Star Chef Barton Seaver's Sustainable Marinated Clams With Minted Lemon Marinade and Pine Nuts


Photo credit: Katie Stoops
This guest post was written by Barton Seaver, chef and author of For Cod and Country.

I am in love with clams. It started in fourth grade when my father took me on a trip to the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. We went clamming one afternoon and were miserable at it. We were way out in the mud, and the clams were burrowing faster than we could dig.

Looking around, the locals were digging much closer to the shore in the drier sand so we gave that a shot. With every scoop of the shovel, clams came up by the dozen. Our backbreaking work was well worth the effort—that was some of the best food I have ever eaten.In the marine food chain, clams are first-order consumers and so have negligible amounts of marine toxins such as methyl-mercury. They are also among the few seafood species that are pure gold when it comes to sustainability. Wild clams are caught with methods that result in little environmental impact and very low bycatch. And, unlike other types of farmed seafood, farmed clams are green-list recommended by both Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and the Blue Ocean Institute.

As is the case with many bivalves, like oysters and mussels, clams are filter-feeders. When farmed they require no feed inputs; they remove seawater nutrients as they grow. In areas where wild clam populations are diminished because of overfishing, farmed clam operations can be used to improve water quality and help restore native populations and habitats.

As is the case with many bivalves, like oysters and mussels, clams are filter-feeders. When farmed they require no feed inputs; they remove seawater nutrients as they grow. In areas where wild clam populations are diminished because of overfishing, farmed clam operations can be used to improve water quality and help restore native populations and habitats.

Clams come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They range from the simply grotesque and gigantic geoduck of the Pacific Northwest to the steamers of New England culinary fame. Personally, I'm partial to the soft-shell razor clam, which are not often seen in markets and sometimes just used for bait. The truth is I've never met a clam that I didn't love.

For the newly converted and diehard clam-lovers alike, here is a recipe I developed that turns clams into the life of the party. You can multiply it by as many pieces as you need, and much of the preparation can be done in advance. Sustainability can taste amazing, if you know where to dig.

Marinated Clams with Minted Lemon Marinade and Pine Nuts

12 littleneck or razor clams, rinsed thoroughly (discard any that won't close)
5 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 small serrano chile, thinly sliced

Place the clams in a small pot, cover with cold water, and place over high heat. As soon as they begin to open, remove them from the water one at a time. Discard any clams that have not opened after 5 minutes of boiling. Remove the clam meat from the shells. Scrape the shells clean and set them aside. Place the clams in a small bowl.

For the marinade, mix the mint, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with a little salt and stir well. Pour over the clams and mix to coat well. Check for seasoning and add a touch more salt if necessary. The clams can sit at this point in the refrigerator for as long as overnight but are best after an hour or two.

To serve, spoon one marinated clam back into each shell and place on a bed of salt to keep stable. Once all the clams are distributed, discard the unused shells. Pour any remaining marinade into the clams and garnish with roughly chopped pine nuts or grate them on top of each clam using a Microplane. Garnish each shell with one slice of the chile. Serve immediately. Makes 1 dozen canapés.


Photo credit: Katie Stoops
Chef, author, and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver is on a mission to restore our relationship with the ocean, the land, and with each other—through dinner. He believes food is a crucial way for us to connect with the ecosystems, people, and cultures of our world.

Seaver explores these themes through healthful, planet-friendly recipes in his first book, For Cod & Country (Sterling Epicure, May 2011), and as host of both the National Geographic Web series Cook-Wise and the three-part TV series In Search of Food (Ovation, May 2011).

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and executive chef at some of the most celebrated restaurants in his native Washington, D.C., Seaver is known for his devotion to quality, culinary innovation, and sustainability. In 2008, he was honored as a "Seafood Champion" by the Seafood Choices Alliance and as "Rising Culinary Star of the Year" by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He was named Esquire magazine's "Chef of the Year" in 2009.

As a National Geographic Fellow, Seaver works on ocean issues with Mission Blue to increase awareness and inspire action. He also works closely with D.C. Central Kitchen, the School Nutrition Association, the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, and Future of Fish.

Seaver's insights have been featured in Cooking Light, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Washington Post, Fortune, and Vanity Fair. He has appeared on CNN, NPR's All Things Considered, National Geographic Weekend, and Bloomberg Radio. In 2010, he gave a TED Talk aboard the National Geographic Endeavor. \

Follong on Twitter @bartonseaver and like him on Facebook.
Read more about sustainable seafood:
A Visual Guide to Sustainable Seafood Options (Slideshow)
Yum! iPhone App Pairs Sustainable Seafood with Recipes and Wines
Best and Worst Sustainable Seafood Restaurants Revealed

Tags: Cooking | Fish | Recipes

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