Arugula Salsa Verde

Arugula Salsa Verde: for when you’re living the grilling life of meats and veggies and need to punch them up with something bright and summery. This is muy muy perfect. It’s tangy, spicy, citrusy, and packed with green things to do your body good. You won’t see me sitting down to eat 4 cups of arugula and a bunch of parsley but I will crush this salsa verde, no problem.

We’ve Arugula Salsa Verde’d (it’s a verb, right?) grilled chicken, steak, grilled cauliflower, cauliflower rice, regular rice, baked potatoes… the list could go on and on. This is a summer go-to, great on everything, everyday sauce. And, BTW, the hardest part of this recipe is hauling out the food processor. (This is the one I just got/took from my mom’s house and I love it – the BEST for making quick work of sauces, marinades, cheese-grating, etc.). I’m not even saying to cut the parsley off the stems, just throw them in. Be as lazy as you want, but do take the time to drain those capers because… salty, salty, salty.

ingredients for arugula salsa verde in a food processor, all green and fresh

OK, ready? I’ve seen all manner of ingredients for salsa verde, some with tomatoes, some with cilantro, and so on. This is what I’ve found to be the best combo for my tart-and-spicy-heat-loving taste buds. Arugula, green onions, parsley, jalapeno, garlic, lemon, capers, S & P, olive oil, and you’re done!

a bowl of arugula salsa verde on a cutting board

Drizzle, dash, and slather this business on anything you like this summer and enjoy!

P.S. If you đź’— bright and fresh green sauces, try my favorite spicy basil sauce from this Spicy Caprese Burger recipe!

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Arugula Salsa Verde

a bowl of arugula salsa verde and a spoon on a cutting board

Arugula Salsa Verde: for when you’re living the grilling life of meats and veggies and need to punch them up with something fresh, bright, and summery.

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 7 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 minutes
  • Yield: 1 3/4 C 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 C arugula
  • 1 bunch of parsley (stems, too)
  • 5 green onions, root ends removed
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed and sliced in half
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/2 C olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

A Taste of Authenticity at Vilai Thai Kitchen

Tucked into the shopping center where the Beach Road begins at milepost 2 in Kitty Hawk, Vilai Thai Kitchen has an intimate and special feeling, a little exotic even, with orchids lining the window sills and fresh flowers on each table. It’s a family owned and operated restaurant with Vilai Hammock and her son-in-law, Eric, commanding the woks, along with Yip, a friend from Thailand helping out in the kitchen occasionally. Vilai’s husband, Mel, her daughter, Malissa, and a friend named Linda welcome guests in and serve dish after dish of Thai classics, curries, noodles, and specials. With only 3 woks in the kitchen, the speed of service is impressive. In the moments it took me to tap a few notes into my phone, and to snicker at Mel cheerfully encouraging a table nearby to try the “spicy stuff” contained in a set of tiny blue and white pots he’d just delivered, Linda was already delivering plates of food I’d just ordered.

Vilai and Yip cooking over 3 large woks in the kitchen

Aside from the happy, light-hearted atmosphere, I’m especially enamored by the kitchen and the woks turning out this gorgeous food. Picturing pans the size of a skillet, with a handle, I was surprised to find 3 huge, flying-saucer-shaped pots taking up two-thirds of the clean, compact kitchen. Vilai and Yip were masterfully stirring, tossing, and showering fresh ingredients into the steaming vessels, releasing a hypnotic aroma. The food here is authentic in the style of the food Vilai grew up eating in Thailand. Her mother cooked for their family of 9 kids, often enjoying fish they farmed themselves and homegrown vegetables. Vilai laughed telling me about her parents converting her own backyard here on the beach into a wild, abundant vegetable garden with eggplant, peppers, herbs, and everything in between.

hOMEGROWN GOODNESS

Vilai has a Keffir lime tree in a pot at home that she plucks fresh limes from and harvests the leaves to stir into curries and soups at the restaurant. The leaves add a bright pop of flavor and citrusy notes that perfume her savory dishes. Having bought lemongrass from the grocery store myself but finding the taste a little muted for what should be an intense ingredient, I asked Vilai if she buys hers there, too. No, she grows it herself for use in her Tom Yum soup. You can taste the zing of lemongrass for sure but the thing I’ll be going back for is the way the underlying heat in the Tom Yum tingled on my lips, like a persistent, but gentle bee sting. It’s addictive, bright, and soothing; one of those things that makes you feel new from the inside out.

