Saturday, October 04, 2008

Comparing Apples and Oysters

Sometimes I wander aimlessly around my kitchen deciding what to put in the food processor.

And sometimes, I end up putting a million things in the food processor.

And sometimes, it tastes amazing.

This happened today.

I was flipping through my favorite cookbook, Jamie Oliver’s “COOK: With Jamie,” and I found an interesting combination of anchovies and rosemary pureed together with lemon juice and olive oil to make a sauce for salmon. I, honestly, had never heard of such a combination. But now that I think of it, the combination is just-so-South-of-France it makes my head spin.

I didn’t have anchovies, which, I must admit, is unusual in a kitchen that I inhabit. I generally have a good can of anchovies around in case of emergency oily-salty-fish craving or in the event that there happens to be a frozen pizza around when my boyfriend isn’t. When he is there, he covers it with whatever meat products are in the refrigerator, leaving no room for the humble anchovy.

Instead of the anchovies, I chose another South-of-France ingredient just as salty and briny as the anchovy: capers. I like capers because you can pronounce my last name to rhyme with them, although my last name is actually pronounced with a short “a” rather than a long “a” sound. But no bother. The caper allows my name to be used in limericks, and thus, I love it.

So, I went out to the garden to pick some fresh rosemary from the bush that runs along the path to our fountain. That makes me sound very Jane Austen-y and provincial. And I love it.

I dumped two tablespoons of drained capers into the 150-year-old Cuisinart food processor, owned by my roommate (who is NOT 150-years-old at all) and whizzed it up with the rosemary leaves, a tablespoon or so of olive oil and some ground pepper. It smelled…well…like Nice. And Aix-en-Provence. At the same time.

At some point, I had decided to make cauliflower, because cauliflower is white, and I have only been eating white foods for the past week. It has to do with the stock market. Read the post below, and you’ll understand.

You would think that cauliflower, because it is white, would have no nutrients, or be fattening, like other white things like butter, cream, flour, lard, etc. This isn’t the case, though. (This is going to be a long blogpost, I can already tell.) Cauliflower is actually in the same family as broccoli, broccolini, cabbages, etc., and thus very high in nutrients and very low in calories. Yay! Thus, we can make up the calories in other ways.

When the cauliflower had been steamed, and had turned a lovely and comforting shade of translucent white, I dumped it in the food processor with the caper/rosemary/France mixture. I poured in a half cup of milk. And a half teaspoon of butter (see also: calories). And I processed everything into a creamy, fragrant mess. It tasted insanely good, especially after adding a half teaspoon of salt. It needed something, though. Green apples…something with some tang. I pushed the apple thought away, believing myself to be temporarily insane.

My roommate brought me back to earth, thankfully. “Is that going to be your entire meal?” she asked. I guess I should have something protein-like, huh.

I’d been saving a half-tub of shucked oysters in the freezer for some homemade biscuits and Southern Oyster Gravy, but it was becoming more and more apparent, that I would never have time to make the gravy, let alone homemade biscuits. I barely have time to paint my toenails, which is a much more important duty than making biscuits, surprisingly. So I took the oysters out of the freezer, defrosted them, and put them on the stove.

Soup, I thought.

When the oyster likker started to steam slightly, I poured in my beautiful cauliflower mixture and added another quarter-cup of milk, just to make it soupy. I brought it to a good temperature slowly, being careful not to cook the oysters too much. As I always say (I actually DO always say this), the only thing worse than an overcooked shrimp is an overcooked oyster/mussel/clam. Shellfish is not to be overcooked.

We were chatting, and my roommate told me she felt like she had seen the oyster/cauliflower combination somewhere before. A quick Google search revealed a New York Times recipe for Cauliflower Soup with Oyster Garnish. There it was. Green apples. Right there in the recipe. I was not insane. I was a genius. Or perhaps both.

I quickly took the bag of chopped up Granny Smiths out of the Ziploc where they were being held in the crisper, and dumped them into, what else, the food processor. I pulsed several times until the apples were small chunks, perfect for lying atop a bowl of white oyster and cauliflower chowder.

It was an elegant soup. Elegant in a comforting way. Like Princess Diana. If she had a soup, it would be this one.

Cauliflower, Rosemary, and Oyster Chowder with Apple Garnish
For the elegant and comforting women of the world, with admiration

2 cups cauliflower florets
Leaves from a sprig of rosemary
2 T drained capers
2 T olive oil
8 oz shucked oysters in their likker (juice)
½ t butter
¾ cup 2% milk or half-and-half, divided
½ Granny Smith apple, seeded

Steam the cauliflower florets in a little water until translucent.

Pulse capers, rosemary, olive oil in food processor until blended. Add steamed cauliflower, butter, and ½ cup of milk and process until creamy.

Add cauliflower mixture to a pot on low heat and add oysters in their liquid, as well as the rest of the milk. Heat slowly until the soup reaches desired temperature, about 8-10 minutes. Stir often.

Dice Granny Smith apple with skin on into 1” chunks and pulse in food processor until apple is in small chunks.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a tablespoon of apples. Drizzle with walnut oil if desired.

Serves 2.

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