Morro Bay Pacific Gold Oysters with Melon and Cucumber Water
This easy recipe comes from Kirk Sowell, owner of two Morro Bay restaurants--Miss Lola's SouthSide Grill and Frankie & Lola's Front Street Cafe. He developed it especially to highlight the cucumber-melon flavors of Pacific Gold oysters. He uses Ha-Ogen and Ambrosia melons, and cilantro microgreens, but they're a little hard to find; honeydew, cantaloupe, and regular cilantro are fine too.
Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb restaurant in San Francisco is known for adventurous dishes like this one, a meet-up of mild grilled calamari (squid), fresh produce, and exciting seasonings. He grills the calamari over almond wood plus regular charcoal briquets; for the home cook, he recommends easy-to-find mesquite hardwood charcoal. To make the dish as fiery as Cosentino likes it, use 2 tbsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, and don’t seed the serrano chile.
Grilling watermelon adds a smoky note to the fruit and gives it a slightly meaty texture that matches well with shrimp. Cooking takes only a couple of minutes, so have both sets of skewers ready before you start. You'll need 12 flat metal skewers (12 in. long) or 18 skewers (8 in. long)—or use bamboo skewers of the same size, soaked in water for 30 minutes.
Getting a flavor bomb of a melon is partly about choosing a great variety but always about knowing when it’s ripe. Here’s our cheat sheet for the supermarket or farmers’ market.
Cantaloupe. Summer’s standard melon can be exceptional if you go for fragrance, well-developed netting over a tan (not green) background color, and an indention at the stem end, indicating it was picked ripe.
Ambrosia. Delicate-tasting, extra-sweet hybrid with pale orange flesh. Look for the same ripeness clues as for cantaloupe, but with a fine netting.
Charentais. Smooth-skinned, green-striped variety from France with perfumed, deep-orange flesh. The best have a heady aroma and grey-green rind turning light yellow.
Ha’Ogen. Luscious, juicy, and tropical, with green flesh; originally from Hungary and Israel. Look for yellow peel between the green stripes, and a rich aroma.
Galia. A pale green-fleshed Israeli hybrid related to Ha’Ogen but a little crisper; sweet and spicy. Melons ripen to deep yellow outside.
Sharlyn. Soft-textured with pale yellow flesh and tropical flavor and aroma. The netted, dark green rind matures to yellow or orange.