Over the course of this damn pandemic, we’ve developed connections for various foods and liquids. Honestly, it sometimes felt as though we were trying out drug connections as we figured out who shipped coffee our espresso machine likes, who’s got good fruit, where we could get paper towels and dishwashing detergent.
And so, seafood. We used to get a lot of it from LaBella Marketplace, all the way on the southern tip of Staten Island. But we avoided supermarkets and that was really out of the way, too. We then found Pierless, a wholesaler who, with his usual restaurant clients shuttered, turned his operation into an online with delivery retail service. We liked this, because he didn’t deliver to our island, but did in Brooklyn. We’d go in on an order with Daughter No. 1, which had the benefit of driving over the bridge to see her. Our visits were short and masked, but it was great to see the kid, even if it was for 15 minutes. .
We could fall back on a favorite, the Saturday Greenmarket in St. George. The seafood guy there is expensive and has only local stuff, so forget shrimp and salmon, but his wares are extremely fresh and always highest quality.
So it was this past Saturday. We try to plan ahead for meals, because we’re still careful about how and where we buy stuff. I was thinking spaghetti with mussels and beans. It’s a good combo, garlicky and delicious and takes hardly any time if you’ve got canned or cooked beans on hand. Unfortunately, the Greenmarket guy had run out of mussels, even at only 9 a.m. So I asked for a couple of dozen littleneck clams. I figured I’d come up with something different from the usual spaghetti with clams, which I love, but have already done too many times the past couple of months.
We had some zucchine, or if you must, zucchini on hand (see my post about gender-morphing pasta and vegetables). Zucchini goes really well with seafood, its sweetness a good foil to the salinity of the clams in this case. Problem was, I didn’t want to just have some diced squash with the clams in their shells. The clams were too big, so I’d have a texture problem with the dish.
I wrestled with this big problem for the better part of a half hour. Ok, five minutes, and I came up with my usual crutch: zucchini cream! Unless you really push zucchini, with a lot of olive oil and salt, it can be boring and even a little slimey. But sauté it gently with a clove or two of garlic, salt, pepper, white wine and, if you’re feeling decadent, a little saffron. Then toss that into the blender with a few basil leaves and you have a nice pasta sauce.
I steamed the clams in a little wine in a pot I’d later use to boil the pasta, taking care to pull out clams that opened, so that they wouldn’t overcook. Once I pulled them all out, I strained the briny juices and put that into the zucchini purée. Once the clams cooled down I diced them and they went into the sauce, too. I added a little white vermouth to the pot to brighten it. Plus booze always makes sauces better. I could have added a knob of butter, but I’m Trying To Be Good.
I cooked some spaghetti, and once it was a minute or two short of being done, I tossed that into the pot along with a small ladleful of the pasta cooking water, turned up the heat until it was all of a piece. The pasta course was done.