Oysters in White Wine Sauce

Oysters in White Wine Sauce

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Most of us don’t think about eating oysters during the holidays, or for that matter in winter at all. But here in the Northeast, specifically on the East End of Long Island, oysters are currently at their tastiest. From late November to mid-January, these delicacies are both large and plump – allowing for additional preparation methods.  It’s hard to compete with the fresh sea taste of a raw oyster, but the cold winter weather often demands hot food this time of year. This unpublished recipe for Oysters in White Wine sauce by my grandmother, Paula Peck, is the perfect compromise of a warm comforting dish that still has the fresh flavor of oysters pulled from the water that same day.

Fresh Peconic Bay Oysters in a Lantern Net

Fresh Peconic Bay Oysters in a Lantern Net

My grandmother and her close friend, James Beard, shared similar views regarding fish and seafood. She insisted that fish and seafood must always be fresh and never overcooked – now standard culinary rules that weren’t as common back in the 1960’s. Although she demanded high quality seafood (usually from Citerella in those days), it’s unlikely she ever got to enjoy the level of freshness that the bays of Eastern Long Island can provide.

With my father working with the Southold Project in Aquaculture Training (SPAT)  – a Cornell Cooperative Extension Program in Southold to revitalize the shellfish of Long Island, I’m often spoiled by the superior quality of the oysters I eat when visiting. These amazing mollusks bulk up over the summer in preparation for winter hibernation (and for us to eat them!), making them an excellent candidate for this soup-like dish. Vegetables and herbs are combined with white wine, lemon juice, and olive oil then simmered for an hour until slightly thickened and fragrant. The shelled (fat) oysters are then simply added with all of their juices and quickly poached until just barely tender. The cooked oysters can then be served back in their shells, making Oysters in White Wine Sauce the perfect appetizer for one of my grandmother’s famous dinner parties for James Beard and Craig Claiborne, as well as your next holiday party.

Ingredients:

1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 peppercorns
3 springs fresh thyme
3-4 sprigs parsley
2 dozen oysters, shucked (with juice) – bottom shells reserved
salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 small tomato, finely diced

Combine all ingredients except oysters, salt, chopped parsley, and tomato in a deep heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.

Add oysters and their juice. When liquid begins to simmer around edges of pot, turn off heat (no more than 4-5 minutes). Season with salt to taste.

To serve, remove each oyster with slotted spoon into reserved shells (or small bowls). Spoon some of the sauce and vegetables into shells. Sprinkle with diced tomato and chopped parley. Garnish with slices of lemon.

Oysters in White Wine Sauce

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Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable FrittataThere are a couple different ways to make a vegetable frittata. You can put it straight into the oven casserole style, or you can start it on the stove and move it to the oven. Either way produces that delicious eggy goodness. In this unpublished Paula Peck recipe, the oven only approach is suggested. However, I found that the stove-to-oven method works equally well here and allows for a one pot meal (so to speak).  Just saute the veggies in an a large oven proof saute pan and once soft, add the eggs. When the eggs begin to set, drizzle a little olive oil around the edge (this is optional but helps reduce sticking) and put it in the oven.

Just like the cooking method, the selection of vegetables can also vary. Local asparagus is abundant right now so this seemed like an obvious choice. Broccoli, green beans, potato, tomato, or even cauliflower would be tasty as well. With just a few substitutes, this regular vegetable frittata can become a fancy “Spring” or “Summer” frittata – ready for its brunch debut.

Ingredients:

2lbs small zucchini cut a bit less than 1/4″ thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery (or asparagus cut in 1/2″ pieces)
1 cup sliced green pepper
1 cup green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini and asparagus (if using). Saute, turning frequently until golden and tender.

Grease a 9 inch ceramic dish or its equivalent. Combine celery (if using), green peppers, onions, and garlic. Place a third of the mixture on the bottom of greased dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a layer of sauteed zucchini on top, then another layer of vegetables, seasoning, and finally another of sauteed zucchini.

Beat eggs, adding cream, Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour over vegetables. Bake  for 30-45 minutes or until egg is set. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 5-6

 

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Tzadziki Stuffed Tomatoes

Danish Stuffed Tomatoes

The original title of this recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” is Danish Stuffed Tomatoes. However, when I tried to research this recipe, I found little on what makes them “Danish.” I decided to lighten the stuffing by using yogurt, making it more about the cucumbers and less about the overbearing amount of sour cream and mayo originally used. It now maybe considered more Greek than Danish since the stuffing is more of a basic tzadziki. Creamy yogurt, garlic, and dill brighten the cucumbers that then add crunch to the soft juicy ripe tomatoes.
This is a tasty little no bake/cook seasonal appetizer or side dish that presents beautifully.

