Linguine Alle Vongole for Two

Linguine alle vongole

This past Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I traded in a prix fixe dinner for a classic homemade Italian meal by way of Chinatown fish markets. We headed out Saturday morning into a blizzard to catch the 6 train to Canal Street, at the end of which are vendors upon vendors selling crab claws, entire tunas, salmon, and lobsters on tables of ice. To say it was a madhouse on a Saturday morning would be an understatement. I pushed my way through throngs of people shouting, “CLAMS! TWO POUNDS OF CLAMS! I HAVE CASH!” (romance has never been my forte) until I was able to walk out thirty minutes later with a bag of shellfish and a king crab leg, for the grand total of $14. A piece of advice: No matter what the signs instead tell you inside, there are three steps to buying fish in the downtown fish markets:

  1. Push your way through the crowd and grab the attention of the fish vendor then tell him what you want to buy — don’t dawdle and know exactly how many pounds of what you want before you ask him for it.
  2. He’ll weigh your fish and put it in a bag, then give you a small piece of paper with the price written on it. Take this ticket to the back of the market to pay for your fish in cash. The cashier will sign your piece of paper.
  3. Go back to the fish vendor, and trade your ticket for the bag. There is a lot of yelling, pushing, and fish everywhere, so don’t wear your Sunday best and prepare to be a little aggressive!

Once home, we set to the task of cooking shellfish for the first time — which turned out to be surprisingly simple! For the sake of being extra cheesy (and because this is such a quintessential date night dish), I’ve broken down the steps into two parts so you can make this with your date:

Linguine alle Vongle (Linguini with Clams)
Serves 2, with some left over

Kosher salt
1/2 package linguine pasta
1 shallot
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
24 little neck clams
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
1 cup dry white wine
1 handful flat-leaf parsley
Red chile flakes, to taste

  1. You: Bring a heavily salted pot of water to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a 1/4 cup pasta water, drain, and set aside. Chop the shallot and slice the garlic clove into paper-thin slices. Your date: Scrub the clams with water and potato scrubber one at a time, and place them into a colander in the sink under running water.
  2. You: Add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium-low heat, then add the shallot once hot. Once the shallots are translucent, add the clams to the pot. (It will feel like you are adding a ton of rocks to a frying pan, but just have faith that they will open and become clammy goodness.) Cook the clams over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, at which point a few should be starting to open. Add the garlic and the wine, and then cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until the clams open and release their juices, about 6 minutes depending on the size of the clams. Your date: Chop the parsley and reassure your SO that all of the clams will open eventually. Pour yourselves (another) glass of wine and set the table.
  3. You: As each clam opens, transfer it to a small bowl and set aside. All of the clams should be open wide; discard any clams that are closed or only partially open. Once all of the clams have opened, toss the cooked linguine over low heat in the pan. Add the reserved pasta water, parsley, chile flakes, and clams back into the sauté pan. Your date: Light some candles, help serve, and enjoy!

Lamb and Radicchio Salad with Mint Pesto

Lamb and Raddichio Salad

One of my greatest inspirations for developing recipes comes from the back of my refrigerator, in the leftover food from nights before that could use some love. Since my office is moving to a new location next week, I found myself in the right place at the right time, with bags full of leftover goodies as they cleaned out the refrigerator. Carting home three bags of groceries on the subway at rush hour is not something I’d recommend to anyone, but it was worth it for the loot I came home with: boxes of Tofu, ice cream, grilled chicken thighs, mushrooms, bags of kale, mint, and a roast leg of lamb. Once home, I immediately set to combining the most enticing of the loot, the leg of lamb, with the vegetables already in my refrigerator to make a hearty variation on one of my favorite salads.

