Friday, March 28, 2008

Mark Bittman

The writer of a weekly column, The Minimalist, and the How to Cook Everything series, Mark and I became friends a few years ago when he briefly experimented with living in LA. I can confirm that Mark really does know how to cook everything. I remember emailing him one time from a supermarket with a question about roast pork. Before I finished shopping, he sent back the information and I bought the cut I needed.

Since he started his blog, Bitten, his encyclopedic knowledge is accessible on a daily basis. Always informative and personable, Mark makes good cooking fun and easy. In addition to his own postings, he has occasional contributors. He has been kind enough to include me in that group. In my maiden posting Mark allowed me "to show off a bit: three dishes from one chicken."

The recipes came from a recent trip to New York when we stayed with friends, Vicki, Mike, and their amazing daughters, Isabella and Olivia. A difference I've noted between LA and New York is that when we have friends over for a meal in LA, the food has to be ready to serve. In the East, I find that hanging out while the food is cooked is part of the experience. That was certainly the case when we stayed with Vicki and Mike. While we talked about what was going on in the world, I happily cooked and slid plate after plate onto the kitchen table. I can't think of a better way to spend the day than cooking, talking, and eating with friends.

For Mark's site, I wrote up the recipes I made that day: Chicken Breasts with Italian Parsley and Garlic, Chicken Soup with Vegetables, and Mushroom, Sausage and Chicken Ragout. In addition to these dishes, I also prepared a simple dessert of baked plums. The dessert recipe isn't on Bitten. I saved that for our site. Hope you enjoy it.

Baked Plums

The easiest dessert I've ever made, baked plums take only a few minutes to prepare and they're a visual pleasure. Served with whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream, they'll satisfy anyone's sweet tooth.

4 ripe plums, washed, dried, stems removed
1 teaspoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Quarter the plums and remove the pit. Lay the sections on a Silpat sheet or piece of tin foil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with raw sugar and put into the oven. If you want the plums firm, bake them for 35 minutes. For a softer consistency, bake a total of 45 minutes.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 35-45 minutes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Friend in Need: The Ingredients' Challenge

A dear friend has decided to shake up her life. She's taking the plunge and moving to New York. Making such a big move requires many changes. She'll have to find an affordable apartment and a new school for her son. Getting used to shopping and traveling around without a car is also a big adjustment for someone accustomed to LA. And there's the move itself. All the packing and arranging with movers. But before beginning all that, my friend sent me an email asking for help. She has a long list of food in her refrigerator and pantry that she wants to eat before she leaves town. I've excerpted part of her list. As you can see, she needs a lot of help. I can offer some recipes, but she needs many others.

Please send in your recipes so we can help her leave town with a clear conscience.
In my freezer:

Sockeye salmon fillets
Boneless leg of lamb, seasoned/butterflied from Trader Joe's
Boneless beef bottom sirloin tri-tip
Ground chicken
Extra lean, boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken (ick)
Alaska cod fillets

In my over-flowing pantry:

Sauces: Moroccan tagine simmer sauce, Cuban mojito simmer sauce, cacciatore simmer sauce, olive tapenade spread, roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade, artichoke antipasto
Lots of nuts, including a big box of walnuts, pignolia, pepita and almond mix (I guess for a salad)
and unsalted dry toasted sliced almonds.
Cans of black beans, garbanzo beans, mixed bean salad, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, corn. most great for chili, and burritos....
To start her off, here's a salmon dish that borrows from a Native American recipe and can be served as an appetizer or main course.

Native American Salmon

Marinate the salmon overnight with a dry rub of cayenne, ginger, brown sugar, and kosher salt. The salt will pull water out of the fish. What started as a dry rub at night will be wet in the morning.

