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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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Growing up next to the seashore was a blessing I only suspected while I lived there. Now I know it really was a very special childhood that I had so long ago. Once or twice a year there would be a clambake on the beach and my uncle was the man in charge of the fire. A clambake was not something for one or two people or even one or two families, but a gaggle of folks who gathered to feast, celebrate and help one another in this labor of love.

There is much to do before even starting to cook. A pit must be dug for the fire, rocks, firewood and seaweed gathered and pails of water nearby for making steam and for safety. The following recipe for about a dozen people can be a spectacular event as well as a memory-maker for most.

Clambake

Asides:

3 dozen littleneck clams on the half-shell

3 - 4 dozen cold cooked shrimp

1 huge green salad

1 bushel of steamer clams

1 dozen lobsters

1 dozen baking potatoes

2 dozen (or more) ears of corn in husks, silk removed

Early in the day, dig a pit in a three foot circle, 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep. Line the pit halfway up with rocks (no slate, it splits and explodes) and build a substantial wood fire on top of them. Keep it going about two or three hours, so the rocks get really hot. Fill a large bucket with seawater and lots of seaweed. When you feel the rocks are really hot, put a layer of wet seaweed on them, then a layer of clams, another layer of seaweed, then the lobsters and potatoes, more seaweed, then the corn with the silk removed. A note here: some people feel the corn and potatoes should be on the bottom so that the clam juice from the clams on top can drip into and flavor the corn and potatoes. It is a personal preference.

Let everything steam-cook-bake for at least 30 minutes. Clams do not need a long time, they are done when they open, but the other things need much longer. While all this cooks, melt butter (1-1/2 pounds for this amount of food). After you have had a wonderful feast, don't forget to fill up the pit.

I apologize to all inland people, but I thought you would like to know about a clambake even if you couldn't have one. Remember you have feasts and foods that coastal people can't, so it all evens out somehow.

Clam Chowder

2 dozen cherrystones, littlenecks or quahogs, opened and cut up or 2 cans of whole baby clams plus 2 cans minced clams and broth

1 bottle clam juice

6 - 8 large potatoes, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 strips of bacon cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 stick butter

1/4 cup flour or cornstarch

2 cups milk, more if needed

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon parsley

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon sugar

Par boil potatoes, drain. Melt butter in the pot and cook bacon, onion and celery until golden. Stir in flour, add potatoes, clams, broth, spices, milk and cream and simmer VERY slowly. Do not allow it to boil.

This chowder is rich and wonderful, but not as healthy as the original chowders made with sunflower seed oil and other nut butters. You can slim this one down by using a lighter milk or chicken broth and cutting out the heavy cream and butter.

Walnut & Brie Quesadillas

1/2 cup of Brie cheese, chopped (put in freezer for 30 minutes to make chopping easier)

3 flour tortillas

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (you can substitute pecans)

1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh

1/2 cup sour cream

Sprinkle the cheese over half of each tortilla and top with the nuts and parsley. Fold tortillas in half and cook in a large skillet over medium heat for two or three minutes, turn once and remove when lightly browned.

Cut in wedges and serve with sour cream. It is nice with salsa too, if you have it.

Quick Cold Salad

2 15-ounce cans of sliced beets

1 small red onion, sliced paper thin

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

Drain beets and place in a shallow serving dish with the onion. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a separate bowl and pour over beets and onions. Cover and chill.

Notes & Tips

oVinegars are an important condiment, so if variety is the spice of life, it's good to have a few choices in your home since they are pretty reasonable to purchase. I try to keep these in stock: apple cider, red, white, malt and rice vinegars. Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy is the best, but you get what you pay for here.

oA couple of e-mail specials

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds gossip.

Learn from the mistakes of others because you can't live long enough to make them all yourself.

Handle yourself by using your head; handle others by using your heart.

I wish you a day of ordinary joyful moments - a pot of coffee you didn't have to make yourself, a phone call from an old lost friend, a fast line at the grocery store and people to enjoy things with you.