Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Steamed Clams and Basil Pesto

I don't eat red meat for several reasons including environmental ones, but I do eat seafood. I always try to make good, environmentally-sound and healthy decisions about which seafood to choose. It's not always easy, and the news about which type of fish is a sustainable choice seems to change daily. So, I was thrilled to see this new book from Washington, D.C. chef Barton Seaver, For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking, and I received a review copy. It acts as a guide to all the issues surrounding how to choose fish, and then it provides great ideas for turning those fish into meals. Seaver explains that the best way to work towards restoration of marine ecosystems is to support the fisheries that are working responsibly and enjoy the best choices we have with lots of seasonal vegetables. And, the book assists with just that. You won't find recipes for overfished species like bluefin and yellowfin tuna, but there are several ideas for other, sustainably caught species of fish. Since some fish are seasonal, the book is organized in sections from spring to winter with side dishes and sauces made from vegetables and herbs available at each time of year. There's also an additional section for all the types of seafood that are available year round. So far, I've tried the mussels with IPA and roasted garlic and the grilled okra with charred onion dip. Both were simple dishes with big flavors. Others I look forward to trying are warm poached salmon in red wine sauce, smoked sardines with mixed greens and fig-olive dressing, pumpkin and pear panzanella with pumpkin-seed vinaigrette, and the smoked salmon and goat cheese sandwich to name a few.

Since clams, as well as mussels and oysters, are a sustainably farmed option and are always available, and since my basil plants are still going strong, I couldn't wait to try the clams with basil pesto dish. Seaver prefers the sweetness in walnuts to the flavor of pine nuts for his basil pesto. So, walnuts were toasted, and then they were tossed in a colander to remove some of the skins. Another difference with this pesto was the choice of mostly canola oil with just a little added extra virgin olive oil. The two oils and some garlic were placed in a blender and pureed, and then basil leaves and walnuts were added and blended until smooth. Then, littleneck clams were steamed in white wine. When open, the clams were transferred to a serving bowl, the cooking broth was poured into a mixing bowl while leaving any sand in the pot, and the basil pesto and some butter were stirred into the broth to form a sauce. The sauce was poured over the clams, and toasted bread was served on the side. The flavors were bright and fresh, and we used the bread to capture every bit of the sauce.

The book includes plenty of information about understanding fishing methods and how to choose fish wisely and substitute better choices for those that are overfished. But mostly, Seaver's enthusiasm for sustainable seafood, healthy portion sizes, avoiding toxins in seafood, pairing seafood with seasonal vegetables, and just plain, old, delicious cooking, make this book all about truly enjoying the best of seafood.

See my review of For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking and get this clams with basil pesto recipe at Project Foodie.



26 comments:

  1. What an interesting combination! I'd love to try clams...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Look amazing Lisa, love it!!! gloria

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  3. I need to read this book! I avoid seafood precisely because I don't know what to pick and how and this would help me be an informed buyer, I am sure; the clams and pesto sound lovely, and easy to boot.

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  4. I have never tried combining clams and walnut pesto together...it sounds really tempting.

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  5. I'll definitely buy that book you recommended. The Steamed Clams and Basil Pesto recipe really looks delicious! I agree with Angie, I also didn't pop in my mind to combine those ingredients. Nice idea!

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  6. Sounds like a great book, like you could give it to people that are interested in eating sustainable fish but also ones that just want to eat delicious fish (or people that want both!) :)

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  7. i need to check out this book---also you have combined my two favorite foods- clams and pesto!

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  8. Lisa, what a lovely way to prepare clams...I need to try this one since I LOVE clams. Great combination!
    Hope you are having a fantastic week and thank you so much for this recipe :-)

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  9. Sounds like a good book- I should pick it up for Eric, he'd probably love it. While I love mussels, I haven't yet developed a taste for clams. Perhaps I've only ever had them prepared badly because your dish looks and sounds terrific. I really hope you try that pumpkin and pear panzanella- it sounds fabulous.

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  10. That pumpkin and pear panzanella sounds just amazing! You have inspired a new idea. ;) It looks like you'll have many good recipes to pull out of there. The pesto sauce over the clams is delicious.

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  11. Thanks so much for the kind words :D And um, not only does this look legit - but those cowboy cookies are calling my name. for real! Nom!

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  12. First of all Lisa...I don't feel one bit sorry for your spin instructor. Huh. Needs to fatten up in the summer does he? He can just follow me around for a while. My sister always annoyed me too...she was always skinny as a rail. Not so now though, which makes me grin. (Don't tell.)

    Anyway. The seafood book looks wonderful AND helpful. I do love mussels and clams and we enjoyed them so much recently when my daughter was home. I always steam them in white wine. Never thought about nuts, but have always preferred pecans to walnuts because I think they're bitter. Did you find that?

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  13. Barbara: Pecans in basil pesto are great! The extra step of rubbing off the walnut skins was intended to prevent them from being bitter. And, I have to say, they didn't taste bitter in this pesto.

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  14. I have only ever had steamed clams or mussels with broth or tomato sauce. Love the change up with pesto.

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  15. I love steamed clams and mussels. Such a great no-fuss dish. I bet these clams would be heaven tossed with pasta, too.

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  16. Good for you Lisa, I love hearing about how people are making sustainable/meat-free eating choices. I am a vegetarian :)

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  17. This is a recipe I would surely enjoy but unfortunately my family don't share my love for oysters, clams etc., so I only eat them at restaurants. I am not a fan of pine nuts so I make pestos using walnuts very often.

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  18. My husband and I love eating mussels and clams when out at restaurants, but we've yet to make them at home. I must try this ASAP! Thank you for sharing with me! I'm so glad I visited you tonight. I'm smiling and my stomach is growling. Best wishes from Austin!

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  19. That pesto sounds so interesting with the walnuts. You know, I didn't know that fish is seasonal! I've learned something quite interesting and new today. The cookbook sounds delicious as well as educational.

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  20. Love your take on pesto with steamed clams. I definitely prefer clams to mussels.

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  21. wow ... wow ... i'm developing a stutter, I love clams and mussels and serving them with pesto is such a wonderful idea. I must make this.

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  22. I see folks in Lebanon peeling walnuts and I like it, just don't always have the patience to do it, so soaking them is my solution. that book sounds very interesting!

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  23. Oh, my, what a gorgeous dish! I think pesto makes everything taste marvelous~

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  24. sounds georgepus and delicious:)

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