now i ain’t saying she a clam digga: your beginner’s guide to clamming…mostly if you’re going to cape henlopen in delaware

for the first time in a bazillion beach camping trips, we finally had no rain and no crazy storm where i thought the tent would collapse and we would die from a lightning strike. it was amazing!

it had been so long since we had nice weather while camping that i forgot exactly how pleasant it could be. it was nothing like the time that a thunderstorm whipped the tent around so violently i stood up holding the poles inside praying we wouldn’t die while the kids slept like logs. it was not like the time the sky kept spitting rain on us so we lit a fire while holding an umbrella over it only to have the fire keep smoking us out. it was also not like the time our whole entire site was sitting in 3 inches of rainwater so we set up on higher ground but then it rained and water leaked into the tent anyway.

this time, it was perfect — sunny, 80s, no real humidity, not too many bugs.

AND this time, we discovered new things… like clamming. as in digging. for clams. also known as quahogs.

none of us really knew what we were doing. so i looked up youtube videos and online forums to figure out what we needed to do…. and little of it was actually helpful in the end. like, i watched videos like this one and thought: ha! easy peasy! i can totally do this! you just take the rake and push the mud around and voila….

yeah. it didn’t exactly work out like that.

so i’ve decided to document some tips. from one beginner to another. keep in mind i’m obviously not an expert. but clamming also isn’t rocket surgery either.

tips for clamming… (especially for quahogs at cape henlopen state park in delaware):

first things first. obey the law: if you are an adult and want to go clamming in delaware, you need a fishing license. kids under 16 years old don’t need a license. and don’t try to go without — because chances are, you’ll get caught as natural resources officers make their rounds. luckily, cape henlopen makes it easy to get one on the spot at their tackle shop. note that it’s cash only to get one though. and looky here, it appears you can even purchase your license online. (fun fact: in maryland, if you’re a maryland resident, you don’t need a license to clam.)

also know the legal size for clams you can keep. the tackle shop can give you a ruler that has a notch for easy clam measuring. if a clam fits in the notch (1.5 inches long), it is too small and needs to be put back into the wild. if it doesn’t fit, it’s good for keepsies. the officers checked the sizes of our small ones… so don’t try to get away with keeping illegals!

equip yourself: we brought one trusty gardening hand rake and a plastic bucket and dishwashing gloves. it worked out ok, but with three of us clamming, we pretty quickly ditched the gloves and took turns using the rake. next time, i would make sure each person has either a hand rake (which is good) or a long-handled rake with sturdy tines (which is better) or a smallish shovel (which we saw a lot of other people using so i assume is good too). if you’re feeling fancy, you can get a rake with a built-in basket. or even waders to get out into the water. or rain boots to keep your feet out of the muck. but are these totally necessary? nah… some people also swear by just using your hands, but i found the rake a lot easier for finding a clam. for storing your clams, you can get a bucket and just put ocean water in it. or you could use a net or a bait bucket or an onion bag suspended in the water. i like the idea of an onion bag inside of a bucket for easy water-changing. think i’ll do that next time.

this was all we had between three people…. *sob*

51onpaylvel-_sl1200_ bucket_png7772

timing is everything: look up the time for low tide, then plan to clam within the timeframe from a couple of hours before to a couple of hours after low tide. note in delaware, you can’t clam at night, which should leave you with one time for low tide during the day. if you have to buy fishing licenses, give yourself time to do that too.

the reason why you want low tide is because of access. we walked out to sand bars exposed by the waning tide and did most of our digging above water, in the wet sand. you can rake under the water like i’ve seen on youtube but… we obviously did not want to be using this stumpy little hand rake in water where we can’t see anything and don’t know what we’re doing… so we stuck to the exposed sand bars. it was easier to rake and see what we’re raking.

location is everything: at cape henlopen, there are some areas where you’re allowed and not allowed to clam. by the fishing pier, clamming is permitted to the right of the pier if you are facing the ocean. so like noobs we started at the exposed sand bars along the closest point from the beach access next to the pier. and we got nothing. then we started noticing people farther out were getting clams, so we moved out and hit our tiny jackpot too. so i’d recommend going out farther from the pier as opposed to going closer.

