Garlicky Steamed Mussels and Littleneck Clams with Pesto Toasts
To clean live mussels and clams, scrub under cold running water. Remove beards from mussels. In an 8-quart Dutch oven combine 4 quarts cold water and 1/3 cup salt; add mussels and clams. Soak for 15 minutes; drain and rinse. Discard water. Repeat soaking, draining, and rinsing twice.
In a small bowl combine butter, parsley, tarragon, the minced garlic, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Use a fork or the back of a spoon to work herbs into butter. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottom 8- to 10-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid heat oil over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, and the sliced garlic; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in wine; bring to boiling. Immediately add mussels and clams. Cover tightly and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.
Lift lid and, working quickly to retain as much heat in the pot as possible, stir in the herbed butter, tomato, and lemon juice. Cook, covered, over high heat for 4 to 6 minutes more or just until shells open.
Using a large slotted spoon, scoop shellfish into a serving bowl. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open. Pour the cooking liquid over shellfish. Serve immediately with Pesto Toasts for sopping up the liquid.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush bread slices lightly with olive oil. Place bread slices on a large baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until slices are golden and crisp. Remove from oven and spread with pesto. Serve immediately.