The Best of the Best Cookbook by the Editors of Food & Wine, presents recipes from the top cookbooks of 2008, including Spanish Smoked Paprika Wings; Soup of Fregula with Baby Clams; and Sichuan Boiled Dumplings with Spicy Dipping Sauce.
Fregula Kin Arsellas
from Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey
by Efisio Farris
This soup is a Sardinian classic. Everywhere on the island, the small hard-shell clams (arselle) thrive in the sand near the water's edge and always have. When I was young, I loved to dig for them at the beach, purging them in a bucket of salt water and taking them home for my mother to make this clam soup. Today, any Sardinian restaurant has this soup on the menu because all Sardinians know it and anyone can make it—and should. It is a great representative of our cuisine and showcases the versatility of one of our signature pastas, fregula. It is also easy to make once you prep the ingredients. Be sure to buy fresh clams that are already purged of sand and impurities. The soup is best presented in a low, wide soup bowl so the clams can be laid around the edges of the dish.
Good-quality frozen fish stock is sold at many fish markets and specialty food stores. You can also substitute equal parts bottled clam broth and water.
Wash clams thoroughly with fresh water. Place clams in a large pot with 1 cup of the stock. Heat until clams open. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping warm. Pass cooking liquids through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any sediment and impurities and reserve.
Bring remaining stock to a boil in a saucepan.
Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot (terra-cotta if possible). Add sliced garlic, parsley, and crushed red pepper and saute until garlic is tender, about 1 minute.
Add the reserved clam juice mixture and boiling stock. Add salt to taste (carefully, since the natural clam juice is already salty). Bring to a boil, add fregula, saffron, and tomatoes and cook 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. (Add more stock if broth seems dry.)
Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon zest. Divide clams among bowls, placing clams around rim. Fill with the soup. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Fregula—small, toasted semolina pasta—comes to Sardinia from the North African cuisine of the Maghreb. The Ligurians imported fregula from Tabarka (now part of Tunisia) through the Sardinian island of San Pietro, and it remains one of the few Moorish ingredients in our traditional cuisine. The name comes from the Latin word fricare, which means "to crumble" and that's what it looks like: crumbled bits of handmade pasta that bear some resemblance to Israeli couscous. In Orosei, we called fregula su ministru (little pieces), which we used in soups. I remember Mannai Vardeu making it start to finish by hand, her baskets of little grains drying outside on a sunny day. Today, fregula is still mostly handmade the way my friends Pietro and Donatella make it in their shop in the small town of Riola near Oristano. While they use a machine to knead the large quantities of dough and cut it into small pieces, they still complete the process by hand. First, they take the cut pasta and mix it with extra water and flour to give it a rustic coating. The pieces are then sifted through a setaccio (sieve), placed on a tray to dry, and toasted twice before they are ready to eat.
This page created September 2008
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