Now that the fear of Hurricane Sandy has passed, it’s time to have some foodie fun by featuring favorites by well-known cookbook authors.
Like many of you, I am often at a loss over what to make for dinner. Autumn has been unseasonably warm, so the rich stews and soups we enjoy are placed on the back burner until the first frost.
The solution for me is simple: I pull out some of my favorite cookbooks and build dinner around a few simple recipes.
I decided to cook an Italian dinner without a pasta course. Everyone loves pasta in our house, but I wanted something a bit different. A fish course would begin dinner followed by a simple fennel salad and a pork dish.
Clams Casino is a dish from my childhood. This Italian-American antipasto appeared on restaurant menus for many years. I first savored these treats at The Vesper Club. I plucked the recipe from “Lidia’s Italy in America” by Lidia Bastianich.
Fennel is used in many Italian dishes. I never thought to feature it as a salad until I came across this tasty recipe from “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Since roast pork tenderloin turns up from time to time, I wanted a change of pace and found a recipe for Pork Chops Alla Milanese in “The Babbo Cookbook” by Mario Batali.
36 littleneck clams
2 roasted red or yellow bell peppers, peeled and cut into 1-inch squares
6 ounces of thinly sliced bacon or pancetta, cut into 1-inch squares
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Dry white wine, as needed
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Shuck the clams, leaving each one in the half shell and reserving the juices. Strain the juices through a cheesecloth into a bowl.
Place the clams on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each clam with a pepper square, then with a bacon or pancetta square and a dab of butter. Sprinkle the parsley on top. Pour the reserved chucking juices into a measuring cup and add enough white wine to make 2 cups of combined liquid. Pour the liquid into the bottom of the baking sheet.
Bake the clams until the bacon or pancetta is crispy and the clams are cooked all the way through, for about 25 minutes.
Serve on a platter drizzled with baking juices.
1 fennel bulb, washed and rimmed
1 ripe pear
Juice of one-half lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
1/2 shallot, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons of honey
4-1/2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 ounces of Parmesan, shaved
1/2 cup of roasted walnuts
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