One food memory that I have from my childhood is Chinese fried rice.
This isn’t the fried rice you may be familiar with at your local takeout joint in your neighborhood, but a pared down, minimalist version. It was also a great way to re-purpose leftover rice from previous dinners into something new. Mom would chop up some garlic, fry it in either peanut oil or vegetable oil, add leftover cooked rice, and throw in some minced scallions or slivered Filipino longganisa. Sometimes, there might be some beaten egg; occasionally, shredded ginger would make an appearance.
Meals were always a simple affair at my mother’s table. As an adult, I sometimes like to think that my love affair with food must have been inherited, or passed on subconsciously in the womb. Of course, I should know better. The truth is that when I was a kid, I hated garlic, most vegetables and spicy foods.
Oh, how things change.
“Italian” at our house might have meant broiled Italian sausage with peppers and onions, or it might be our rendition of spaghetti and meatballs with Sunday gravy. Occasionally, it was spaghetti with white clam sauce. That too was elemental — canned chopped clams, bottled clam juice, and heaps of garlic and parsley. While I carried on with my dislike of “green and spicy” as a teenager, eventually I managed to get over my garlic-phobia. I don’t really remember when that change occurred, only that I no longer spent time picking out anything that remotely resembled cooked garlic while at dinner, much to Mom’s relief.
I have to laugh at my younger self now. I wasted a ton of angst over a whole lot of nothing.
If only some real world problems that have nothing to do with food could be solved so easily. One of them will be decided on within the next six months. Imagine how the world might be a better place once people come to their senses.
Spaghetti con Vongole — Spaghetti with Clams
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus extra to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound Manila clams
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
Wash clams well, scrubbing if necessary to remove external grit.
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
Meanwhile, in a pot large enough to hold all of the clams, warm the olive oil, along with the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons parsley over medium heat. Stir until the oil is well-heated and the garlic begins to turn a pale gold, about 4-5 minutes. Add the clams. If the oil gets too hot and the garlic begins to stick, add a splash of wine. To help the clams open faster, cover the pot. Steam, shaking pot occasionally, until most of the clams are open, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove clams to a large bowl. When clams are cool enough to handle, shuck them over the bowl, catching every drop of their liquid; discard shells. Discard any clams that do not open.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Return the clams to the same pot where you cooked them in, and add the wine, along with the clam juices. Stir until the wine reduces completely, about 3-4 minutes. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it and add it to the pot with the clams. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining parsley. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve at once.
Time: About 1 hour, including prep.
Makes 2 servings.