Iron = Clams + Parsley

Clams Brand

If you’re looking for local or regional seafood anywhere up and down the East Coast, then clams are a dependable menu item. Whenever I go to the seafood counter at Whole Foods, there are at least two types of clams arriving from waters within 100 miles. Hidden under layers of cubed ice, I uncover them, like brushing aside sand to discover unknown wonders at the beach. Clams come in different sizes and color, each one being a personal treasure find—each one heavy, keeping within its shell, a delicate life.

This precious mollusc is not only vital to water systems, they are crucial additions to our healthy diet. Clams are one of the best sources for iron. Clams are also easy to get, not expensive (mine are usually about 2 for $1.00), unlikely to be contaminated, and farming them does little ecological damage. Clams are basically just a pure health winner. Leafy greens are also champions of iron. Clams deserve the best selection, which I think is parsley. So clams, meet parsley! Remember this: parsley has double the amount of iron found in spinach. So sprinkle parsley all around your chopped clams, and combine to make bites of iron-packed goodness. If you share the recipe below among four people, everyone should get about 100% of their daily need of iron. Hurray!

When deciding which type of clam to get, my heart set on Cherrystones as soon as a saw how thick and tough their shells were. I knew I need clams that could be chopped up and baked, so these tough cookies could handle the heat. The cracks between the two shells looked pretty obvious on most of them, so I hoped that shucking the oysters would be easier (for you, too!)

Clams in Sink

Baked Clams with Parsley

modified from: Williamson, Cici. “Baked Clams on the Half Shell.” The Best of Virginia Farms: Cookbook & Tour Book. 2008.

  • 12 clams, 2-3 inches in diameter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Wash the dirt off the clams and leave in the sink. Shuck the clams over the sink or on a cutting board, if that’s more comfortable. Pour the liquor (clam juice) into a small bowl, and place the clam in a mixing bowl. Once all clams are shucked, coarsely chop the clams and add back to the mixing bowl; set aside.
  2. Place 24 shells on a baking sheet; set aside.
  3. Preheat over to 450°F.
  4. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until very light brown, about 1 minute. Add crumbs, parsley, lemon zest, and cayenne pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until bread turns brown.
  5. Stir bread mixture into clams; toss well. Add about 1/2 cup of the clam liquor to the mixture; toss well. The mixture should be smooth and easy to stir, like hot oatmeal. Add more liquor as necessary.
  6. Stuff shells with the clam mixture.
  7. Bake clams 13-14 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Shucking

Open Clam

Clam Shells

As you can see, there is no need to add salt as the clam liquor is already very salty. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs for color and juice to lighten up the clam mixture. Don’t be afraid to try shucking if this technique is new to you (it’s easy once you get your knife into the clam, and such a beautiful sight once opening the shells for the first time!). Bon ap, to iron!

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Iron = Sourdough + Molasses

Yes, I love sourdough. When I lift up the lid to the crock pot storing my starter, there’s a smell of fermentation and other processes transporting me to the behind-the-scenes walks around a brewery. And then when the starter is added to bread dough and rising in the oven, that homey smell of baked bread is even more intense. I can’t get enough of it. Someone needs to invent a sourdough bread candle and make millions. I’m also taken back to my visit to San Francisco, the motherland (at least in the States) of sourdough. Go visit! And indulge in amazing sammies and seeing breads braided and bent into animal shapes! http://www.boudinbakery.com

Sourdough should be called magical dough as its properties have bewitching powers, making your loaves extremely more tummy-friendly and also strengthening ties in your life as you share your starter with others. I received my starter from a friend at work who also found the fermentation process quite mysterious. As I have used the starter in recipes and fed it (about one cup of flour and one cup of water for every cup that is taken out, trying to retain the same consistency), keeping my little bubbly cauldron full. I gifted about a half-cup of the starter to a good friend of mine along with a crock pot, and she’s now a devoted baker of a new sourdough baby. We can share failures and successes, enhancing our craftiness for the baking habit.

