The word-worker, on vacation, tries to avoid her colleagues. Though she shelters in concert hall, museum and woods, words sneak in.
Sighing, she picks up a book. Not the breezy novel, brief story or brazen catalog. She opens “The Sympathizer” — dark, devastating and dense with words, familiar and not-so-much.
She admires the way the protagonist, new to English, conquers, annexes and dominates the language. Adamantine? Shambolic? Crapulent? (Unbreakable, chaotic, drunk.)
She closes the novel — and vacation — doubtful she’ll retain all her new acquaintances. One will stick: snick. Like slit and nick, it’s a small cut. Surely it will make a dependable co-worker.
She dines at Roister (boisterous) and packs her bags, eager to get back to work.
CLAMS AND PASTA
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
20 fresh clams in their shells (any mix of little neck, Manila, razor and surf)
1 cup dry white wine
1 shallot, halved, and 1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, halved, and 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
6 ounces dried tubular pasta
1 tablespoon butter, plus 1 tablespoon, optional
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red bell peppers, sliced into matchsticks
1 hot red pepper, finely chopped, optional
1 tablespoon capers, drained, rinsed, patted dry
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mixed chopped chives, parsley and mint
1 lime, quartered
1. Clean: Soak clams in cold water for 15 minutes to loosen any grit. Slide into a strainer and rinse well under cold water. Scrub clams, discarding any with cracked shells. Dry clams with a kitchen towel.
2. Steam: Settle clams in a large saucepan. Pour in the wine. Drop in the halved shallot and the halved garlic. Cover. Bring to a boil and let steam until clams open, 5-7 minutes.
3. Drain: Set a sieve over a large bowl. Line the sieve with cheese cloth. Pour in clams and their cooking liquid. Discard any unopened clams.
4. Shell: Use a small spoon to scrape clams from their shells. Avoid snicks. Reserve naked clams and their cooking liquid separately. (Discard shells and the cheesecloth.)
5. Boil: Cook pasta in salted water until 1 minute underdone. Drain.
6. Finish: Set a wide skillet over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon butter and the oil. When butter has melted, tumble in peppers, sliced shallots and chopped garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in capers, sugar, pasta and about 1/2 cup of the clam-cooking liquid. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add clams. Cook until everything is hot and glossy, adding more clam-cooking liquid and/or more butter, if needed. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Serve: Scoop pasta into two shallow bowls. Dust pasta with herbs. Spritz with lime. Enjoy.
Provenance: Inspired by Roister restaurant, Chicago.