Divas of Dish: Feisty Steamed Clams ' n Fennel
Beachy weather is back, and the divas area ready for languorous afternoons with a juicy novel and a crisp chardonnay, when dinner is a mere afterthought. So we dream up one-pot wonders that quickly will feed a lo-carb crowd.

Steamed clams fit the bill, with only a splash of olive oil and a generous glug of white wine in a tomato broth. We prefer the dainty littlenecks, which we rinse, give a good scrub and soak for 20 minutes in cold water before tossing in the broth. (The soaking gets rid of any extra saltiness and sand.)

We once heard of a Florida couple halfway through their plate of steamed clams when they found a rare pearl estimated to be worth thousands of dollars. We feel just as lucky for the round of thank-yous as everyone digs in.

Feisty Steamed Clams ' n Fennel

Serves 6

4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
1 (35-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained, chopped, juice reserved
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
Coarse salt, cracked black pepper, to taste
8 dozen small clams, scrubbed well
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Crusty bread, for dipping

In a pot large enough to hold the clams, cook garlic and pepper flakes in oil over low heat for about 1 minute. Raise heat to moderate, add the onion and fennel and cook until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with reserved juice, wine, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the clams and steam until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that haven't opened after 8 minutes.

Put clams in serving bowl, then stir parsley into fennel mixture; spoon over clams. Serve with crusty bread.

Diva confession: In Florida, clams are caught wild and also farm raised on both the east and west coasts, and a harvested year-round. Middleneck, littleneck and pasta are names related to the size of the clam (pasta is smallest, we prefer littlenecks for steaming). They will remain alive for up to seven days in the refrigerator when stored in a container with the lid slightly open – but eat them as soon as you can, and toss any that don't close. Clams should never be placed directly on ice.