a bowl of Tom Yum soup

The soup is delicious on its own but also an excellent way to get your mind relaxed and your appetite in the right place to appreciate Vilai’s other offerings. For me, fried soft shell crabs were next. These little creatures, so dear to us Outer Bankers, were transformed into a crunchy, perfectly salty, fried situation – an absolute delight. The garlicky tempura batter puffed away from the crab, like a delicious second shell; the entire surface was a series of tiny, crackly bubbles ready to collapse under your teeth. Two sauces demanding to be swiped and sampled with your finger were drizzled over top. Vilai explained with a sly smile, “It’s yum yum sauce.” “There’s two sauces,” I said, “what’s the other one?” “Yum yum sauce,” again with a smile. Ok, I’ll respect the secrecy. The soft shell crabs sat perched on top of an herby, cooling seaweed salad, completing this plate with the most pleasing texture and contrast.

keep it clean

Vilai avoids using too much oil and salt in her cooking, coaxing enough flavor from ginger and garlic and introducing layers of seasoning with those fresh lime leaves and sharp, citrusy galangal in her curry. Here’s a little back-pocket cooking tip Vilai shared with me about flavor – when you’re making a curry, sauté the curry paste with salt and sugar for a minute before adding the coconut milk. A simple step that never occurred to me but allows for so much character and distinct pungency to come through in the food.

When I’m being smart and treating my body like I should, I agree with Vilai; none of us really need extra oil and tons of salt in our lives anyway. Vilai’s Seafood Fried Rice is welcome proof that less is more. As opposed to the heavy and rich fried rice most of us are used to, this one is light and fluffy with clean flavors, letting the crab, shrimp, and fresh veggies stand out. Vilai’s personal favorite from her menu, the Chicken with Basil, benefits from fresh Thai basil grown in her backyard and is lightly sauced. It’s rich and spicy without being cloying and is packed with crisp-tender bell peppers, zucchini, and onions and thinly sliced chicken, making for hearty forkfuls.

edible art

If you’ve dined at The Sanderling or The Lifesaving Station, where Vilai cheffed for 20 years prior to opening her restaurant 2010, and you ordered a dessert, you were witness to Vilai’s pastry artistry. The desserts at Vilai Thai Kitchen are not on the menu, they’re reserved instead for the specials board. I’m here to tell you, just stop at the Mango Sticky Rice. I’m sure all of the desserts are worth your time, really, but this Mango Sticky Rice is an absolute must. The warm rice is sweet and appropriately sticky, with a tiny hit of salt that gets you right along the edges of your tongue. Two ripe and juicy mango cheeks, skillfully carved into the shape of a leaf and brushed lightly with sweet coconut milk, are draped over top. It’s lovely and a completely satisfying end to a meal at Vilai Thai Kitchen. 

mango sticky rice on a white plate, with two magos carved into the shape of leaves on top

Vilai describes her food as delicious and simple, although it tastes beautifully complex to me. It’s clear her years of experience and finely tuned instincts have everything to do with those results. Authentically divine and warming from the inside out, Vilai Thai Kitchen is truly among the best of the best on the beach.

Jalapeno Feta Beer Bread

Anyone else have jalapenos growing like weeds this summer? Me too and daaaaang they are spicy ones. Thankfully, Joey and I are best friends with the creeping heat of a jalapeno. He prefers them dipped in salt, followed by a shot of tequila on a Friday afternoon. I will take them any way I can get them.

a loaf of Jalapeno Feta Beer bread on a cutting board

For example, in this Jalapeno Feta Beer bread, brimming with salty, cheesy goodness, sweetness from honey, and punctuated with little bursts of spicy heat. Not to mention, the beer adds a nice tang.

This is a home-brewed IPA, courtesy of Joey and our friend Jeremy. I’ve briefly described their home brew project before and expressed my appreciation through steaming bowls of Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup. It’s good stuff. Any kind of beer will do in this recipe, you just need 1 bottle of something. Shout out to my friend Jamie at Savory Saver for giving me the idea to throw beer in the recipe. So smart.

This bread couldn’t be simpler as far as baking goes. Mix together the dry (flour, salt, baking powder), add the wet (honey and beer), mix in cheese and peppers, drizzle with butter and you’re done. These little butter pools are keys to flavor success, don’t skimp.

Jalapeno Feta Beer Bread batter in a loaf pan, drizzled with melted butter

I did dot the top with more feta and jalapenos 15 minutes into the bake time because I like the decoration and how the feta gets toasty brown. If your toppings get too brown before the time is up, just loosely throw a sheet of foil over it. And, ignore that cute pink loaf pan in the photo, I can never rely on bake times when using that pan, everything always takes longer. I kept that in mind with the times listed in this recipe but definitely check your bread with a toothpick before removing it from the oven. And go for a standard loaf pan like this one that is dependable and not moody and stubborn like mine. Also, I just helped Joey paint our deck in the middle of writing this post, you guys. Jack of all trades over here. (Nope, not at all). Have fun, enjoy this spicy, cheesy, beery bread!

a loaf of Jalapeno Feta Beer bread on a cutting board with a slice cut away

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Jalapeno Feta Beer Bread

a loaf of Jalapeno Feta Beer bread on a cutting board

Jalapeno Feta Beer bread, brimming with salty, cheesy goodness, sweetness from honey, and punctuated with little bursts of spicy heat. Not to mention a pleasing tang from the beer!