what we realized from this exercise of digging for 1.5 hours before hitting anything was that the location was more important than any skill or tools. duh, you say. well we thought maybe we were just lacking in our ability to dig fast enough or lacking in our ability to find the right kind of air holes in the sand. but it turns out, we were just in unproductive locations at first.

so how do you actually do it then: when digging for quahogs–aka the hard clams–what you are looking for while walking on the exposed wet sand bars is a small slit of a hole that looks like someone jammed a key into the sand and pulled it out. then you dig under it with hopes of revealing a beautiful clam of legal size. that’s the short version of the instructions.

those squirtholes supposed to be the telltale signs of clams underneath. HOWEVER… there are lots of holes and we couldn’t always distinguish between a round one v. a key-shaped one v. something else, so we just dug everything. what i do know is if you don’t hear the clang of your rake hitting a sturdy shell pretty early on, you probably won’t find anything so give up and move on. they were merely 2-3 inches beneath the surface, and while people told us to dig quickly because they’ll move, we didn’t find them especially mobile. i think the razor clams are known for being faster.

if you have a long-handled rake, you could alternatively rake the sand under shallow water until you hit something, like i saw in some other youtube videos… but then you’d really have to rely on feeling your rake hitting something and pulling it out to check. i’d have no idea how to do this based on feeling alone because even while looking at our piles of raked up sand/mud goo, i sometimes got confused by the clang of small snails and shells.

once you find a clam, rinse it off, measure it, and keep it if it’s big enough!

keep the clams alive: once you start catching clams, keep them alive until you’re ready to eat them. we kept ours in  bucket filled with ocean water. you don’t want them to die because you shouldn’t eat dead or damaged ones… something about bacteria and poison and the plague.

you caught ’em, so cook ’em: before you dine on your harvest, you should give the clams somewhere between 1-3 hours to spit out their grit. what we did was soak them in salted tap water in a pot for a couple of hours then lift them up out of pot so as not to stir up the grit, and rinse them. i’ve heard of other people keeping their clams suspended in the ocean water overnight in a net or bag, and i’ve also heard of people using straight tap water for a shorter amount of time so as not to kill them prematurely. but the idea is that you want to give them some time to have a final purge so you don’t bite into pockets of sand.

i suppose you could eat the quahogs raw if you really wanted to, but i usually prefer my clams steamed or chowdered or battered/fried. since we were camping and short on equipment, we grilled them over the fire until they opened up then dipped them in melted butter heated over a little camp stove. SO FRESH. SO GOOD. TOTALLY DOING THIS AGAIN.

20160618_180539

and maybe now would be an appropriate time to mention that we only ended up getting seven legal buggers in about 3 hours. so hopefully we’ll hit a bigger jackpot next time since we are now one step closer to knowing what the hail we’re doing.

 

 

 

galbi // korean bbq beef short ribs // the secret formula recipe is still legit // let me see your grill

korean bbq galbi on grill

when people say they love korean food, this is what they’re talking about.

korean bbq.

galbi.

slabs of sliced beef short ribs marinated and grilled to perfection, with a healthy bit of char, typically served with rice and fixins and wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with a smear of korean hot sauce.

as as the summer winds down, and grilling season starts to make way for soup season, i wanted to share this recipe that brings so much joy to my life. such garlicky, sweet, salty, smoky joy.

even the most “ethnic”-averse tastebuds tend to love galbi. it’s that good.

it also happens to be pretty easy, with simple ingredients. the real challenge, however, is in the marinade ingredient proportions. too much soy sauce, and it’s too salty. too little sugar and it’s just missing a bit of somethingsomething. the trick here is the same as with the braised brother of this dish known as galbi jjim:

galbi secret formula

usually, 1 part = 1 cup for me, but if i find i need more marinade, i just increase all 3 ingredients accordingly.

now let me be clear. this secret formula is my aunt’s secret formula, and it is FOOL.FREAKING.PROOF. there have been so many times when i’ve been lured by the scent of grilling beef in a restaurant or in someone’s home, only to be let down by the flavor. but this recipe does not fail. ever.

