Venice – the city on the lagoon, tragically sinking year after year, crisscrossed with narrow canals plied with water taxis, gondolas and the ubiquitous brown UPS boat. Our current selection in the Cook the Books group is “1000 Days in Venice”, a romantic memoir which I have to say I picked up with trepidation as romance books are not really my thing.
But the mystique of Venice got the better of me and I sat down to give it a read.
I visited Venice in May of 2000 something, thinking it would be like spring, but a cold rain fell during most of my trip. St Mark’s Piazza got so flooded that the musicians at the Florian Café set up their instruments on a platform and wooden planks were thrown up across the Piazza to create walkways across the expanse.
When it was not raining I prowled the Rialto Market, fascinated with its glorious riot of vegetables and freshly caught seafood. I wandered the dank callees and discovered the local wine bars, among them, Vino Vino, which is mentioned in the first pages of the book. It was near my hotel and became my favorite place to stop by for a warming glass of red wine and nibbles of the appertivos lined up behind the glass window. With only a dozen seats and flanking a canal, the place offered a cozy respite from the damp chill outside.
The author of “1000 Days in Venice” started her narrative in this café. She described siting with two friends sipping Amaretto wine. I enjoyed the description but gave up soon afterward, as despite the promotion in book jacket blurb, there didn’t seem to be much in the book about her life as a chef.
Vino Vino was the highlight of my visit to Venice although I visited any number of local restaurants. Their menues featured delicate shellfish which reminded me of my visits to Giulianova in Abruzzo where we enjoyed the shellfish of the Adriatic Sea. The dish I feature below is so easy to make and needs only a few ingredients. The hot peppers add an Abruzzo style to the dish. I hope you will enjoy.
Baby Clams with White Wine Reduction Abruzzo Style
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 2 lb small littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 1 cup bottled clam juice
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 4 small dried hot chiles (1-inch) or 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 16 oz linguine
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds.
Stir in clams, clam juice, wine, and chilis and cook covered, until clams open, about 4 to 5 minutes (discard any clams that do not open after 6 minutes). If using whole chiles, remove with a slotted spoon and discard.
While clams are cooking, cook pasta in a 6-quart pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain in a colander, then add to clams and simmer, stirring, 30 seconds.
Toss pasta with parsley and drizzle with remaining 5 tablespoons oil.
This also is my contribution to the Fall edition of Cook the Books.