1 lb. salmon, washed, pat dried
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1" piece of ginger, peeled, grated
Pinch of cayenne

On the cutting board, spread a piece of plastic wrap twice the length of the salmon. Spread the grated ginger and cayenne on the flesh. Mix together the dry ingredients. Put half of the dry rub on the plastic wrap. Lay the salmon on top of the dry rub. Put the other half of the rub on top of the fish. Fold the plastic wrap over the salmon, then put the packet into a Ziploc bag and carefully seal. Keep in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the salmon from the plastic wrap. Save the sauce and pour it into a small saucepan and reduce by half over a low flame. With a pastry brush, coat the top of the salmon with the glaze.

Place the salmon on a wire rack on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a bbq, set one side on high, put the salmon on the baking sheet on the cold side. After 10 minutes, rotate the pan so the salmon gets cooked evenly.

Serve at room temperature with bagels and cream cheese or on toast or with a salad.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Old Friend, Two New Dishes

When you see an old friend after many years' absence, what's the right thing to do? In my case, it means cook a great meal for my buddy, Hank Gilpin. Years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island after growing up in LA. It's difficult to imagine two places more different in culture and size. When I first arrived in Providence, I was invited to a party. With the directions came the instruction, "I live on the other side of town." I drove for twenty minutes, the time it takes to drive across LA, but twenty minutes in Providence meant I ended up in Massachusetts.

Going on a tour of East Coast colleges with our son, we knew we would drive through Rhode Island. We definitely had to stay overnight at Hank's converted church in Lincoln, a few miles outside of Providence. Hank established himself as a major voice in woodworking decades ago. His furniture is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. He is one of those rare individuals who proves that art can be a business.

When I first met Hank, I was pretty unhappy. I didn't like Providence, East Coast weather, or all those ubiquitous trees. In California I was used to an uncluttered landscape. Driving the freeways, I could see for miles. In New England, the forests ruined the view. Hank took me for walks in the woods where he talked about the different kinds of trees, how the wood changed over time, and how he took that into account when making a piece of furniture. In time, he made me appreciate Rhode Island. If events hadn't conspired otherwise, I probably wouldn't have moved back to LA.

When we got to Hank's, it was still early enough that Michelle and Michael decided to drive over to Tufts and have a look around. That gave us a couple of hours to catch up, check out places I remembered, and prepare dinner. Rhode Island has great lobsters and clams, so our first stop was Captains Catch. We also went by Federal Hill, the Italian part of Providence, where we picked up a fresh whole chicken at Antonelli Poultry and a good pecorino romano at Costantino's. On the way back to the car, we bought a delicious chocolate cake at Pastiche. After a coffee and more catching up, we realized we better get dinner started. It had gotten late.

Back at the church, Hank poured bourbon shots and the work began. The lobster was washed, waiting its turn in the sink. Artichokes were trimmed and ready to cook. Chicken stock was started. A mushroom, garlic chicken ragout was bubbling away. Steamers were steaming. Pasta water was boiling. Chicken breasts were marinating. The parsley-caper salsa was ready to serve with the fresh mozzarella.

When I cut open the lobster I saw something completely unexpected: perfectly fresh tomalley and coral, the colors bright and clean. In LA when we buy a New England lobster, how long has it been out of the sea? Days? Weeks? This lobster had been caught the day before. The chicken also yielded a surprise: a beautifully plump liver. Again, freshness made the difference. I decided we'd have some impromptu appetizers. Hank opened a bottle of Merlot.

Figuring out what to make came quickly. A simple sauté for both. To serve the chicken livers, toasted pieces of Italian bread in olive oil, but for the tomally and coral something more delicate was needed. Lavash cut into 2" squares, dredged in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, and roasted in a 350 degree oven for 2 minutes created crispy squares that were the perfect compliment to the creamy tomalley and coral.

With the rest of the dinner under control, Hank and I enjoyed our appetizers and Merlot, then we set the kitchen counter with plates and platters full of food. Michael and Michelle returned from their adventure, tired but happy to have seen Tufts. They were revived by the dinner waiting for them. Nice what two old friends can do when they have time to visit.

Chicken Livers on Toast

Freshness is the key. The livers need to be plump and firm, with no discoloration. Chopping the livers into dime-sized pieces means they will cook quickly.

