2 tomatoes, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (reduce salt if using lightly salted peanuts)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1-1/2 lbs. fresh spinach, chopped
  1. Heat olive oil in a 4-quart sauce pan. Add onions and saute until soft.
  2. Add clams and port wine, bring to quick boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
  3. Add peanuts, tomatoes, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and cover just until leaves have wilted.
  5. Serve with hot white rice.
Final Assessment: This was a deceptively easy and tasty dish. The addition of Port during cooking added a rich, aromatic touch to the meal. It's low in fat, high in protein and rich in vitamins thanks to tomatoes and spinach. And, zip of red pepper flakes, crunchiness of the nuts, versus chewiness of the clams makes for a happy party in your mouth. I used brown rice because I was out of white rice. A+

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved