Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When dinner just can’t wait…

I got caught out today. Most days, I’m on dinner detail. There are several reasons for this. Mostly it revolves around the fact that my wife has flute students most evenings. Unless she makes a casserole-type of thing, or something that can be heated up at the last minute, I’m the one who has the time to do our cooking – and I really enjoy doing it.

Another reason is that I’m much better at ala minute-type cooking, having worked in restaurants and also not being a redhead. (My gorgeous and talented wife does not deal well with stress in the kitchen.) Since a lot of our cooking style is based on having a number of things on the go, I’m elected by default.

So, getting back to today, I was supposed to have dinner ready around 5:30, when her one-hour break began. Unfortunately, work intervened, and I was hot at it on the computer when five o’clock came and went. At 5:08, my brain kicked in and I raced out to our kitchen. Fortunately, we’d decided earlier in the day that we’d have pasta with red clam sauce, so while it would be tight, I knew I’d get dinner on the table in a timely fashion.

Which brings me to the point of this posting: you can make a really good meal without spending hours in the kitchen. Often, when time is short, it’s easy to just say, “Let’s order out,” or “I’ll pick up a pizza on the way home.” But if you plan ahead and keep a few staple things in your cupboard or pantry, you can have the makings of an excellent meal, and be able to whip it up in less time than it would take to order take-out, wait and then pick it up.

We have collected a fair number of these time-saver recipes. I’ve already covered Vicki’s favorite, spaghetti al’amatriciana in one of my earlier blog postings. Another favorite is the recipe below: Linguine with red clam sauce.

I have no recollection of where we discovered this little gem, but we’ve been making it for at least twenty years. It has a small ingredient list, requires nothing fresh (if you don’t want or have the time to get fancy) and can literally be made in the time it takes to bring a pot of pasta water to the boil. Tonight, from start to finish, I had dinner on the table in seventeen minutes. With a glass of wine and a tossed lettuce salad, you’ve got a meal you’d be quite satisfied to pay $40 for in a restaurant or for take-out.

What’s not to like about that? Try this recipe and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Serves 3-4

1 lb linguine (We currently use linguine made with spelt flour for this. Yummy!)
1 can whole baby clams (5.5 oz can)
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
½ cup onion, finely sliced
1 or 2 garlic cloves
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 Tbs minced fresh)
salt (to taste)
freshly-ground pepper

1. Put a big pot of water on to boil.

2. Dice onion. Peel and smash the garlic.

3. In a hot skillet put olive oil and heat until point of fragrance, add onions and garlic and sauté until soft (3-4 minutes).

4. Add tomatoes and clam juices and boil rapidly until mixture is getting fairly dry. Turn down the heat.

5. Around this time the water should be boiling. Add a generous amount of salt then the linguine to the pot and stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.

6. About two minutes before linguine is finished, put the clams in the sauce and just heat through. Add pepper to taste, check for salt and adjust, if needed.

7. Drain linguine and toss in the sauce.

If you wish, add some freshly chopped parsley to the sauce just before tossing. I usually add a touch of cayenne to my portion. And that’s all it takes to have a great meal!

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