1 large chicken liver, washed, the membrane removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shallot or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
1 slice of Italian bread, crusts removed
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the slice of bread into ½" by 1" rectangles and sauté them in the olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. In the same frying pan, on a medium flame, sauté the parsley, garlic, onions, and capers until lightly browned, add the butter, then the livers, carefully browning them on each side. Serve on the toasts.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Lobster Tomalley and Coral on Lavash

Bake the lavash ahead as described above.

Tomalley and Coral from 1 lobster, washed
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
½ garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
6 2" squares of baked lavash
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate the tomalley and coral with the garlic, shallot, 1 teaspoon of the parsley, and olive oil for 30 minutes, then sauté with the butter in a hot pan until the coral turns red. Put a small mound of the tomalley and coral on the lavash square, topped with the avocado and parsley.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Marinating Time: 30 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flying on the American Plan, Bring Your Own Food

Tomorrow we're taking our son, Michael, on a college tour of East Coast colleges: Lehigh, NYU, BU, Northeastern, Tufts, and Wesleyan. It'll be exciting for him to walk around the campuses he's been reading about. We'll fly from LAX, rent a car and take a road trip from Philadelphia to Boston. Packing for a plane trip these days means not only clothes and something to read, but food. Only a few years ago, the idea of making food for a plane ride would have seemed obsessive. Not that the meals in Coach were ever very good--the vegetables were usually overcooked, the meat dry, and everything was over-salted--but all the airlines served meals that included a salad, a roll with butter, a hot entree, and a piece of cake. Those were the good old days. Now you're lucky to get a bag of peanuts or pretzel bits. Trying to capture a sighting of the elusive "in-flight meal," posts photographs sent in by passengers from around the world.

When we were at a friend's birthday party last week, I caught up with Carlin Benjamin, who has a unique perspective on good dining. When she was a young woman, she was a West Coast Eloise, living in the splendor of the Ambassador Hotel. The other guests were the rich and famous, politicians, and movie stars. Currently writing a book about growing up in that Privileged Age, Carlin draws on her incredible memory and describes in great detail the culinary pleasures of an earlier period. When I told her we were traveling to the East Coast, she sent me a mouth-watering description of the menu served in the Pullman Dining Car, as it traveled from Los Angeles to New York. I don't envy how long that trip took, but I certainly would have liked to try the food.
Around 1888, Fred Harvey and Santa Fe decided to include dining cars on some of their trains. Mr. Harvey asked my grandfather to set up the Santa Fe dining car system. The idea was to give guests the feeling of a traveling hotel. An example of a menu from the Pullman Dining Car "Alhambra" out of New York includes all of the following for $1.00. Hard to imagine how all this cuisine could come out of a train kitchen.
Mock Turtle soup, Consommé Victoria, Salmon a la Chamborg, Parisienne Potatoes, Boiled Beef Tongue, Boiled Chicken with Egg Sauce, Roast Beef with Browned Potatoes, Roast Leg of South Down Mutton with Current Jelly, Young Turkey with Cranberry Sauce, Salami of Duck, Banana Fritters with Port Wine Sauce, Roast Saddle of Antelope with Current Jelly, Lobster with Mayonnaise, Lettuce Salad, Spanish Olives, Chow Chow, Pickled Onions, Girkins, Boiled and Mashed Potatoes, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Stewed Tomatoes, Squash, French Peas, Succotash, Mince Pie, Apple Pie, Coconut Pudding, Fruit, Cakes, Ice Cream, Roquefort and Edam Cheese, Bent's Crackers, Cafe Noir.

The practice of offering a fixed price for an entire meal was known as the American Plan
Since the airlines have abandoned us, we have to provide for ourselves. In just a few minutes you can assemble good snacks for the plane: fresh fruit, cut-up carrots and celery, sunflower seeds, trail mix, a selection of candies and cookies, and some good teas. Sandwiches are good too, although on a long trip, they can get soggy. After a lot of experimentation I discovered a simple salad that holds up well on the long flight.

