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Clams with a Kick

Clams with a Kick
Written by Margaret Loftus | Photos by Andrew Cebulka

A Calabrian Love Letter

When a couple of newlywed chefs hit the road in southern Italy for their honeymoon, you can bet they’ll come back with inspiration for a recipe—or ten. For starters, Jenni Ridall, founder of TK Test Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina, and her new husband Mike Lata, of FIG and the Ordinary fame, couldn’t get enough of the region’s clams. “We had pasta alle vongole nearly every day,” she says. The local aromatics also made quite the impression. They marveled at Calabria’s namesake chiles in all forms—fresh, dried, powdered, marinated, pickled—and discovered the revered cipolla di Tropea, an elongated onion so sweet that the Italians make gelato with it. At home in Charleston, the ingredients came together effortlessly in a one-pot dish of spicy steamed clams that captured the flavors of southern Italy in all its briny glory. Says Ridall, “Sweet shallot echoes the Tropea onion, the Calabrian chiles—both dried and marinated—lend fruit and spice, and our South Carolina clams contend with the best vongole in Sicily.”

Calabrian-style clams

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