Sunday, June 27, 2010

Briny Beginnings

Last night we were invited to dinner at the home of friends and, as usual, I asked what we could bring. "Oh, maybe an appetizer. But nothing fancy," was their reply. Now, they were serious about the "nothing fancy" part, but I know this particular couple loves a good starter and so I was mulling over the possibilities.

It's not yet tomato season, so a caprese bruschetta, one of my own top-of-the-list apps, was out of the running. And Asian chicken wings sounded tasty, but might be a little much since steaks were on the menu for dinner. A fava bean and mint spread would be seasonal and appropriate, but the farmers' markets were already over for the day.

Then it hit me: fresh oysters! Light yet wonderfully flavorful, totally seasonal and local, and relatively inexpensive yet classy. And though Dave and I aren't big on complements other than the occasional drop or two of lemon with our bivalves, a mignonette seemed like a fun addition.

There are at least two sources of fresh NW oysters in town, Dan & Louis' Oyster Bar and Newman's Fish Co. in City Market, with prices around $12-$18 a dozen or so, depending on the variety. Dan & Louis had Pickering Pass oysters from Washington for the lower price, so we dropped by and picked those up on the way to dinner. I'd whipped up a slightly esoteric ginger lemon mignonette, which was wonderful with the creamy, briny little oysters and got some nice props for my choice from the hosts.

If you're looking for something a little off-the-beaten path for apps this summer, I'd recommend giving oysters a try. And let me know if you've got a fave supplier in the area…more sources are good!

Lemon Ginger Mignonette
Adapted from Epicurious

1/3 c. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced fine or grated
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. green onion, minced (optional)

Combine vinegar, ginger, lemon zest and salt in small bowl, stir, then allow to steep for 10 min. Strain and add green onion, if desired, before serving alongside fresh oysters.

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