Chopped Parsley Salad

Lettuce wilts, but Italian parsley doesn't. Grilling caramelizes the broccoli. The carrots add crunch. The feta and avocado pull the other flavors together.

1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems removed, finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 bunch broccoli, washed, stems cut off, florets separated
5 radicchio leaves, washed
2 scallions, washed, ends trimmed
10 olives, oil curred or split green, pitted, finely chopped
1 small avocado, washed, peeled, finely chopped
¼ cup feta, crumbled
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon reduced balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the broccoli florets, whole scallions, and radicchio leaves into a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, toss to coat well, then grill on a bbq or roast in a 350 degree oven until browned on all sides. Be careful not to let the vegetables char.

Remove and let cool. Roughly chop the scallions and radicchio. Put all the vegetables, feta, and chopped olives in the bowl. Finish with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. Put equal amounts in two pint-sized deli or Ziploc lock containers. Seal well. Pack forks and napkins.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Soup or Salad? Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Gets My Vote

I remember playing a game when I was a kid, a variation of the "If you had to choose, which would be worse: being blind or being deaf?" Only, in my food-centric world, the choice was, "If you could only have one food to eat forever, would it be soup or salad?" I couldn't imagine denying myself either, they are both so essential to good eating, but in the interest of influencing the vote to the soup-side, I'm offering up a Thai Chicken Coconut Soup recipe that was sent in by Susie Fitzgerald and Kristy Hake.

A few of the ingredients can be difficult to find: kefir lime leaves and lemongrass. Most Asian markets carry both, but if you can't find either, the soup is still delicious without those ingredients. You can also try growing your own. Susie planted a kefir lime plant she bought from a farmer at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. The lemongrass in our garden came from a cutting I planted years ago.

There may be some nurseries that carry lemongrass plants in their herb sections, if not, you can grow one from the stalk you buy at the market. Growing lemongrass is really very easy. Buy lemongrass stalks that still have their root ends intact. Cut off the bottom 2" of the stalk and put it into a container with well-mulched dirt. Water well and keep in a sunny spot. Within a few weeks, the stalk will begin growing a root system and put out a new shoot. After a month, the roots should be well enough established for you to transplant the plant to a sunny part of your garden or into a larger pot. In time, the stalk will throw off many shoots. Then, when you need some lemongrass for a recipe, cut off the stalk just above the root, that way a new shoot will grow from the old roots. Lemongrass is self-renewing.

Susie Fitzgerald and Kristy Hake's Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

The only change I've made to their recipe is to suggest that the chicken stock be homemade. I prefer homemade because the salt content of prepackaged chicken stock is very high. Another suggestion: when using coconut milk, try to find brands like Trader Joe's and Thai Kitchen that don't use preservatives. Suzie and Kristy clearly like their soup on the hot side. If you prefer yours milder, use less of the jalapeno pepper and Thai red chili paste.

4 cups homemade chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, washed, cubed
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass, washed, the white part cut into 2" pieces
2" piece of ginger, washed, peeled, grated for the juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
8-10 mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced
4-6 limes, juiced
4 fresh kefir lime leaves, washed, roughly sliced
5 cilantro sprigs, washed, stems removed, leaves only
1 jalapeno pepper, washed, seeded, thinly sliced lengthwise (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons Thai red chili paste (to taste)

Add the chicken stock, lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, mushrooms, and kefir lime leaves to a pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Increase the flame, bringing the soup to a boil, add the chicken, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and chili paste. Reduce the flame, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro just before serving.

Serve over Basmati or Jasmine rice.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Plate Envy: Il Fornaio Gives It Away

Restaurants live or die on their repeat business. To bring their customers back again and again, some rely on exceptional food and personalized service, others try affordable prices and a pleasant setting. Il Fornaio adds another element to the equation.

