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Archive for 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: Ice Cream Toppings Beyond The Usual

Most of us use particular condiments on foods out of habit. The convention differs among countries.

  • Americans might use steak sauce while Argentinians use chimichurri.
  • In the U.S., it’s maple syrup that goes on top of pancakes. In Eastern Europe and elsewhere it’s jam, in the U.K. it’s golden syrup, a.k.a. light treacle, a thick, amber-colored inverted sugar syrup that looks like honey, without honey’s distinctive flavor notes.
  •  
    Ice cream toppings around the world vary as well.

  • In the U.S., sweet sauces and whipped cream rule (photo #1).
  • In Japan, you might go for red bean sauce, mochi bits, gelatin and more (photo #2).
  •  
    On the last day of National Ice Cream Month (July), we went on an adventure by looking around the kitchen to see what we could put on ice cream, beyond our standard inventory of chocolate and caramel sauces.

    You can have the same adventure. Look beyond those and the other usual sauces (butterscotch, peanut butter, raspberry) or garnishes (candies, cookies, fruit, nuts), to what you may logically not think of.

    We invited some friends and a few quarts of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, to pair with our atypical ice cream toppings. We also found some “matching garnishes” and made a sundae event of it all.
     
    WHAT WE FOUND IN OUR KITCHEN

    BIRCH SYRUP, which has similar uses as maple syrup (more about it). Garnish: Corn Flakes.

    CHOPPED VEGETABLES, like raw corn kernels and sugar snap peas. We tried a mix of raw corn, popcorn and crunchy Inca corn kernels (like Corn Nuts), and had a heck of a corn sundae. These were the garnishes; we topped the ice cream with some golden syrup. If only we could have found some corn ice cream (recipe #1 and recipe #2).

    COCONUT SYRUP, a popular pancake syrup and sweetener in Hawaii. Toss on some flaked coconut.

    DATE SYRUP, called silan in Arabic, which refers to what we would call date honey, date molasses or date syrup. Garnishes: chopped dates and other dried fruits.

     

    Hot Fudge Sundae
    [1] Fudge, caramel, whipped cream and a cherry on top (photo courtesy Morton’s).

    Japanese Sundae

    [2] Red beans, marshmallows, gelatin, and more in Japan (photo courtesy Sumally).

     
    FLAVORED SALT, a few crunchy grains as garnish on top of the ice cream. We have a lot of these salts, from smoked salt to flavored salts (matcha, truffle, etc.). We’re glad to have another use for them (more about them). Especially nice with honey and maple syrup.

    GOLDEN SYRUP, the pancake syrup of choice in the U.K., also used on ice cream (more about it). Garnish: anything you want.

    HONEY: Plain honey is fine, but we loved using our flavored honeys (chile, cinnamon, lavender). Garnish: fresh fruit.

    LIGHT MOLASSES, a.k.a. sweet molasses, also used as pancake syrup or a sweetener, especially in the south and other areas that had no maple trees. Garnish: anything.

    MAPLE SYRUP: We used a walnut and raisin garnish. Trail mix works, too. And those crunchy Corn Flakes.

    OLIVE OIL: Mild or grassy olive oils (link) make a delightful drizzle. Top with some crunchy sea salt.

    PIE FILLING: No extra garnish is required, but we threw on some granola.

    SIMPLE SYRUP, the flavored syrups used at coffee shops to make your hazelnut (or other flavor) latte. Garnish: anything you like.

    SPICES: cayenne, chipotle powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. For richer flavor, toast the spices in a hot dry pan until they release their aroma.
     
     
    Does this sound strange to you?

    We had such a good time, we’re going to do it again, with other flavors of ice cream.

      

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    RECIPE: Blueberry Pie With Purple Crust

    Blueberry Pie

    Blueberry Pie
    [1] and [2] Have some fun with your pie crusts (photo courtesy Dulce Delight).

    Carton Of Blueberries
    [3] You can make the crust in different colors (photo courtesy Balducci’s).

    Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter

    [4] Vermont Creamery’s European-Style Butter has 86% butterfat, compared to 80% with most supermarket brands (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    We came across this purple crust on the website of Vermont Creamery, producers of some of the most splendid goat cheese and butter on earth.

    The colored crust, by Raiza Costa of the Dulce Delight online video series, is a “first” for us, excepting green bagels and donuts for St. Patrick’s Day and some very festive rainbow churros for Pride Week.