2 hothouse cucumbers
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups lowfat yogurt or greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons chopped dill
6 vine ripe tomatoes

Peel cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds and discard them. Slice cucumbers thin. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and place in refrigeration for at least 2 hours. Pour off water which has accumulated and press out any additional water so that cucumbers are dry. Add sugar and pepper and stir.

Combine garlic, yogurt, and lemon juice. Pour over cucumbers and toss lightly, adding half of the dill. Place in refrigerator until needed.

Remove a circle from the stem ends of the tomatoes. Carefully scoop out all the seeds and pulp. Turn the tomato shells upside down on paper towels so that any juice may drain.

Stuff each tomato with the cucumber mixture. Sprinkle remaining dill on top of each tomato.

Serves 6

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking.”

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Frozen Strawberry Cream Torte

Frozen Strawberry Tort Sliced

Few Paula Peck desert recipes really lend themselves to Summer. A couple of fruit tarts, a mousse or two, and a few fruit tortes are summery as is without modification. Maybe because she spent most summers in France, renewing her tastes and inspirition or maybe she just didnt bother much with the heat of baking in a hot humid Manhattan building before AC was a regular commodity. Whatever the reason, this frozen torte is part of this small exclusive group of her summer desert recipes. Not exactly quick or easy, if meringue is foreign to you, but the construction is fairly simple and the finished torte is impressive. There are two methods used in the original recipe for which I have strong opposing feelings. The first is the suggested baking time of the meringue to ensure it doesn’t brown. Though technically incorrect, in my opinion the baking time for meringues takes long enough without having to worry about making sure it maintains pure white and doesn’t brown. In this particular instance, I don’t mind if the meringue is slightly tan on top. It speeds up the baking/drying process and has little effect on the taste.
The second method, which I agree with, is adding gelatin to whipped cream. This works well to stabilize whipped cream if using it like a frosting, which in itself is an interesting technique that I’m not quite used to. Substitute powdered agar-agar or vegetarian gelatin for vegetarians.
A last point that needs to be emphasized is to serve the torte frozen. It just doesn’t taste the same when it begins to thaw. A finished frozen slice should taste creamy and light, like strawberry shortcake and meringue cookies smashed together in a giant sandwich then hidden beneath a layer of silky cream and frozen to combine the textures into a cool summer treat.

Swiss Meringue

5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and dissolved gelatin (see note)
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

Sprinkle strawberries with 1/4 cups sugar and set aside.

Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a  mixer. Beat at medium speed until egg whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating continuously until stiff peaks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper or grease and flour two large baking sheets. Trace four circles in flour, each 6 inches in diameter. Spread a thin layer of meringue within each circle. Sprinkle one layer with sliced almonds.

Bake meringue layers at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake meringue until puffed and cracked, about 50 minutes. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let cool in oven for 30 minutes until room temperature.

Drain sweetened berries. Combine with about 2 1/3 cups of whipped cream. Working as quickly as possible to prevent meringue from softening, sandwich layers with whipped cream mixture. Place the almond studded layer on top. Place in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until cake is frozen.

Spread the remaining whipped cream around sides. Place again in the freezer. When sides are frozen, the torte can be wrapped for freezer storage for up to 6 weeks.

 

 

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Lentil Vegetable Salad

Paula Peck Marinated Lentil Salad

Paula Peck Marinated Lentil Salad

Lentil salad is quickly becoming an American classic. With the popularity of ancient grains and heirloom beans, legume salads are trending and gaining a new hipster following. Satisfying but simple, healthy, and high in protein (so it will keep you full longer). Lentils, which date back thousands of years and possibly originated in Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean, are getting a face lift in salads these days but are not completely unrecognizable compared to those of the 1960’s – when this recipe was most likely written.

Unlike the original recipe titled “Marinated Lentil Salad” from “The Art of Good Cooking” that has parsley and scallions as its only fresh components,  I used extra veggies so this salad can be eaten as a well rounded light lunch by itself. The crunch of the cucumber and the brightness of the herbs along with the smooth, slight tenderness of the lentils, shouts summer fresh.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dry green lentils
2 cups water
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 a hothouse cucumber, halved and sliced
1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill OR fresh thyme (optional)

Prepare frozen corn and peas according to package instructions or cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain. Set aside.

Pick over lentils and wash them well. Place in pot, add water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Scoop out any loose shells that floated to the top while cooking. Drain. Add salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Then cool to room temperature. Add green onions, cucumber, corn and peas, parsley, dill or thyme (if using), and grape tomatoes.

Serves 6.

Marinated Lentil Salad by Paula Peck

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