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The Bend Magazine

The Flavor of the Sea Served on the Half-Shell

01/09/2021 05:40PM ● By Kayla Butts
By: Justin and Kayla Butts  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

Some flavors are too good, too pure, too clean to cover up. They just need a little help to unlock their secrets. Oysters have wonderful secrets.

Oysters, despite their rugged appearance, are really quite delicate. They live in beds scattered along the floor of the sea. Seawater flows continuously through oysters in rolling, receding, and advancing tides. If the water is too cold, too salty, or not salty enough, the oysters cannot live.

If there are heavy rains up in the Hill Country, hundreds of miles away, the rivers will fill and flood eventually into our bays along the coast. We may not see a drop of rain in e Bend for six months, but the surge of freshwater can kill entire oyster beds.

But, when conditions are right, oysters are incredibly resilient. A single oyster can filter up to fifty gallons of seawater per day, cleansing and purifying the ocean. It is one of the miracles of nature that oysters, by doing so much good for the environment, become so delicious as a result.

Oysters are rich in zinc, calcium, iron, and selenium. The metallic taste of oysters comes from these healthy minerals of the sea. Oysters are also rich in protein and vitamin B12. The tiny oyster, with its. intense and unusual flavor, is also a powerhouse of nutrition.

If you prefer your oysters raw, icy-cold, served on the half-shell in their own juices, finished with a crisp white wine, we salute you. If you don’t take your oysters raw, or if you want to elevate the flavors to another level, try this simple preparation.

For thousands of years, hardworking folks waded into the water and harvested their oysters by hand, then cooked them in their shells over a  fire. Fire is still the best way to unlock an oyster’s flavors. Two minutes on the grill, and they are ready.

A simple garlic-butter sauce accentuates the flavor of the sea in oysters. We added chives and edible flowers from blooming bok choy. These beautiful yellow flowers have a light, fruity, almost peppery flavor to balance the brininess of the liquid.

The central ingredient of our slaw changes to reflect the harvest of our gardens. In the. beginning of the year, our slaw features Scarlet Bor kale, Late Flat Dutch cabbage, Danver’s Half-Long carrots, and other freshly-picked vegetables. You can find these ingredients in your garden or at one of the many local farmers’ markets.

Oysters are a gift  from the sea, but they are also a gift  to the sea. They cleanse the surging tides and hold their secrets in their shells, to be opened at your table, and revealed in wave upon wave of flavor. 

Grilled Oysters with Garlic Butter 

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes 

Cook time: 5 minutes



2 dozen whole oysters 

6 tbsp unsalted butter 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes


Preheat grill to medium-high. Scrub oysters with a coarse bristle brush under cool running water. Discard any oysters that are open. Place the oysters at side down on the grill. Close the lid to the grill and heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove oysters from heat and set aside.

Shuck any oysters that did not open during the cooking process using a flathead screwdriver. Using a knife, separate the oyster muscle from the shell. Serve oysters on the half shell with garlic butter.

Garlic Butter: In a small saucepan, heat butter over low heat. Once butter is mostly melted, add garlic, salt and pepper. Cook an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly. Serve warm, spooned onto grilled oysters. Top with minced chives and edible flowers. 

Kale Slaw 

Serves 6

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 10 minutes 


3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of one lemon (about 2 tbsp)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 tbsp honey

1 cup kale, shredded

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup cabbage, shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins


Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread sunflower seeds on a baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg yolk well. Slowly drizzle olive oil into egg yolk and whisk well to incorporate. Continue to add olive oil a little at a time while whisking mixture, until a mayonnaise consistency is reached. Add lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, poppy seeds and honey to egg mixture.

In a large bowl, combine kale, carrots, and cabbage, fold in prepared poppy seed dress- ing, golden raisins, and reserved sunflower seeds. Serve with grilled oysters (also great with fish or barbecue).