    RECIPE: RAIZA COSTA’S PURPLE PIE CRUST

    The crust becomes purple by adding food color to the water used to make the dough; the dough is made in a food processor. A food processor breaks up the cold butter more quickly and evenly. Raiza also recommends the highest-fat butter possible, and uses the 86% fat cultured butter from Vermont Creamery.

    Raiza uses her own homemade food color; here’s her article on how to make different food colors. But you can use a commercial food color like McCormick’s, in a proportion of 10 drops red to 5 drops blue; or a purple paste/gel.

    To thicken a fruit filling, Raiza prefers potato starch over flour or cornstarch.

    Here’s her video.
     
    Ingredients For A Nine-Inch Pie

    For The Crust

  • 3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the crust
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 17 tablespoons highest fat* unsalted butter (2 sticks + 1 tablespoon, or 240g), cut into even pieces
  • 6–8 tablespoons cold water or cold
  • Natural food coloring (e.g. blackberry juice) or other food coloring
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 2 pints fresh blueberries (4 cups, 30 ounces or 850g), washed and patted dry
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of nutmeg and pinch of allspice (substitute cinnamon, fresh grated from a cinnamon stick)
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  •  
    ________________
    *Look for European Style butter, such as the 86% cultured butter from Vermont Creamery. Commercial butter in the U.S. is 80%. More fat means creamier mouthfeel and moister crust.
    ________________
    Preparation

    1. MIX the flour, sugar and salt and add to a food processor.

    2. ADD the butter and pulse one second at a time until you see crumbs the size of the pea; stop processing.

    3. ADD the food coloring and spread the color through the dough, but do not overwork (overworked dough gets tough and is less flaky). Divide the dough into 2 balls, flatten and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. While the dough chills…

    4. MAKE the filling. Combine the blueberries, sugar and spices in a large bowl with the lemon juice and zest; blend and then stir in the potato starch.

     

    5. PREPARE the lattice top on a parchment sheet. Spank the dough, then roll out to a 10″ round for a 9″ pie pan. Cut into even stripes with a ruler. LIFT every other stripe, then place the alternative stripes horizontally, threading them in and out (see the video). You can do this ahead of time and freeze the lattice until you need it. It keeps its shape when place it on top of the pie and peel off the parchment.

    6. ROLL the bottom crust over a rolling pin and roll it out over the pie plate; try not to use too much flour. Carefully pat down the bottom and sides. Add the filling and cover with pats of butter.

    7. LAY the lattice over the filling and butter pats, and roll the edges of the bottom crust to crimp together with the top crust. Refrigerate.

    8. PREHEAT the oven to 500°F. Place the pie on the bottom rack and lower the heat to 425°F. Once the crust gets golden brown which is hard to see on a purple crust), lower the heat to 327°F and bake approximately 35 minutes until the filling bubbles.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Fried Green Tomatoes & Savory French Toast With Tomatoes

    We haven’t read the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe.

    But in the film, while green tomatoes are fried up, we (a northerner and fan of heirloom tomatoes) missed a technical point.

    We didn’t realize that the green tomatoes were fried because they were not yet ripe. Plucked off the vine green (photo #2) and dredged in cornmeal, they were a treat.

    We initially thought that they were Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes (photo #1).

    So, tomato growers: Take some of your green guys and fry them up! (And those who want to know more about Green Zebra tomatoes: Here it is.)

    Fried green tomatoes are typically served as a side dish; in the South, with fried chicken. We enjoy them with grilled chicken and fish. We’ve been adding them to grilled cheese sandwiches, too, and highly recommend it.

    When fresh red tomatoes aren’t great—which is the case for much of the year—fry them up and add to green salads.

    McCormick serves fried green tomatoes with buttermilk chipotle dressing, or topped with lump crabmeat and Creole mustard—a nice first course.

    Ready to fry some green tomatoes?

    RECIPE #1: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

    This is the classic southern recipe (photo #3): buttermilk, cornmeal and green tomatoes (photo #2).

    Use a heavy skillet. Some recipes we’ve read recommend the even heat of an electric skillet.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh parsley or basil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the egg and buttermilk; set aside.

    2. COMBINE 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, the cornmeal, salt, and pepper, in a shallow bowl or pan.

    3. DREDGE the tomato slices in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Dip in the egg mixture and dredge in cornmeal mixture.

    4. ADD the oil to a large cast-iron skillet, to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Heat it to 375°F.

    5. DROP the tomatoes, in batches, into the hot oil. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or on a rack.

    6. SPRINKLE the hot tomatoes with salt, if desired. (We served flaky salt on the table.)
    ________________

    *Some recipes add bacon grease. If you have it, substitute three tablespoons bacon grease for an equal amount of oil.
    ________________
     
     
    RECIPE #2: SAVORY FRENCH TOAST WITH TOMATO SALAD

    Don’t want to fry your tomatoes? Then treat yourself to the gourmet’s green tomatoes: Green Zebras (photos #1 and #6), in a tomato salad.