in fact, while you could sub out sugar for honey, fruit, juice, or even sprite or jam, i don’t love the risk of messing up the ratio, so in 99.9% of cases, i just use plain jane white granulated sugar. (i used maple syrup in my galbi jjim recipe, i know, i know)

if you think it seems like a lot of sugar, too much sugar…. you’re wrong.

just give it a try.

korean bbq galbi

galbi aka korean bbq beef short ribs

makes enough for about 6-8 normal appetites, or 3-4 really hungry people who can eat a lot, i.e. me

ingredients you need:

  • approx. 3-4 lbs beef short ribs that are sliced against the grain & bone, if it’s not boneless (sometimes i see this in american grocery stores labeled as “korean style” or “korean cut” or “kalbi” or “galbi.” apparently they could also be called “flanken cut” although i’ve never seen that myself. i buy the big pack of boneless beef short ribs at costco that are thick-cut, and then just slice each thick cut into two thinner slices.)
  • 1 onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (you can usually find a small bottle of this in any grocery store’s ethnic food aisle)
  • a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds (also typically in the ethnic aisle)

additional ingredients/fixins you might want for serving:

  • red lettuce leaves or romaine leaves for wrapping
  • cooked white rice
  • chopped scallions
  • ssam jang, also known as a korean spicy bean paste/sauce, which adds a punch of flavor to korean lettuce-wrapped bites of bbq meat. i also like to use this as a dip for plain slices of cucumber, lettuce leaves, baby carrots… while this sounds like a really obscure thing to get a hold of, i’ve bought it from my local wegmans. it looks like this, unrefrigerated in the asian food section, and i store it in the fridge after opening.
  • kimchi (it’s ok, even if you don’t like kimchi, you will still like galbi, and i will forgive you.)
  • quick-pickled veggies like cucumbers or chayote squash or radishes

ingredients i sometimes see as galbi fixins in other people’s recipes that strike me as just plain wrong:

  • cilantro
  • wasabi

i mean, i’m all for creative freedom, so you do you… but i just can’t.

wpid-20140601_164627

what you do:

marinate your meat the night before. this way, you’ll get the maximum effect of flavor.

to start, rinse off your galbi meat or let it soak in water, just to let out some of the blood and get rid of any bone bits if you’re using bone-in slices.

place the meat, onion slices, minced garlic and chopped scallions in a big baking dish or other container/ziploc bag. (i find a big baking dish easiest). pour sugar over the meat slices, then add the soy sauce, water and sesame oil.

massage it all together to get the ingredients combined. (the main thing i try to do is to get the sugar on all sides of the meat)

sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

cover with plastic wrap and/or foil (or seal your ziploc bag) and place in the refrigerator overnight.

the next day, when the meat is good and marinated, fire up your grill and cook the slices for a few minutes on each side over medium high heat to get a good char on the outside, then turn the heat down, cover the grill and let it go a few minutes longer until it’s to your preferred level of doneness. if this seems imprecise, it’s because cooking galbi is a little like cooking steak. you might prefer it with a pink middle, or you might prefer it fully cooked. personally, i like my steak medium but my galbi well done with crispy edges.

grilling offers the best results, but if you can cook this on the stove or under a broiler. i highly recommend starting with high heat to get a good caramelized sear before cooking it through.

serve with lettuce leaves, rice, chopped scallions and ssam jang. or just eat it plain off the grill.

korean bbq galbi beef  korean bbq galbi

my introduction to napa valley // things you should know when planning a napa wine tour // i love succulents

napa valley grapevines

a million bazillion ages ago, (last month), my husband and i went to napa valley, just the two of us. without kids.

it was beauteous and amazingwonderful, obviously.

every day, the weather was 80 degrees, sunny with 0 percent chance of rain.  we drank a crap ton of wine and ate a crap ton of delicious food. it was awesome.

sure there were a couple of blips, like feeling vomitty drunk to headachey hung over to perfectly fine in the span of two hours (i should be thankful two hours is abnormally quick and preferable to two days). and encountering a giant mutant spider in the bathroom our last morning there. still, overall, it was a smashing good time with my favorite person.

