I should probably finally learn how to shuck oysters

Hello and welcome to Messy Kitchen, a new Sunday series I’m doing where I’ll highlight three to four things I ate that week, along with mini essays, recipes, and other fun stuff like playlists and reading recommendations. I can pair anything with food.

These dishes will sometimes be things I’ve made, sometimes prepackaged snacks from the supermarket, sometimes things made for me, sometimes things eaten. Just like I run my kitchen at home, there are very few rules. I will try to occasionally take beautiful, ambitious photos. But I’m far from a food content creator, even though I admire and follow many of them. If this series is meant to be an honest look at the way I prepare and eat food, then it can’t be done too skillfully, at least not all the time. Every once in a while I know a thing or two about plating and staging/framing the staging of my table.

Think of this like those TikToks/Reels of What I Eat in a Day/Week but instead of a video, a written word and instead of carefully curated and elegant, curated chaotically and inelegantly. Yes, I have an aesthetic and aesthetics are a mess. It’s sloppy corners and spilled sauce and oil-stained tablecloth. Dig inside.

Summer Sunset Salad (Beetroot, Stone Fruit, Tomato & Greek Yogurt)

a salad of sliced ​​beets, sliced ​​plumcots and tomatoes on Greek yogurt

Of course, after all that preamble, I’m now presenting what is hands down the coolest thing I’ve done in months. It was actually one of the first things I’ve made in my kitchen in months period. I took a long break from cooking the longest in a while when my brain was too static to trust things that can burn. When I started again, I kept things simple, not so much cooking as organizing, a task that seemed easily achievable. Low risk, high reward. This was a perfect summer salad and so quick to make! It could easily impress on a date or dinner despite being extremely simple. Here is my recipe for what I call the Summer Sunset Salad:

1 package Trader Joe’s steamed and peeled beets, cut into crescents
1 individual serving of natural Greek yogurt
2 plumcots, cut into crescents
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
2-3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped or torn (I prefer torn my herbs)
All bagel seasoning

Distribute the yoghurt on a plate and then arrange the beets, plumcotte and tomatoes as you like! I went with a sunset-inspired design, but you really can make it however you want. Then garnish with fresh dill and dressing. Serve with a large spoon.

I got all these ingredients from Trader Joe’s, which turned out to be very affordable. Their ready-steamed and peeled beets are divine! I love beets, but working with them raw is a very messy job, and while yes, I like a mess in the kitchen, I also like the convenience of it once in a while. Most prepackaged beets you come across at the grocery store are pickled, which isn’t quite the right flavor profile for this particular summer salad (although I’m happy to recommend a pickled beet salad in a future installment of this series). I heard Costco also sells pre-cooked peeled beets. You can replace plumcots with any stone fruit and I recommend using fruit that is not overripe so that it maintains a firm texture similar to beets. You could get even more colorful with this one by using a mix of different colored cherry tomatoes. And you could easily replace the Everything dressing with your favorite favorite seasoning. This would also work with some chopped walnuts, but I did this last minute with things I already had on hand and unfortunately I didn’t have any nuts other than almonds, which I don’t think would have the same effect.

Mozzarella and Marinara Sticks, Nettuno Diner

mozzarella and marinara sticks in a small bowl

These mozzarella sticks were good, but I wish they were better.

I’ve written about them before sort of. I once graded every mozzarella stick I ate, a project that started out as a badly written piece of humor but morphed into something else entirely. A kind of eulogy, for a relationship and the mozzarella sticks I was walking away from. My beloved mozzarella sticks belonged to Neptune Diner II in Brooklyn, and my sister and I always said we had to go to the original Neptune Diner in Astoria, but we never did. Finally, this summer, I went to Neptune Diner THE FIRST with my best friend, who lives nearby. TOeight in the morning, I ordered these mozzarella sticks as an accompaniment to my traditional diner breakfast. It was a day full of firsts: my first trip to Neptune Diner I, my first morning mozzarella sticks, my first glass of sherry had many hours later at El Pingino in Greenpoint, which I highly recommend, especially for happy hour.

The mozzarella sticks were good, but they weren’t what I remembered. This could be attributed, perhaps, to a difference in ingredients between Neptune Diner II and its older sister. But more likely that’s because the setting I usually enjoyed these mozzarella sticks in wasn’t at breakfast before work, but rather within minutes of hopping out of a car on my way home after hanging out at the cafe with friends, my commute home was perfectly timed with the delivery guy blasting my buzzer. I once ate these mozzarella sticks so fast I burned my whole mouth. So when I sent my sister a picture of these breakfast mozz sticks, she promptly wrote:did you burn your mouth?

In a way I wish I had.

Oysters with salmon roe and crème frache

oysters topped with salmon roe and creme fraiche

When my friend James prepares food for my group of friends in Orlando, it feels like something out of a Nora Ephron novel or a Nancy Meyers movie. He and his girlfriend Alicia are some of the most generous people he has ever met when it comes to drinking and dining with their friends. The nights at their house are a whirlwind of cured meats, grilled meat, fresh fish, sauces that lasted all day. Sometimes we celebrate something specific, sometimes we get together for no real reason. Each time it is a sumptuous event with many courses, many homemade dressings and many drinks, often mixed with love and fire by our friend Kristopher. I expect these dinners to feature a lot in this series; they are a perfect contained snow globe of everything I love about food: community, connection, personal histories and histories, good smells and good tastes, sure, but good company above all else.

At the most recent gathering, there was the usual massive spread of intricate dishes. This was the simplest one but the one that stuck on my tongue long after. Raw oysters, shucked with impressive effort by James and topped with juicy salmon roe pearls, a dollop of crème frache and a squeeze of lemon. This is like candy to me. Salty, creamy, decadent. I could have eaten three dozen. I should probably finally learn how to shuck oysters. My fiancée Kristen got me a fancy oyster knife for Christmas. But it’s also nice to see someone else sneaking around. It’s rough and tiring work for such a delicate bounty.

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#finally #learn #shuck #oysters
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