Alaskan Augusts are kind of unfortunate. Sunny, high-60s days give way to rainy, damp, gray days. On the plus side, it's now dark enough to easily get to sleep at night. On the minus, you become all too aware of the fast slide into autumn, which--if we're lucky--is all of about two weeks in late September or early October.
I don't know about you, but this kind of weather makes me think about soup. Hearty, hot, soulful food that I think of as fueling another day of work or marathon training. It was in this frame of mind that I came across A16's Borlotti Bean and Mussel Zuppa with Zucchini and Grilled Bread. This recipe is great enough to stand up to modifications: small clams instead of mussels, dried cannellini beans for the borlottis. If A16's version is better than the modified one, I don't want to hear it.
The recipe is a cinch, as long as you soak the beans the night before.
Alaskan-ized Zuppa with Clams and Zucchini
Adapted from A16 Food + Wine
Four main course servings
1 cup dried cannellini beans, picked over and soaked overnight
1.5 lbs. small clams in their shells
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small zucchini, diced
1/4 tsp. dried red chile flakes
12 slices baguette, cut 1/2 inch thick
2 tbsp. chopped basil
Drain the cannellini beans and rinse. Start a fire in the grill for the bread, or preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large, heavy pot, warm two tablespoons of olive oil on low heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about three minutes. The garlic should color but not scorch. Increase the heat to medium and stir in the zucchini. Sautee for about five minutes, until the zucchini colors.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil, the chile flakes and the clams. Cover the pot and cook on medium until the clams open. Skim the clams out, making sure not to lose any of the liquid. Remove the clamshells, then return the clams and any liquid to the cooking pot. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer on low for five minutes.
Put the bread right on the grill or, if using the oven, on a cookie sheet. I recommend brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Cook until at least golden; don't be afraid to let the bread get grill marks--it gives it a fabulously smoky flavor.
When the bread is ready, remove the soup from the heat. Sprinkle the bowls with the basil and serve.