#takemeback

we did an organized wine tour through platypus, a company that specializes in small group tours to small wineries and provides cheese, lunch, water bottles and a comfortable ride all day for a fairly reasonable price of about $100 each.

we even got to peek into a barrel room and learn a few things about how grapes are grown and wines get made. and then we ended the tour with a group dance-a-long to jump on it. oh yes we did.

somehow, we squeezed in watching the world cup, discovering pliny the elder beer and checking out the napa visitors center for some advice and coupons. we also spent a day driving ourselves around to a couple more wineries, doing an overpriced olive oil tasting, and dining at the thomas keller restaurant ad hoc. amazeballs food. slow service.

one thing i didn’t realize until we arrived in the area was exactly how big napa valley is. napa is the name of the county, the valley, a vineyard district designation for grapes, AND a town. so if you are “going to napa,” you don’t necessarily need to stay in “napa” the town. in fact, if cash rules everything around you, cream get the money, dolla dolla bill yall, then you should stay in the town of yountville or in one of the luxe mountaintop resorts in the area. the town of napa mostly feels very suburban-anywhere-USA while st. helena feels very cute-historic, and yountville feels rich-well-groomed-and-food-centric. didn’t have time to check out calistoga and other points north. but considering how much research i did on wineries and eateries, i was surprised to not already know anything about how these towns were laid out and why i might want to check out one over the other.

unrelated, i was also pleasantly surprised to see so many pretty succulent arrangements everywhere we went. check out the model bakery (home of delicious english muffins) sign. major succulent envy.

so along those lines, here are six things i think you should know if you are ever planning a trip to napa:

  1. if you can, stay in yountville. if you can’t, at least eat in yountville. make dinner reservations as far ahead of time as you can, if you want to eat at a reasonable hour. because this town is centrally located in napa valley, it’s just a little easier to get to wineries and dinners without worrying about not making it in time.
  2. if you are driving through napa valley during trafficky times, especially the evening rush, drive the silverado trail. it’s much more beautiful and it’s much less congested than the main road, route 29. as the sun sets through the mountains and you pass acres and acres of vineyards… it’s gorgeous.
    wpid-20140701_191625.jpg
  3. check out the really small wineries. we loved the platypus tour’s emphasis on smaller wineries because you get a much better experience — focused attention and great stories often directly from the actual winemakers themselves, instead of disinterested boilerplate explanations from people who just pour.
  4. buy wine. i mean, this should be obvious, but the deal at most places is that you get charged a tasting fee, which is often waived if you buy a bottle or two. so why not pay a little more to get a bottle to take home? since we were flying across the country, we bought a cheap (<$10) wine shipping box w/ styrofoam inserts to pack up and check as luggage. our bottles arrived safe and unbroken.
  5. make reservations for smaller wineries’ tastings, special experiences and dinner, but just walk into the medium to bigger wineries for normal tastings. i noticed some wineries’ websites make it seem like walk-in tastings aren’t even an option, when they are actually the cheapest and easiest option available (*cough* caymus *cough*).
  6. watch out for those crazy big lurking spiders!

benessere

simple summer recipe: blueberry crostata // galette // freeform tart // lazy girl’s pie

blueberry crostata

 

last summer, i posted a quick visual ode to my blueberry crostata. it’s fairly straightforward, super seasonal, and so yummerz.

now, finally, i present to you the recipe!

blueberry crostata. or galette. or freeform tart.

part I: the crust

this recipe yields two discs of pie dough for two crusts. if you don’t feel like using the second, freeze it for later. this dough also works amazingly for a flaky buttery apple pie. (adapted from america’s test kitchen)

what you need: 

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening scooped or cut into smallish 1/2-inch pieces, and chilled if you happen to remember to refrigerate it (gasp – that’s right. this recipe uses crisco! trust the american test kitchen. it works. also, i never remember to chill it.)
  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut up into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice water (literally just stick some ice in a cup of water & measure it out of there)

what you do, food processor method:
(alternatively, you can grate your cold butter like cheese, or you can use a pastry cutter, but a food processor makes this pretty foolproof)

process the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor until combined. scatter the shortening pieces and process about 10 seconds until it looks like coarse damp sand. do the same with the butter pieces until you have coarse crumbs, again looking a little like damp crumbly sand (but with chunks–chunks are good).