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 slices 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1 12 oz bottle of beer (I used an IPA)
  • 4 T salted butter, melted, + extra for buttering the pan
  • 6 jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 C crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the beer and honey until combined. Stir in 3/4 of the jalapenos and 1 C of the feta.
  3. Pour half of the butter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Pour the batter into the pan and drizzle the remaining melted butter over top. You should see little pools of butter in the corners of the pan.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle remaining jalapenos and 1/4 C of feta on top. Continue baking for another 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve!

Notes

To prevent butter from spilling onto the bottom of your oven during baking, put the loaf pan on a baking sheet covered with foil.

If the jalapenos and feta on top begin to brown too much before time is up, loosely cover the loaf with a sheet of foil and continue baking.

This bread is best eaten warm right out of the oven but is just fine sliced and toasted for a few days after.

 

Candy Bar Cookies

Costco strikes again, convincing me that stocking 5 lb bags of things in my pantry is how I should be living my life. Is it because everything is large and excessive at Costco and it messes with your perspective? I don’t know but I can say that a 40-pack of sparkling water is a fine idea. A 5 lb bag of candy, in June, without a trick-or-treater in sight and only 2 people living in our household … just stop it. I mean, it’s whatever, I have self control. It’s just like, what are you even doing here, mini Snickers and Milky Ways? Get a life, I don’t need you around every day.

Buuuuut, turns out leftover/excessive candy is pretty incredible folded into peanut butter cookie dough. So, let’s just focus on that.

candy bar cookies on a cooling rack

These start with a basic peanut butter cookie recipe (delicious on it’s own, too), chopped up candy bars stirred in, and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. The good stuff. Bonjour, guys.

P.S. I used a combo of mini Snickers, Milky Ways, and Baby Ruths and the cookies leaked out a little caramel in baking. I find that 100% acceptable because it caramelizes and gets extra delicious (see pic below). If you don’t like those lacy, caramely edges (huh?), choose candy without caramel.

candy bar cookies on a cooling rack, one with a bite taken out

If you are a cookie hog, like me, and want more, try these Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies!

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Candy Bar Cookies

candy bar cookies on a cooling rack

Chopped up candy bars, folded into peanut butter cookie dough, and topped with sea salt – an easy, dreamy snack and a great use for leftover candy.

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 48 cookies 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 stick (1/2 C) salted butter
  • 1 1/4 C light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 T whole milk
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 22 mini candy bars, or about 3 full size, chopped (about 1 1/2 C)
  • flaky sea salt, for finishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, and egg in a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Turn mixer to low speed and gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating until just combined. Add chopped candy bars and continue to mix for just a couple seconds, or stir in by hand. Drop rounded tablespoons (I used a #50 cookie scoop) of dough, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 10-11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, sprinkle with flaky salt, and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Notes

I used a combo of mini Snickers, Milky Ways, and Baby Ruths and the cookies leaked out a little caramel in baking. I find that 100% acceptable because it caramelizes and gets extra delicious (see pic below). If you don’t like those lacy, caramely edges (huh?), choose candy without caramel.

Feasting on Spirit at Russo’s Bistro & Bar

My coming to know Joey Russo of Russo’s Bistro & Bar in Kitty Hawk occurred in three parts. Part One was an entertaining discussion honoring the OBX chef world, folks that local and visiting food lovers consider celebrities. Praise flowed easily from Joey in his fast-talking Italian cadence, recounting success stories and lessons learned over the years from Outer Banks restaurant legends requiring no last name: Mike, Bob, Randolph, Amanda, Tony, Dan, Wes, Pok and many others. Russo brushes off the notion of celebrity chef-dom, though, making it clear he, they, are just like the rest of us, walking the earth and applying passion and intense hard work to a specific art. But there’s no doubt we all feel a little special and flattered when we get Joey’s attention and a kind word during his customary visit to our table at Russo’s. That’s all part of the experience here.

Russo's Bistro & Bar in Kitty Hawk, NC
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Thyme & Tide Café Spreading Happiness and Good Fresh Food

Sitting in a comfortable corner booth at Thyme & Tide Café, I couldn’t help but smile at the giggles coming from the tiny kitchen where Kareen Spruill and her granddaughter, Jackie Vesley, prepared one of their special Café Samplers for me. It’s just what I was craving: a platter of fresh fruit, grilled pita bread, sliced cheeses, pimento cheese, and shrimp salad, although you could also choose tuna or chicken salad if you prefer.