    And, use the salad as a garnish for French Toast. Save the maple syrup for post-tomato-season.

    Look for Green Zebras in farmers markets. The season is fleeting, so enjoy as many of these (and other heirloom tomatoes) as you can.

       

    Green Zebra Tomatoes
    [1] Heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes, which remain green when ripe, are not meant to be fried, but to be enjoyed raw (photo courtesy Rare Seeds).

    Green Tomato On Vine
    [2] Green tomatoes that have not yet ripened to red are used to make fried green tomatoes (photo courtesy Chrissi Nerantzi | SXC).

    Fried Green Tomatoes
    [3] Cornmeal + tomatoes + skillet = fried green tomatoes (photo and recipe courtesy McCormick).

    Fried Green Tomatoes With Crab Meat

    [4] A first course: fried green tomatoes with lump crab and mustard sauce. Here’s the recipe from McCormick.

     

    Savory French Toast Recipe
    [5] Top French Toast with a green tomato salad (photo courtesy Quinciple).

    Green Zebra Tomatoes
    [6] Use Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes for a salad…including atop French Toast.

    Monte Cristo Sandwich

    [7] Monte Cristo sandwich (photo courtesy Kikkoman).

     

    This recipe is actually a grilled cheese hybrid. Instead of brushing bread with butter before grilling, the bread is dipped in “French Toast” batter: eggs and milk. Serve it for breakfast or lunch.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 3-4 dashes hot sauce
  • 4 thick slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 slices cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or any good melting cheese—we used gruyère)
  • 2 green or heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • ½ tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot or red onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the eggs, milk, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl. Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture on both sides until fully coated and set aside.

    2. HEAT the butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the bread slices, cooking until golden brown. Flip the bread and cook on the other side until golden brown and cooked through.

    3. TURN off the heat and top each slice with some cheese; cover the pan to let the cheese melt. Meanwhile…

    4. TOSS together the tomatoes, parsley, chives, olive oil, vinegar, shallot and seasoning to taste. Divide the French Toast between two plates and top with the tomato salad.
     
    MORE SAVORY FRENCH TOAST RECIPES
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST

    The dish known in America as French Toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. In fact, pain perdu (lost bread), the current French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, or Roman bread.

    While the story evolved that French Toast was a food of the poor, trying to scrape together a meal from stale bread—and that may also be true—recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.

     
    Recipes used white bread, a luxury affordable only by the rich, with the crusts cut off. Poor people ate brown bread, which was much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create the vastly more expensive white flour.

    (That’s right: The more nutritious whole grain brown bread was looked down on as food for the poor. To the thinking of the time, white bread was more “pure” and “elegant.” The same pattern was true in Asia, with white rice for the rich and brown rice for the poor.)

    When the wealthy discovered how tasty the dish was, costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk appeared in the batter of numerous recipes. The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar.

    Thus attests old cookbooks. Cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and the clergy learned to read.

    More recently, French Toast has evolved into a savory sandwich, the Monte Cristo. It is an evolution of the croque-monsieur, a crustless sandwich of ham and Gruyère cheese, buttered and lightly browned on both sides in a skillet or under a broiler.

    The Croque-Monsieur was invented in Paris in 1910. A variation with a baked egg on top is called a Croque-Madame. Neither sandwich was battered, like French Toast.

    The Monte Cristo sandwich (photo #7), a triple-decker sandwich, battered and pan-fried, was invented at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. According to the L.A. Times, the first recipe in print is in the Brown Derby Cookbook, published in 1949.

    Here’s the recipe so you can try it for lunch—although probably not on the same day you have French Toast for breakfast.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Crudités & The History Of The Relish Tray

    When we were in college, we first learned that our grandmother’s “relish tray” snacks—carrots, celery sticks, radishes, olives—could be elevated to something our friend Carolyn—who had spent her junior year abroad in Paris—called crudités.

    At a dinner one day, she served what we now know as an crudités plate, artfully cut and arranged.

    The French, she said, turned raw vegetables of every description into a platter of vegetables that are a visual delight.

    There was no creamy dip, but a vinaigrette with minced fresh herbs.

    We fell hard for crudités and have prepared them for company ever since.