transfer it all to a big bowl.

sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture and using a stiff rubber/silicone spatula, stir and press the dough together until it sticks together into a big clump. if it doesn’t stick together, add more ice water just a little bit (one tablespoon) at a time until it does. it should stick to itself but not be wet.

disc of pie crust doughdivide the dough into two even pieces and using your hands but working quickly, flatten each piece into a disc, like a big flat hockey puck, about the size of a hand (5 inches or so). if it looks like it’s dotted with pebbles of butter, you’re good.

using plastic wrap, tightly wrap each disc and refrigerate for 1 hour (or more, but you shouldn’t let it sit in the fridge forever, obviously). when you’re ready to use it, let it sit at room temp for a little bit so it becomes easily rollable. but don’t let it sit longer than 30 minutes or anywhere close to heat because it will only hurt your ability to roll it without sticking or coming apart. (that said, this last time, i totally left it out too long and i still used it anyway… it was just messier to handle and not as nice and flaky in the end.)

blueberries

part II: the blueberry filling

what you need:

  • 3 cups of blueberries (or any berries, really)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp flour

what you do:

toss the berries, sugar, lemon juice and flour in a bowl. that’s it.

blueberries

uncooked tart

part III: make the delicious berry tart magic happen!

heat the oven to 400 degrees.

roll out your slightly softened pie crust until it is about 13 inches in diameter, dusting with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. i like to roll it out directly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and leave it on the parchment for baking.

spoon your berry filling into a big pile in the center of the dough, leaving about 2 inches of space around the edges as a border so you can fold up the edges.

fold up the edges and pleat it together around the pile of fruit. (note: the picture above shows the tart just after folding up the edges. it was messy because i let the crust dough sit out too long and it got super soft and mushy. still, i am lazy and went ahead with it and it turned out ok, just not ideal.)

optional: brush the top crust with an egg wash (1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)

bake until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly, about 40 minutes.

let the tart cool before you try to cut it, and if possible, slide it off of the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

serve as-is or pair it with vanilla ice cream!

 

that new phone though

 

nashville hot chicken

 

ever since i let my old phone bathe in a pool of dish water, i was stuck with a crap phone that would take super blurry washed out pictures and show an alert that my memory was full despite deleting all pictures and apps except facebook.

and then i got a samsung galaxy s 5.

look at the freaking quality of this photo. i am in amazement. i am in love.

after two trips to nashville in two weeks, my phone is filled with pictures of what i ate. i’m so one of those people. that’s hattie b’s hot chicken up there, with collards, red potato salad and black eyed pea salad. so. ridic. good.

beer bread recipe // tastefully simple or party lite two sisters gourmet knockoff // this copycat recipe is legit

beer bread recipe

there are very few things i will bake from a mix. beer bread used to be one of those things, until yesterday. this copycat recipe is so ridonkulously easy, i have no idea why i ever spent $5-6 per mix from pyramid-schemey hostage party companies without checking the googles for recipes first.

the bread is sweet, really chewy, with sort of fat crumbs, and in my opinion, best eaten unadulterated or only with a bit of extra butter.

beer bread

what you need (only four ingredients. WHAT!!):
  • 3 cups self-rising flour*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 oz. bottle or can of beer (i used sam adams winter lager only because it was the least favored beer we currently have in stock)
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

*note: if you don’t have self-rising flour, you can try a substitution like this made of a mix of all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

what you do:

preheat oven to 350° and grease a loaf pan (i used spray oil).

mix the flour and sugar together in a large bowl. stir in the beer. it will be lumpy. that’s ok.

pour the batter (or is it dough?) into the loaf pan and spread it out evenly. pour the melted butter over the top. it will pool in spots. that’s ok.

bake for 50-60 minutes and enjoy the magical earthy aromas emanating from your oven.

it’s done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

beer bread recipe