For two weeks each month, all 21 branches of Il Fornaio ("The Baker") feature recipes from a different region of Italy: Fruiuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Puglia, Liguria, Abruzzo, Scilia.... The dishes illustrate that region's distinctive ingredients and cooking styles. Nothing can compare with actually going to Italy and having a great meal, but when we want a delicious, affordable Italian dinner, it's great to be able to visit the nearby Il Fornaio in Santa Monica. The restaurant is devoted to all things Italian. Not only are the meals an effort to give you the experience of dining in Italy, each month you'll receive a uniquely Italian gift.

Pick up a "Passaporto" during the Festa Regionale and you'll be given a gift: packages of cannellini beans or hand-made pasta, arrabiatta spices, specialty olive oils, balsamic vinegar, loaves of bread, calendars, olive bowls, and, my personal favorite, dinner plates.

Have your Passaporto stamped each month and on the sixth visit, you'll take home a dinner plate, hand-painted with a distinctive image of Italian life.
For more posts about Il Fornaio's Festa Regionale check out:
Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad
A Tasting at Il Fornaio, Santa Monica--Trentino-Alto Adige
A Trip to Italy is Just Around the Corner at Il Fornaio--Calabria
Il Fornaio Heads South to Campania for May's Regionale
Il Fornaio Heads North to Lombardia
Abruzzo at Il Fornaio, Santa Monica
Il Fornaio Serves Up a Recession Busting Tasting Menu - Piemonte
I am obsessed about those plates. Something about them makes me so happy. To make certain we'll get the new ones, we go to the restaurant every month. So far, we have more than 60 and are several Passaporto away from being completely out of shelf space.

The plates are great, but so are the gifts that help us practice cooking Italian meals at home. Last month we were given packages of fagioli cannellini with a Tuscan recipe by Il Fornaio's Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon. I added roasted tomatoes and spinach to his Fagioli All'Uccelletta recipe.

Cannellini Beans with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach

If you want to serve cannellini beans, you have to plan ahead. Before they can be cooked, they have to be soaked overnight. Cooking takes time as well, so this is a great weekend project. Since they keep well in the refrigerator, the beans can be quickly reheated for a weekday meal and served with a grilled chicken breast, steak, or tuna fillet.

Yield 6-8 servings

Time soak beans overnight, 2 hours to cook


2 cups cannellini beans
½ celery stalk, washed
½ onion, peeled, washed
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 carrot, washed, peeled
18-20 sage leaves, washed, torn into pieces
5 tomatoes, washed
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly, stems removed, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt


Soak the beans overnight with 5 cups of water. Drain. In a large pot, put the beans and 10 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, the celery, onion, 2 whole garlic cloves, and the carrot. Cook on a low flame for 1 hour or until the beans are al dente. Drain, but this time save the water. Discard the vegetables.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the stems out of the tomatoes, put them on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat sheet or a piece of tin foil, sprinkle sliced garlic on top, season with sea salt and black pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool. Put the tomatoes in a bowl. Take off the skins and discard. Tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

In the large pot, sauté 2 finely chopped garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned, add the sage and sauté for a few seconds, then add the roasted tomatoes with their juice, the cooked cannellini beans, the chopped spinach, and 5 cups of the reserved water. Bring to a low boil and cook for 30-45 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve with a grilled or roasted meat.

For more posts about Il Fornaio's Festa Regionale check out:
Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad
A Tasting at Il Fornaio, Santa Monica--Trentino-Alto Adige
A Trip to Italy is Just Around the Corner at Il Fornaio--Calabria
Il Fornaio Heads South to Campania for May's Regionale
Il Fornaio Heads North to Lombardia
Abruzzo at Il Fornaio, Santa Monica
Friuli-Venezia Giulia at Il Fornaio

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Surprise at the Farmers' Market: Six Oysters, Two Appetizers, One Stew

Michelle checked the refrigerator and all we needed from the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers' market was a romaine lettuce. She handed me the list before I left. Usually when I go to the Wednesday market, I only have a few minutes, but the day wasn't that busy, so I didn't have to rush. I checked with the farmers I usually go to for lettuce, but there must have been heavy rains when the romaine was picked, because the ones I saw were pretty ragged and muddy.

