Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cucumber Agua Fresca and a Cucumber Martini

Delightful, delicious, and different!

This cool Cucumber Agua Fresca will be a regular refreshment for our family this summer, especially since we are having a bumper crop of cucumbers this year!

Add a little vodka and it makes a delicious martini as well!

* * *
Cucumber Agua Fresca
From  Put 'em Up!  Sherri Brooks Vinton

4 cucumbers
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar (I used organic cane)
Juice of 1 lime

Set up a sieve over a bowl (or line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a bowl). Wash, peel, and seed four cucumbers.

Roughly chop, place in a food processor, and puree.

Pour over sieve and let the puree sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then lightly press down on the remaining pulp to finish extracting the juice. I used the bottom of a ladle. And give it a little shake.

Pour juice into a pitcher. I poured it through the sieve just to catch some pulp that pushed through. Add water, sugar, and lime juice. Stir until sugar dissolves.

My daughter really liked hers with a splash of seltzer and a little more freshly squeezed lime.

Cucumber Martini
3 ounces Cucumber Agua Fresca
1 1/2 ounces vodka

To this recipe, we added a splash of seltzer. For one serving, add all ingredients to a shaker and shake to blend.

 ~ * ~

Posted with permission.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oysters Are Our Muse Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters have become our summer muse!

We fell in love with Oysters Rockefeller at the Matunuck Oyster Bar while on vacation.

And how could we not! Aside from the terrific fresh seafood, look at this place!

A deck overlooking the oyster farm. Inside there's a cozy room with a view. Windows are wide open, welcoming a warm salty breeze.

Fresh oysters are shucked before our eyes.

And brought to our table in all their briny goodness.

Baked to perfection in a dreamy sauce. And they're tasty raw too.

Sustainable and local farm friendly.

 Now, that's a rustic oyster.

On our third visit, I had to ask for the recipe. I didn't think the chef would give away his secret recipe but was happy to have the basic ingredients. I made Oysters Rockefeller with similar ingredients before in a French cooking class at Johnson & Wales so I was pretty sure we could figure it out.

Our Great Oyster Adventure
Before attempting the recipe at home, my daughter and I decided to go on an oyster-tasting adventure. We drove to Boston and tried the oysters at the Neptune Oyster Bar on the North End then at the historic Union Oyster House.

No Oysters Rockefeller at Neptune so we enjoyed raw oysters.

Salem Street on the North End of Boston

After enjoying oysters and the charming French bistro interior, and some other delicious appetizers, we were off to the Union Oyster House nearby where we did find Oysters Rockefeller. They were good but we agreed Matunuck was the winner.

It's a great old colonial building and nicely decorated to period.
Charming, but lighting was not suitable for photographing
with an iPhone!

Our Oysters Rockefeller
With the adventure behind us, it was now time to make these delicacies ourselves. Armed with the list of ingredients from the chef at Matunuck Oyster Bar, we shopped then cooked. We were lucky to find Matunuck oysters at Whole Foods in Providence. We carefully thought out the proportions and method.

And we did it! Delicious!

Here's how:
Blend two strips of cooked bacon (we used low sodium) with 1 cup of round crackers (we used Late July Classic Rich) and 1 teaspoon softened butter (unsalted).

Just put a bunch of crackers in a cup, no need to be precise, and process the crackers, bacon, and butter until they are blended into fluffy fine crumbs. Set aside.

Wash and coarsely chop 1 cup of spinach (we used baby spinach just because we like it and wanted the leftovers for a salad. Regular spinach would be fine).

Mince a small shallot and measure out 1/2 teaspoon and save the rest for another meal.

Saute the minced shallot and spinach in 1 teaspoon of butter. When spinach is soft and tender, add a splash of Pernod, about 1/2 teaspoon, then 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper (we just added pepper) to taste.

Shuck the oysters, or ask your strong husband to do it. Be careful to leave the liquid or liquor -- it's precious, very precious.

Spread the oysters on a baking sheet without spilling a drop of their precious liquor and top with the cream mixture. Sprinkle a little of the bacon cracker crumbs on top.

Broil on low for about 4 minutes or until the oysters are cooked and the tops are lightly browned.


Oysters Rockefeller Recipe
Inspired by the chef at Matunuck Oyster Bar.
I received ingredients but not proportions. Since I'm not a chef or a recipe developer there'll be some leftovers. Just play and have fun. Make changes that suit your taste.

Crumb Topping
Makes a lot more than what's needed. Cut recipe in half if you want or use leftovers on fish another night or make more Oysters Rockefeller!
2 strips cooked bacon
1 cup buttered round crackers
1 teaspoon softened butter

Blend together in a food processor until fine and crumbly.

Cream Mixture
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon minced shallot
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup coarsely chopped spinach
Splash or about 1/4 teaspoon Pernod
Salt and pepper to taste

12-16 medium or large oysters (we made 12 medium, but had enough cream mixture for about 16)

Shuck oysters, being careful to leave the oyster liquor, and lay them out on a baking sheet. Over medium high heat in a saute pan, melt butter and saute shallots and spinach a few minutes until tender. Add a splash or 1/4 teaspoon Pernod then the cream. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Season to taste.

With a teaspoon, top each oyster with cream mixture then sprinkle with crumb topping. Heat under a low broil until oysters are cooked and top is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Watch them because every stove is different - this is how it worked with my stove.

* * *

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea
 and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, 
leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, 
and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell 
and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, 
I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans." 

~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

This quote is also on Neptune Oyster Bar's website.