Back to the tummy-friendly powers of sourdough: the longer rising time and bacteria in the culture break down the starches and protein gluten into amino acids. Processed breads and bread using all whole wheat most often do not undergo these processes, thereby giving our digestive system a great challenge in breaking down the bread. Sourdough also activates the enzyme phytase to dissolve phytates, which allows your body to absorb more minerals, especially zinc, iron, magnesium, and copper. Let’s focus on soaking up more iron to help you combat anemia and function at your best!

I have to share my favorite sourdough bread recipe with you, especially for health reasons. This recipe also leaves your counter tops and tools fairly clean, so in case you’re the only one on kitchen duty, clean up goes very smoothly. Yay!

Sourdough Pumpernickel: this is the bread you will crave to make next. If you don’t have a starter yet, ask a friend to share, or you can order online, such as from King Arthur Flour: http://bit.ly/14PBqkf. Rather than send you on a chase for pumpernickel flour (which I actually DID and left every Whole Foods, German market, and Balducci’s empty handed), just buy a bag from King Arthur Flour: http://bit.ly/14uwQZs.

The key partner ingredient in this bread for the sourdough is molasses. As you know, blackstrap molasses is a great source for iron. Along with sourdough’s strength in sending you more iron to soak up, molasses is there to provide more zinc! Molasses also contrasts with the taste of the sourdough—sweet with sour, bitter with tangy. So, sourdough, meet molasses:

Sponge:

  • 1 1/3 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 cup lukewarm coffee or whey or leftover pasta water (be resourceful!)
  • 2 cups pumpernickel flour
  • 1/2 cup onion (any color you want)

Dough:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (I recommend coconut oil or vegetable oil, or a mix)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (the bread tastes more hearty this way, but feel free to use all-purpose or any other flour of your choice for this last cup)
  1. Put together the sponge at least three hours before you add the rest of the dough ingredients, and cover. The longer, the better, so I usually complete this step before I go to bed and finish the recipe the next day. Bakers are good planners, right?! The two pictures below show you the sponge once mixed and then the sponge after resting for three hours. The sponge has slightly risen as there are now air pockets underneath and there are small bubbles on top where some air escaped. You can feed your starter now, too, and leave it out at room temperature overnight for 12-24 hours before storing it back in its home in the fridge.ImageImage
  2. Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to stir the oil, salt, and molasses into the sponge. Add the flour and mix. Using a bench scraper or rubber scraper, push out all of the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Since this dough is quite tough and slightly sticky (a good sign!), you do not need to have much bench flour on hand. I usually go through only about 1/4 cup, usually just to keep the dough from sticking to my hands.Image
  3. Knead the dough for 8 minutes. Yes, that’s a minimum. I know the dough ends up feeling like really thick Play-dough by the time you reach minute 6, but just keep going! Flex those muscles and showoff to anyone else in the room. You’ll look great 😉Image
  4. When you poke your dough, the indent will fill in a bit, but still look like an innie bellybutton. Make sure the dough still pushes back, though! Otherwise, flex those arms for another two minutes to knead the dough further. You can now shape your dough. Divide the ball into two equal parts and shape into two 10-inch logs to put on baking sheets or to put into two bread pans (about 8×4-inch). Sprinkle all-purpose flour around the shaped dough and shake off. Place dough on greased baking sheets or in greased baking pans. Heat up the oven to about 100°F then turn off, which is just slightly warm. Cover your bread loaves with a towel or greased plastic wrap and place in the oven. Leave them alone so the loaves can relax and rise for at least 3 hours. Leave in for another hour if you don’t think that the loaves doubled in size.
  5. Take out the loaves and preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the loaves and bake for 40 minutes. Image

Share how the magic churns out in your kitchen and what you think of the recipe! Bon ap to higher iron!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe:  The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 3, January-February 1992 issue.