This is the way I always imagine eating in the summer, light and fresh bits of things here and there, best enjoyed at sunset with a glass of wine. The Café Sampler plate and The Sanctuary Sampler plate (overflowing with gourmet cheeses, shaved prosciutto and salami, olives and other savory, grabable things) are made for doing just that – eating seated among the tall pine trees on the grounds of The Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards, maybe sipping wine and swaying along to live music during their Acoustic Sunset events on Thursday evenings.

a platter of fresh fruit, cheeses, toasted pita, and scratch made shrimp salad
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Slice Pizzeria Voted Best Pizza in North Carolina

Kill Devil Hills, our little town, home to great people, pretty beaches, and the best pizza in the state of North Carolina! TripAdvisor has compiled a list of the top pizza spots in every state based on user reviews and Slice Pizzeria in Kill Devil Hills won the honor for North Carolina!

What do we talk about when we leave reviews on a site like TripAdvisor? The food, of course. The atmosphere, maybe. How we were treated, for sure. The hard-working staff and owners of Slice have had us covered since 2008. The pizza dough and sauce are made from scratch, topped with the highest quality Grande cheese, the freshest ingredients, and baked in stone ovens. The space inside their building at the corner of Baum Street and 158 is clean and welcoming and the staff is friendly, fast, and efficient. The online reviews reflect all of this but there’s even more to Slice Pizzeria than the reviews describe. Owners Rick Amodei, Jeremiah Stewart, and Elizabeth Cubler give back. They are proud supporters of our local schools and athletics, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Beach Food Pantry, and the SPCA. Slice Pizzeria is a charitably spirited part of our community and a warm and inviting place to get a great meal.

pans of pizza for sale by the slice
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Two Roads Tavern’s Twists on Classics

It’s June! The sun is shining and the water is warm, it’s prime time to enjoy OBX life to the fullest. Blow a kiss goodbye to your hot kitchen, get out of the house, and have a good meal somewhere. At the top of my list this week is Two Roads Tavern, located between the highways in Kill Devil Hills.

chicken romance

Their menu has my heart for many reasons, most of all because of their Carolina Pickle Brine Sandwich – a fried chicken breast that’s been soaked in pickle brine and hot sauce for a good long time, long enough to let that salty, sour, spicy juice soak in and render the chicken completely plump and tender. The flour the chicken is coated in is the trick, according to Kyle Forbes, the owner of Two Roads. A chef buddy of his developed it a few years ago. It’s not just flour and it’s definitely not breadcrumbs or cornmeal; there’s a sugary, sweet, unknown component that makes it the very best.

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Fresh Fish and a Little Wisdom from Carawan’s Seafood

38 years ago, Christina Brodeur and Bob Eckard’s family purchased Carawan Seafood Company from the original owners, the Carawan family. Knowing nothing about the seafood business, Christina and Bob’s mother, and eventually the rest of the family, set about operating what is now a landmark of our OBX community. Carawan’s is like a friendly next-door neighbor: always there with a smile and some yummy stuff to share. Picking up fresh catches from the docks in Wanchese every other day (sometimes daily in the summer), Carawan’s feeds our seafood cravings year-round. The rough but charming building, riddled with character, is most folk’s first stop when they land on this side of the bridge and many pass through on their way out, too, happy to bring a bit of the beach back home with them.

What is Carawan Seafood offering? Today, cobia, Spanish mackerel, tilefish, and softshell crabs are in season so that’s what they’ve got, among a few other local options as well as cod and salmon that are shipped in to meet our needs. You’ll also find fresh, local, often organic produce, and lots of little North Carolina odds and ends to help you complete your experience: grits, spices, sauces, and wine and beer courtesy of Sanctuary Vineyards, Weeping Radish, and Foothills Brewery.

Woccocon Oysters for sale at Carawan Seafood Company
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Farmer’s Market Vegetable Frittata

Don’t be jealous, but we have one of the best little farm stands here on the OBX. I know you think yours is good too, and it’s true – anyone selling fresh produce straight or straight-ish from the farm is good stuff. But ours is a little blue shack called Tarheel Too Produce, run by the nicest guy named Ed, and I think I got all my veggies for this frittata for like 75 cents. Not really, but his prices are great and the quality is the best. My favorite is when the veggies are small, because I think they’re more flavorful that way, and still covered in dirt. Like, yes, I am eating from the earth, thank you very much.

farmer's market vegetable frittata on a cutting board with a slice cut out
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