It’s been way too long, I apologize for my absence. It’s that September thing. I’ve been feeling it for the past couple of years and now I will officially declare that “September is the craziest month of the year!”
Yes, busier than December with Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year’s Eve; nuttier than June with the mad rush of end-of-school parties and camp beginnings; and more chaotic than August with juggling travel schedules. September is insane.
There’s an illusion of getting back to a routine and yet that routine is entirely new. Thrown-in is a serious form of resolutions–trumping any weight loss/exercise goals made on January 1–that, “I will clean-out the kids rooms, closets, toys; I will get back to working out; I will go through the piles on my desk; I will make all of the overlooked doctor’s appointments; I will take the kids for shoes, haircuts and flu shots; I will not join every PTA group that approaches me (that brings me down to a mere 4 committees); oh, and I will reinstitute family dinner night in a big way.”
See where I’ve been?
The list is boring and all too familiar to many of you so I will go straight to the crux of the matter, the thorn in my side…family dinner night. Studies show that families who eat together don’t raise serial killers. Blah, blah, blah. I got it! When I was growing up my family ate dinner together every single night with exception of Saturday night when my parents went out. Oh, and we went out to dinner as a family every single Sunday night. No joke, no lie. Just call me Marcia Brady.
Fast forward to my life in 2011 and there are many obstacles to family dinner: my husband does not get home at the same time every night and generally not by 6:30 (okay, that’s still not very late); my kids are not the best eaters (that’s actually changing everyday, with sushi being two of my three’s favorite meal); family meals can be painfully long (true, but isn’t that what sitting around the table is all about?); my husband and I like to eat late, when the kids are in bed, the house is quiet and we can kick back and relax (this is the bottom line).
But the pressure to have family dinners is getting to me so we have two nights a week that we sit down together and we are inching towards more. The decision of what to serve when you don’t want to be greeted at the table by moans, groans and tears is complicated by the fact that I am a vegetarian (more accurately, a pescetarian) and my kids don’t know it. “Say, what?!?!” Yes, it’s true my 9, 7 and 6-year-old have yet to notice that I don’t sink my teeth into a big juicy burger off the grill or pop slices of succulent pork tenderloin in my mouth. They are blind to the fact that the simmering chili on the stove never makes its way into my bowl to be garnished by sour cream, onions and cheese. I pat myself on the back for this because I never wanted my personal preference to influence their eating habits. I made this decision for myself when I was 15 years old and while it works for me, it’s a bit of a hassle.
So on family dinner nights I try to make vegetarian meals, occasionally fish, or often times something where I can slip in my veggie protein. One family favorite that I am planning on serving tonight is Linguine with White Clam Sauce. Miraculously, this is a dish that my carnivore son, almost vegetarian daughter (which makes me think that this inclination is genetic, but that’s another matter); picky 6-year-old and “bored by pasta” husband all enjoy. It’s a recipe that I adapted from my good friend Robin Mailley, who was the chef/owner of The Market Cafe in New York City. We’ve lost touch over the years but back in the early 90s I enjoyed spending hours hanging out at the counter in his restaurant and sneaking back into the kitchen to cook with him. Robin taught me how to make gnocchi, to put cucumber slices in pitchers of water, to grill pizzas with absolutely anything on them (peaches and goat cheese were a hit) and how to make this delicious linguine with white clam sauce. So thank you, Robin. Cheers!
- 1 lb of linguine
- olive oil, 1-2 Tbls
- garlic, a couple of cloves, minced
- red pepper flakes (I will add this to my bowl when making for the kids)
- white wine, about a half a cup or whatever's left in my glass
- 3-4 cans of minced clams, with liquid
- half a lemon, plus other half cut in wedges for serving
- freshly ground pepper
- oregano, dried or fresh, approx. 1 Tbls
- fresh basil, about 1 cup chiffonade
- fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 1 cup chopped
- parmesan cheese
- slices of good crusty bread
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a wide pan over med-high heat. Add garlic and saute til fragrant but do not let brown. If using red pepper flakes, add them to sautéed garlic, followed by the white wine.
- Let cook for about a minute and then add the canned clams with their liquid.
- Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and grind in a couple of rounds of pepper.
- Lower heat to med-low and let simmer. Just before the pasta is done cooking, add the oregano, basil and parsley to the sauce.
- Drain pasta and add to the pan of sauce.
- Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each person's bowl. Top with a serving of pasta, being sure to scoop in plenty of sauce.
- Pass the parmesan (breaking the Italian rule of "no cheese with fish"), red pepper flakes (if you've left those out for the kids) and lemon slices. Enjoy!
- Oh, and when your family gets to the bottom of their bowl and finds that soggy surprise they'll be clamoring for more.