“The Cottage Kitchen: Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside”

Writing about Marte Marie Forsberg’s cookbook during the frigid last week of December 2017, I see snow forecast for Charleston the following week. That’s almost as likely as Forsberg eating oysters in “an American desert town,” yet she does, as you’ll see below — and our weatherman is standing by his prediction, at least for today.

I’ve made a cup of hot chocolate, perfect accompaniment to a book as much for reading as from cooking from, perfect when the setting is rural England, chilly on the hottest of days. Whether you, too, are an armchair traveler, or you’ve resolved to tweak your culinary repertoire, time with Forsberg is well spent. Do not fear that this is a book of bangers and mash. Having lived all over the world, she delivers tomato tarte tatin, risotto Milanese, and crema Catalana as deftly as the prosecco scones for afternoon tea.

Clarkson Potter. $35.

Reach Marion Sullivan at mbscooks@gmail.com.

Oysters With Basil Sauce

Serves 2

“I cried the very first time I had oysters. Seated in an overcrowded restaurant in an American desert town, with dodgy seafood to say the least, my date for the evening persuaded me to order 'fresh' oysters. We spent the evening chatting away like old friends, ingesting with great gusto the open oysters nestled in ice on the table between us. He was tall and charming, a gentleman who read books and studied English literature, and I loved our conversation.

“As we finished the meal, not knowing where to put my hands, I picked up an empty oyster shell from a pile next to my plate, lifted it up close to my face and inhaled the salty smell of the sea. Catching me completely by surprise, tears welled up in my eyes and I let out a high-pitched cry. The expression on my date’s face was priceless —he instantly leaned back with a bewildered frown on his face. I tried to explain, between loud breathing noises as I sobbed into my napkin, that it smelled like home. It had a scent like the soft ocean breeze of our island in Norway. My date and I may have ended up as friends, but my love for oysters had only just begun.” — Marte Marie Forsberg

Ingredients

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons olive oil

A good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Coarsely ground black pepper

8 oysters, shucked (shells reserved) or unschucked

½ lemon, seeded

Directions

In a food processor or blender, blend the basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes and black pepper until smooth. Alternatively, finely chop the basil and whisk it together with the oil, red pepper flakes and black pepper.

You can ask your fishmonger to open the oysters for you, or you can freshly shuck them with a small knife or an oyster shucker. To open them yourself, wrap an oyster in a towel and hold the oyster firmly on a flat surface. Insert the dull tip of an oyster knife between the shell halves where the muscle is located, and gently wiggle the knife to open the oyster, working your way from one side to the other as you pry it open. Once open, run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it from the muscle completely, but leave it in its shell (take care not to cut the meat itself).

Spoon the basil mixture over the oysters, squeeze the lemon on top, and serve immediately.

Reprinted from "The Cottage Kitchen" 2017 by Marte Marie Forsberg. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.