Friday, 18 March 2016

My recipe for Social Kitchen: lemon flavored spaghetti with clams, zucchini and bottarga

Lemon flavored spaghetti with clams, zucchini and bottarga

It seems that it took me quite a long time to settle my kitchen out of the sand!
The last time I wrote here on the blog (apparently four months ago, sigh) I was probably too optimistic about the fact that we would have found an apartment and, most important, settled in the new house in a decently reasonable time.
I changed house several times in the past, in different cities and different countries, so I know it's not an easy and quick job, but this time too many things didn't go as they should ...
The positive part is that I've learned something new and unexpected about renting an apartment and Italian bureaucracy that could be of some help in future (and of course, if any of you needs some advice, do not hesitate to contact me; it would be a pleasure to help).

Of all the things we had to get arranged in the new house, the last I got was an home Internet connection which, if you want to be a blogger, is of vital importance - at least as much as the kitchen.
It took me longer than starting the whole blog from scratch, but now I can say I am (almost) ready to get back into blogging regularly.

To launch this new season of my blog I want to share with you readers a lovely experience I had few weeks ago, when I was chef for one night at Social Kitchen.
Social Kitchen  is a web platform where once a week a guest "social chef", during a one hour evening live show, makes a recipe (whose ingredients and tools are listed in advance on Social Kitchen website and Facebook page) while people at home can follow the streaming and cook the same dish - and enjoy it later for dinner - chatting with the chef to ask for advice or to share what they are doing.  A very interesting and original concept!

I have to thank for the invitation I Love Italian Food, an international network and no-profit organization aimed at promoting Italian products and food culture internationally; during the evening Alessandro, one of the founder, talked about the association and their activities while I was cooking something Italian.
Being invited in the role of Ambassador for I  Love Italian Food (I'll tell you something more about this in future), I couldn't choice but a pasta recipe, and in particular a pasta made using another very Italian product, precisely bottarga.

Bottarga, that by the way is one of my favorite products and ingredients, is salted, cured fish roe, typically of the grey mullet (or even tuna) that can be found, with different names and in different forms, in several other Mediterranean countries, including France (where it is called poutargue or boutargue), Croatia (butarga or butarda), Greece (avgotaraho) and others.
The best and most renowned variety of bottarga comes from Sardinia (but also Sicily has a very good one) where it is mainly served simply sliced with olive oil, lemon juice and bread or grated in pasta dishes. But in reality bottarga is a versatile ingredient and can be served in many different forms and dishes: it goes well with several vegetables - the combination with artichokes is one of my favorites, but it's perfect also with zucchini, broccoli rabe, Jerusalem artichockes, pumpkin and many others  - and with many varieties of seafood and shellfish.
One of the most common use of bottarga in Sardinian cuisine is paired with clams in a sauce for spaghetti; and this is the inspiration of my recipe where I also use some sautéed zucchini and lemon zests to add freshness and flavor. 

A note on the preparation method: you'll notice that I cook the pasta in boiling water only for half the required time; the rest of the cooking is done in the pan, adding the clams liquid and some cooking water. This technique, which is actually the same used for making risotto, allows to retain in the pan the starch of the pasta (that otherwise would be washed away when the pasta is drained) that contribute to make a creamy, dense sauce without adding fats or any other "secret ingredient". Also, the pasta will have a stronger shellfish flavor since it absorbs all the liquid released by clams when cooked. This is a technique I like to use whenever I have a "liquid" sauce, and in particular a seafood sauce. 

You can read the recipe on Social Kitchen website here, where you can also find the link to the video of the evening. It is in Italian but it may be interesting for watching all the preparation steps - and of course if you want to have some fun watching my cooking performance!
I leave below the recipe in English for all my international readers. Trust me, this pasta is really worth trying, all your guests will enjoy it a lot; and it's quite easy and quick to make too.
Lemon flavored spaghetti with clams, zucchini and bottarga
The dish made at Social Kitchen
Lemon flavored spaghetti with clams, zucchini and bottarga
4 servings 
1,5 kg clams (your favorite variety) - washed and cleaned in salted water for at least 4 or 5 hours, changing the water 3-4 times 
4 - 5 green zucchini 
1 whole mullet bottarga 
350 g spaghetti (preferably thick and trafilati al bronzo)
1 glass of white wine 
1 unwaxed lemon
2 garlic cloves peeled 
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil.
Wash the zucchini and cut the green part into strips.
In a large non-stick pan heat 3 tablespoon olive oil and sautée one of the garlic cloves halved (central green germ removed), add the zucchini strips and sautée for few minutes (they have to retain some bite). Adjust salt, remove the garlic, transfer into a bowl and set aside.
Add the cleaned clams into a large pot with the glass of wine and the other garlic clove, cover with a lid and let boil until the shells open up. Drain the clams as soon as they open up (otherwise they become too chewy) discarding those whose shell doesn't open. Remove the garlic from the pan and filter the water using a sieve lined with kitchen paper in order to eliminate all the remaining sand.
Shell part of the clams leaving some with the shell to garnish.
When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the spaghetti; mix and cook for half the time suggested on the packet.
Drain, reserving the cooking water, and transfer into the pan used for cooking zucchini, already placed on a medium heat. Finish to cook, adding the filtered clams water and some of the pasta cooking water, until al dente.
In the meantime grate half the bottarga and finely slice the other half. Using a zester make fine strips out of the lemon peel (only the yellow part).
When the pasta is almost done add the zucchini and shelled clams to the pan. Adjust salt and pepper, add a splash of olive oil and some cooking water in order to make a creamy sauce. Add the grated bottarga and lemon zest (reserving some for the decoration) and remove from the heat. Mix well then divide into your serving plates. Garnish with the sliced bottarga, reserved clams and lemon zests.

According to your liking you can add some more freshly ground black pepper and a bit of extra-virgin olive oil.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, im of course aware of this, and I'm as excited as everybody. But I know very little about the topic, so I'm not sure if i want to know more about this.
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