The sort of foods where what you see is what you get and because you begin with the freshest of Nature's bounty, the result is inevitably just that - honest, delicious food!
My first introduction to the both clams and the process of charring vegetables for the wonderfully smoky flavor began young. Growing up, we had a lady who worked in our home. She was stunning & had such grace about her that from day one, Mum called her Sundari which means beautiful and the name stuck for the next 30 years no one in her family or the neighborhood ever refered to her by any other name.
Though she was technically a maid in our household there was nothing maid -like about the way she carried herself. She was very much a part of our family and had no qualms about reprimanding my Mum for something she's done in 'her' kitchen or expressing her displeasure at some of my shady choice of friends during my teenage years.
Finally, when I came home with 'the boy' that I wanted to marry, she asked Mum to 'produce this boy' in front of her - the one who wants to marry 'baby' (never mind that I was 25 years old!) So began his (Mr. Hubby's) interview who to date remembers that not only did he have to withstand the 'Spanish inquisition' from my own father but also from the maid as well as the dobermann!
Anyway, in addition to to being quite the matriarchal figure head, Sundari was also a superlative cook & when Mum & Dad were traveling for work as they sometimes were, Sundari & I would let loose our cooking inhibitions & cook up all kinds of adventurous things - smelly stuff with dried fish and slimy fish and tiny crabs and what not with Mum & Dad being non the wiser.
Sundari also made a fantastic chicken preparation by charring dried coconut which was then ground into a masala paste. Besides that we would commonly char eggplants for various dishes. So the process of charring vegetables is not new to me and comes with fond memories in tow.
However, a decade or so ago when I came across Mark Miller's spin on a Portuguese soup using charred tomatoes, I was intrigued. Once having fixed the soup, I was hooked! It has been a staple in our kitchen ever since and nothing beats this soup when you just want some honest to goodness grub!