Clams with Quinoa
- 24 littleneck clams
- 3 cups shucked cherrystone clams, with their liquor
- 4 cups clam juice or water, as needed
- 3/4 cup quinoa
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- I tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 small red rose potatoes, quartered
- I cup white wine
- 2 cloves garlic, slivered
- I teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into fine julienne
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
Wash and vigorously scrub the littlenecks under cold running water. Place them on a tray, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside until ready to serve. Finely chop the shucked cherrystones and set them aside, refrigerate. Pour the clam liquor through a strainer lined with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth. Add enough additional clam juice or water to make the liquid up to 5 1/2 cups. Set aside, refrigerate. Place the quinoa in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Let soak for 5 minutes, then massage the grain between the palms of your hands for a moment. Strain through a fine strainer, rinse with cold running water, and repeat the soaking and rubbing process. Set the quinoa aside to drain.
In a large casserole with a cover, preferably earthenware, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute until it is totally translucent but not browned, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add the garlic, chiles, bay leaf, cumin, and pepper. Stir over the heat for 2 minutes more, or until the aroma of the garlic is released. Add the tomato paste, chopped clams, and potatoes and stir together to mix. Pour in 4 1/2 cups of the reserved clam juice, bring up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and cook for 25 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
While the quinoa is cooking, in another large saucepan reduce the white wine by half over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt, pepper flakes, julienned red pepper, and the remaining 1/2 cup clam juice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the littlenecks, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the clams have barely opened, gently stirring the mixture once during the cooking time. Mound the quinoa mixture onto a large platter and spoon the littlenecks, with all of their juice and the peppers, over the top. Scatter the cilantro over and serve immediately.
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