    In the summer, we go for whatever we can find in the farmers market: heirloom cherry tomatoes, red carrots, purple and orange cauliflower, quartered Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes (pr any good-looking heirloom variety)….

    But to give credit where credit is due, our contemporary, seasonal crudités plate began with the now-retro relish tray.

    HISTORY OF THE RELISH TRAY

    People in the earliest civilizations no doubt ate raw vegetables, perhaps with a condiment dip—olive oil? garum? tahini?

    But what was stood for a relish tray in Colonial America were dishes of actual relishes—corn relish, cranberry sauce, pickle relish, etc.—served with meals as condiments for the meats.

    Over time, the definition of “relish” expanded. By 1923, The Encyclopedia Of Food by Artemas Ward defined relishes as “a term flexibly applied to pickles, small fish variously preserved, and a number of other dishes intended to stimulate appetite.”

    The relish tray had become a variety of tidbits arranged on a platter. It was a small course before dinner—with drinks when entertaining and holiday and other special family meals.

    The Refrigerator Spurs Development

    But it wasn’t until the 1930s, with the advent of home refrigerators, that relish trays became a mainstay. Says a 1988 article in the Chicago Tribune, “It didn’t take Better Homes and Gardens long to figure out that cooks could prepare small batches of pickles and relishes well ahead of dinnertime and store them.”

    The magazine featured recipes for pickled carrot sticks and cranberry relish. They taught housewives to create their own pickles, instead of buying them from the barrel at the corner store.

    These ideas came from the home economists—Fanny Farmer started as one—women cooks, schooled in nutrition and the home arts. They worked in the background at women’s magazines, brand manufacturers and cookbook publishers, to devise and test recipes to make housewives’ cooking more interesting.

    They developed the recipes printed on the package labels, and featured in brand advertisements—recipes that housewives eagerly sought and prepared. Recipes that became iconic, from seven layer dip to Key lime pie. Green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup from the soup manufacturer. How to use grape jelly for a sauce, from the jelly manufacturer. Velveta and Ro-tel dip. And on and on.

    At some point, no doubt, a home economist put together the ingredients for the relish trays of the 1940s.

    The Iconic Relish Tray Evolves

    By the 1940s, relish trays made of silver or cut glass were standard in dining-room china cabinets [source]. Our Nana, a very proper lady. had two: a rectangular boat shape, and a round plate divided into pie-shaped sections, to even more elegantly separate the tidbits. (We still have both of those plates, albeit “stored away somewhere.”)

    By then, the “modern” relish tray ingredients had become somewhat standard. These were decades to conform, not to seek creative alternatives. The relish tray of the day included:

  • Carrot sticks.
  • Celery sticks, often stuffed with cream cheese or, for the true gourmet, olive cream cheese and pimento cream cheese.
  • Olives; for the deluxe treatment, both black pitted and green stuffed with pimento.
  • Radishes, carved into roses by elegant cooks like Nana.
  • Sweet gherkins.
  •  

    Summer Crudites
    Summer crudités from the seasonal bounty. You don’t have to cook the corn: Raw corn is delicious (photo courtesy Good Food Kitchen).

    Everydaty Crudite Plate
    An everyday crudités plate before dinner.

    Relish Tray
    Then: An old-fashioned relish tray (photo Pinterest).

    Crudites With Pimento Cheese

    [4] Now: Crudités in an interesting presentation with pimento cheese at 33 Greenwich | NYC. We also like to serve them in baskets.

     
    Perhaps these nibbles did “stimulate the appetite;” but we came to see them as food that could be prepared in advance and set out, while Nana and her fellow housewives hustled to get the first course on the table. It was fare to enjoy with drinks and social talk until all participants had arrived.

    By the 1950s, when the American restaurant culture became mainstream, the relish tray was placed on the table along with the bread and butter: a way to satisfy the hungry diners before their orders arrived. “At home, however,” says the Chicago Tribune, “the relish-tray tradition began to decline.” We entered the era of frozen food, and no one manufactured a frozen relish tray.

    But by 1970, California cuisine was on the rise. We began to eat raw vegetables beyond carrots, celery and radishes.

    Hello raw broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green beans, sugar snap peas, zucchini. Throw in some salad ingredients: bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumber.

    And that’s what we were serving, when we learned about crudités.

    (Might we note that along with the raw vegetable tray came creamy dips: the onion dip on the soup package label, the spinach dip on the frozen spinach package, the artichoke dip on the sour cream package label…).

