June 05, 2012

A Taste of the Islands: Blood Orange Basil Mojito & Rosemary Skewered Shrimp with Herb Aioli

Oceana is a fine dining restaurant set on the seaside patio of a historic house in Frenchtown. The property where Villa Olga stands has a long and varied history. It was settled by the first Danish Governor of St. Thomas, Jurgen Iversen, in 1672-1679. The name of the estate differed from "Dybbel, Dyppel, to Dopple."

This name was believed to be Iversen's nickname. Oral history has it that he built a dyke in the channel to Hassel Island (Hassles are The Gourmet Girl, Elaine Giammetta's family) so as to extend his holdings.

The estate went through many owners during the 18th century and its name was changed to Altona and Welsgunst. It seems to have been a livestock type of estate with sugar and vegetable cultivation. At this time the Public or Western Cemeteries were founded on lands of the estate. In 1821, it was owned by one Abraham Helm who deeded a piece of the estate to the Moravian Church and the St. Thomas Synagogue, both for cemeteries. In 1894 the Russian Consul Theodor Brondsted bought what was left of the estate, including the Villa and the cisterns for $12,000 from the Helm descendants. He renamed the estate Villa Olga and it was used as the Russian Embassy for the next nine years. It was then sold to a Mrs. Petersen in 1904. It went through several owners and names before its present use as an outdoor restaurant.

The main house is thought to date from the 1850's, but there is evidence of earlier foundations dating back to the early 18th century. It has thick rubble walls to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. The doors and windows have wooden hurricane shutters and are trimmed with brick brought over from Scotland as ballast. It has decorative tile work on the welcoming arms of the staircase at the entrance and the surrounding galleries. The galleries are a typical West Indian feature to help shade the house from the tropical heat, and catch the trade-winds. The house was badly damaged by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, and has been lovingly restored and renovated and is now open to the public as a fine restaurant.
Executive Chef Patricia Lacorte is a Cordon Bleu trained chef with over 20 years experience creating exciting, passion driven, award winning food in the Caribbean. She has received accolades from Vogue, N.Y. Times, Bon Appetit, Caribbean Travel and Life, N.Y. Post, Gourmet Magazine. Chef de Cuisine Jennifer Litwin is a culinary graduate from Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island. She's been cooking in the Caribbean for three years now and has received lots of culinary accolades. Here are two great recipes courtesy of Patricia & Jennifer. Enjoy!

Blood Orange Basil Mojito with Sugar Cane Swizzle Stick

Basil Infused Simple Syrup
1 c. Granulated sugar
1/2 c. Water
1/2 c. Basil fresh leaves well-washed & packed into measure 
Place the sugar and the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the syrup from the heat, and add the basil leaves to the saucepan. Allow the syrup to sit for at least 1 hour before straining through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard the basil leaves. Store the syrup in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks.

To assemble Mojito
5 Mint leaves
5 Basil leaves
½ oz. Basil infused simple syrup – recipe follows
3 oz. Blood orange puree
3 oz. Cruzan Estate Light Rum
Club soda 
In a tall glass, gently muddle the mint and basil with the simple syrup. Add the blood orange puree and rum. Fill with ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a sugar cane swizzle stick. Look for canned sugarcane in syrup at Asian markets - drain the sugarcane & cut it into lengthwise sticks with a sharp knife. Sugarcane swizzle sticks are also available in the fruit department of many large supermarkets.

 Rosemary Skewered Shrimp with Herb Aioli

2 dozen U-15 Shrimp, shelled and de-veined

The Marinade
1 dozen Fresh rosemary stalks
6 T Extra virgin olive oil
6 Garlic cloves - minced
Juice of 4 lemons
2 t. Rosemary - chopped
Salt & pepper

Herb Aioli
2 Garlic cloves – minced ¼ c. Basil – chop fine
2 Egg yolks ¼ c. Parsley – chop fine
1 t. Dijon mustard ¼ c. Chives – chop fine
1 T. Lemon juice 2 c. Blended oil
In a blender, blend the garlic, egg yolks, mustard & lemon juice. When fully incorporated, slowly add the oil blending continuously until thick. Fold in the herbs.

Tomato Oil

2 Roma tomatoes
¾ c. Blended oil
Blend the tomatoes and oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Poach the shrimp in a court bouillon (water bath of lemon juice, salt, pepper, bay leaves, carrots, celery). In a small bowl, mix well – olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, salt & pepper. Marinate the shrimp for at least 4 hours.Skewer the shrimp on rosemary stems – 2 shrimp to a stem.

Place 2 skewers on each plate overlapping. Fill small ramekin with aioli & drizzle plate with tomato oil.

Next time you are in St. Thomas, stop by and enjoy an awesome meal overlooking the CharlotteAmalie Harbor and Hassel Island. Oh and tell them the Gourmet Guy sent you! Until then, enjoy this wonderful combo at your next outdoor gathering!

Bon Appetit,


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