"There is, to me, no better thing than when a food can be cooked in its own shell for deep, authentic (and simple) flavor," says Alex. "Be patient with the clams. Sometimes they can take a few minutes to open on the grill. I find that when I give up and turn my back on them, that's when they open."
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and grated (on a box grater or zester)
- 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife
- 1 large hothouse cucumber, washed, dried and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 large bunch scallions, sliced thin, green and white parts both
- 3 dozen littleneck clams, thoroughly scrubbed of all sand and grit
- Juice from 1 to 2 lemons, depending on taste
Preheat the grill on high heat.
Cook the garlic: In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. When it gets hot, add the garlic and ginger. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them from the pan and immediately transfer to a medium bowl to cool. Stir in the pine nuts.
In a larger bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with the cucumbers and chili flakes. Toss to coat them with the oil. Season them lightly with salt. Sprinkle them with the sugar, vinegar and the sliced scallions and toss to blend. Combine with the garlic and pine nuts.
Cook the clams and finish the dish: Scatter the clams on the grill in a single layer. Have a pair of tongs and a large platter ready. Clams will being to open after 3 minutes and should take about 10 minutes total. As they open, use the tongs to remove them from the grill and place them on the platter. When they are all opened, squeeze the juice from the lemons over them and scatter the cucumber and pine nuts all around. Try to get the mixture inside the clam shells as well. It's so delicious when you bite into the clam and get all the other flavors (and the char on the outside of the shells) all at once. Serve immediately.