I have to confess, whenever I go to a farmers' market, I buy more than I intended. The flowers are always amazing, even in the winter and the vegetables are so inviting. By the time I'd walked around the market, I'd filled my bag with anemones, Italian parsley, a bunch of carrots, a bag of Haas avocados, and Yukon potatoes. I even bought baby onions and fresh mustard greens because they were too cool to pass up, even though I didn't have a clue what I'd do with them.

Leaving the market I saw that a new vendor, Carlsbad Aquafarm, was selling baskets of fresh mussels, oysters, clams, and red seaweed. Fresh oysters at a reasonable price are always hard for me to resist. The Catalina Oysters looked like the Gulf oysters I had years ago when I worked on an oyster boat near Galveston. I bought a dozen.

When I got home, excited about having oysters for lunch, I unpacked what I'd gotten from the market and realized an awful truth. I'd forgotten to buy the romaine. 'Guess I got distracted.

I've described how to shuck oysters in an earlier posting. It's not difficult, but it does take some practice. Prying open the first plump, beautiful oyster, I discovered a benefit of buying them fresh-from-the-ocean. As I cut the oyster loose, nectar filled the shell. Six oysters opened over a bowl and I had a cup of nectar. Today had turned into a day of improvising. My lunch now had an added course: oyster stew.

Eating good food makes me happy. I must have learned that from my dad. When I was a kid, I remember watching him come home from work and sink down into his leather chair. My mom had the routine down cold. Within a few minutes she'd bring him a plate of appetizers. Happiness for him was a pre-dinner feast of pickled herring with sour cream and onions on pumpernickel bread, a plate of thinly sliced radishes with salt, a jar of baby shrimp in cocktail sauce, and a Seven & Seven on the rocks. The only part of his menu held onto was a love of cocktail sauce.

I tried the raw oysters a variety of ways: with a squeeze of lemon juice, a little taste of caviar left over from my Home Alone dinner, with finely chopped baby onions, with chopped avocado, and with cocktail sauce. I ate the oysters with slices of French bread and a couple of Nabisco saltine crackers.

6 Oysters Serves 1. Preparation Time: 10 minutes.

Traditional Cocktail Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon grated horse radish
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne

Mix all the ingredients together. Put a small amount on top of each oyster. The recipe makes enough for several servings. Keep the sauce in the refrigerator in a sealed jar.

Salami With Avocado

When I had finished prepping the oysters, I realized I hadn't used half of the avocado. I could have easily made an arugula and avocado salad, but an appetizer seemed more satisfying. There was some felino salami from Bay Cities in the refrigerator. A piece of avocado, dredged in olive oil with sea salt and black pepper, placed on a slice of the salami, topped with finely chopped scallions and reduced balsamic vinegar and I had a delicious compliment to the oysters.

Oyster Stew

This dish is a freebie. The nectar gives the stew its flavor. Since I was eating raw oysters, I didn't need any in the stew, but you can certainly add them if you want.

1 cup oyster nectar
½ cup homemade chicken stock
½ carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
½ Yukon potato, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 piece of bacon or 1"piece of sausage (Italian or Cajun), finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 tablespoon cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 tablespoons homemade croutons

Two quick notes. The stew doesn't need any added salt. The oyster nectar has all the saltiness you'll need. The vegetables should be finely chopped as you would with a mirepoix.

Sauté the vegetables and bacon/sausage in the olive oil, seasoned with black pepper. After they're lightly browned, add the pat of butter, the oyster nectar, and the chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes to combine the flavors. Taste the potato for doneness. If you've decided that you'd like to have some oysters in the stew, add them at this point and simmer for 2 minutes. The oysters can be cooked whole or cut up if they are larger than the size of the soup spoon. Add the cream and simmer 2 minutes. Top with a tablespoon of croutons just before serving.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.