Sherry Vinaigrette with Lamb and Raddichio

Lamb and Radicchio Salad with Mint Pesto
Serves: 2

1 head radicchio
1/2 head napa cabbage
3/4 lb boneless lamb leg, roast
20-30 mint leaves (roughly 1 package, stems removed)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoon honey
Coarse salt

  1. Cut the radicchio in half, then slice into half-moons and place into a large salad bowl. Do the same with the napa cabbage, then toss until well-combined.
  2. Cut the lamb into 1/2-inch by 2-inch slices, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse the mint and 1 tablespoon olive oil until well-combined, and the mint is coarsely chopped. Use a pastry spoon to scoop the mixture out of the processor and into a small bowl, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients into a light vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. To serve, plate the mixed salad with the sliced lamb on top, using the mint pesto as a garnish.

7 Reasons to Love (or Hate) New York

New York City in the Snow

Maybe it’s because my rose-colored glasses haven’t quite worn off since I moved to the city in May, but I would just like to have it in print: I love New York. Surprisingly, I’ve realized after talking with my friends who are New York natives, that many of the reasons I love New York are the exact same reasons that they hate it. So let me make my case, one point at a time, letting all of my naive optimism just hang out in the open:

  1. Subway commutes. Yes, the 6 Train at rush hour is just about the closest I’ve ever stood to a hundred other strangers. And while I don’t love being able to smell the hair of the person I’m pushed up against, the subways offer a 30 to 45 minute respite from your to-do list. For the entire time you’re underground, all you have to do is read a book or listen to a podcast, plus paying for a monthly metro card is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for car insurance.
  2. Everyone is always in a rush. So many songs and books refer to the hustle of New York, and it’s true, sometimes it can feel like everyone in the city is late for something. While the speed of the city can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when someone pushes you aside as they run to catch their bus, the pace of the city is electric: There is always something going on.
  3. You’re never alone. One of my friends who grew up in L.A. but went to school in the city, pointed out to me that when people in L.A. meet up for a drink, everyone is extremely social because they’ve spent their entire day isolated in a car, but when people in New York meet up for a drink, they’re less likely to be social because they’ve spent their entire day surrounded by other people and could use a break. This may be true, but I love that there are so many opportunities in New York for human interaction. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t have a conversation with the man at my local bodega or share a moment with someone on the subway that makes me smile.
  4. It’s expensive. Okay, obviously the expensive part is sort of a drag, but some of the expensive places are really incredible and worth saving up for. And, there are just as many inexpensive as expensive places — there are so many places to eat, drink, and shop in New York that the price range and value run the gamut; you just need to know where to look. (Let’s just not talk about rent…)
  5. The weather. I often say that I couldn’t live somewhere that doesn’t have four seasons — I love the transition from snowy winters to bright and sunny springs. And while New York can take the whole four seasons thing a little too seriously (below-zero shouldn’t be a temperature), the city is so beautiful in the morning after it’s been snowing all night. And, Central Park in the fall — need I say more?
  6. Everyone’s alway busy. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to find time to see my friends with full-time jobs (especially when it feels like most jobs now are 24-hours) but most of my friends in the city are so busy because they are all working so hard towards something. Most of my girlfriends are pursuing their dream careers at publishing companies, in public health, and in advertising since New York is the heart of so many industries. So yes, we’re all busy, but I’d rather be busy pursuing something I love, than have free time and a mediocre job anywhere else.
  7. Everyone loves New York. If you’ve ever been to Times Square, you’ve seen the Instagram-ready tourists with bright eyes, thrilled to be in the city that never sleeps. They’re purchasing Broadway tickets to Chicago, taking the elevator up the Empire State Building, and eating overpriced Italian food on 8th Avenue, ignoring the more subtle, beautiful parts of the city. And while this unanimous love of the city can sometimes be infuriating when I walk through the throngs of tourists in Midtown, sometimes I have to remind myself that I was a tourist not even eight months ago, and that the lights of Times Square can be magical. Loving New York is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.

On one of my first days in New York, as a student of the Columbia Publishing Course, one of the lecturers read this passage from E.B. White’s “Here is New York,” which has since become one of my favorite passages about the city:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.