    Since then, we’ve learned to eat seasonally. And we just love raw corn, purple broccoli and heirloom tomatoes and yellow squash as summer crudités.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Jackson Pollock Your Plates

    Green Sauce Drips
    [1] A drip of basil oil, at Botanica | LA, dripped from a spoon (we use a teaspoon). Place your protein on top, or first add another color.

    Pollock - Green & Yellow
    [2] An actual Jackson Pollock painting.

    Dessert Plate
    [3] Sorbet and poached fruit with whipped cream from Matthew Kinney Cuisine. Fling the whipped cream above the plate with a spoon, then layer the dessert on top of it.

    Cucumber Rolls

    [4] A cucumber roll appetizer—not the most glamorous fare—gets sophistication from a splash of sauce, flung from a spoon above the plate. From Matthew Kinney Cuisine.

     

    This plate, covered with drips of house-infused basil oil from Botanica LA, inspired us to layer sauces like Jackson Pollock dripped and layered his paints.

    For almost two decades, creative chefs have been dripping, splashing, dotting, smearing, swirling and zigzagging sauces on the plate before adding the food, both savory and sweet.

    Today’s tip is to apply the sauce or condiment of the dish to the plate first, instead of spooning it on top of the protein or dessert.

    While photo #1 shows a one-color drip, you can use different colors for other layers., use a squeeze bottle on others (best for dots, swirls and zigzags).

    The world may be your oyster*, but the plate is your canvas.
     
     
    DRIPPING TIPS

    1. Match both the colors and flavors to your dish. You may want something pink, but does Russian dressing go with your scallops? (Maybe it does?)

    2. Limit yourself too three colors and space them out. When you layer too much, you’ll get a plate resembling photo #2.

    3. Use sauces or condiments with texture. The thinnest condiments don’t work. For example, teriyaki sauce, unless it’s reduced, will not keep its shape on the plate. Tabasco may not work but gochuchang will. Fresh salsa has too much texture to be used for plate painting, but many brands of pasteurized (shelf-stable) salsas are just right.

    4. Experiment with different tools. Pollock used a brush; you can use silicone basting or pastry brushes. A squeeze bottle is your friend. To make a splash like photos #3 and #4, put the sauce on a spoon and fling it onto the plate from above.

    Watch this video: You’ll love what you see—and don’t worry about the “Make Sushi” logo at the beginning. There’s no sushi involved.
     
     
    SAVORY “DRIP” SAUCES & CONDIMENTS

  • Beige: horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, peanut butter/peanut sauce, tahini
  • Black/brown: balsamic glaze, reduced teriyaki sauce or Worcestershire sauce
  • Green: basil oil, chimichurri, guacamole (thinned), hot sauce, olive oil, wasabi mayonnaise
  • Orange: chile mayonnaise, creamy chipotle sauce, yum yum sauce
  • Pink: pasta sauce lightened with cream or yogurt, Russian dressing
  • Red: barbecue sauce, chili sauce, cocktail sauce, gochuchang hot sauce, ketchup, salsa (from jar)
  • White: ranch dressing, sour cream, yogurt
  • Yellow: mustard, nut oils
  •  
    You can make a vegetable coulis or purée in any color you need; for example, orange bell pepper for a bright orange purée, or purple bell pepper for a purple sauce.

    The difference between the coulis and purée is that a coulis is strained for a finer sauce with no seeds. Here’s more about it.
     
     
    SWEET “DRIP” SAUCES & CONDIMENTS

  • Beige: hard sauce, peanut butter sauce
  • Black/brown: balsamic glaze, chocolate sauce or syrup, nutella, sterling sauce
  • Green: lime curd, mint sauce
  • Orange/amber: maple syrup, orange curd
  • Red: raspberry or strawberry sauce, syrup or curd
  • White: homemade whipped cream, white chocolate sauce
  • Yellow: butterscotch, caramel sauce or syrup, crème anglaise, custard sauce, honey, lemon sauce, sabayon
  •  
    As with vegetables, you can make a fruit coulis or purée in any color you need; e.g., kiwi purée for a green sauce, mango purée for an orange sauce.

    Another option: melted ice cream in your color of choice. We discovered this years ago, when we accidentally placed a pint of mango sorbet in the fridge instead of the freezer.

    Ready to have fun?

    One…two…three: fling! drip! splash!

    ________________

    *The first form of the phrase, “The world is your oyster” first appears in print in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” in a discourse between Falstaff and Pistol, one of his followers:
    Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
    Pistol: Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.

    The interpretation of the phrase is that Pistol will use his sword to steal money, referring to the pearl one finds in an oyster. The phrase evolved to mean that the world is yours to enjoy.

     
      

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