Urban Kitchen: Blessed with Finesse

Urban Kitchen opened 7 years ago, with the assistance of a blessing from two nuns and a bit of holy water from France. Jen Lambertz, who owns Urban Kitchen with her other half, Chef Joe Panaras, said she thinks it’s helped; there are lines out the door in the summer to prove it and a loyal following of locals and non-residents year-round. A holy blessing can’t hurt but it’s clear to me the fandom has more to do with the clean, comfortable vibe inside and the finely finessed, deliciously seasonal food on the plates.

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What to do with radishes and their greens

I don’t want to bury the lead here – this recipe for Roasted Radish Pesto Crostini is the best thing I’ve made all year. I wish we were further along in 2020 so that statement could have more impact but seriously – it’s so good. Two things that make me very happy about this recipe: 1. A humble, inexpensive ingredient being a total superstar. 2. No waste. After making this, I wanted to greet people by saying, “Hi, I’m Megan. I made a thing with radishes and didn’t have to throw the greens away.”

So, if you’ve found yourself stuck with a bunch of radishes and a mass of leafy green radish stems, like these, I can help you.

A bunch of radishes on a cutting board
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Delicious Finds and Good Times at TRiO Restaurant and Market

TRiO, if you don’t already know, is the gorgeously modern market and restaurant in Kitty Hawk that feels like its own little neighborhood inside. There’s people you know, and those you don’t. Lots of activity, and good smells everywhere. Drinks being shared, and plenty of pretty (and delicious) things to look at and pick up.

It’s also the go-to source for things that will make a get-together or, for me, a game night with friends, way more special. The secret ingredient: TRiO’s cheese. Specifically, a stunning and diverse cheese board I ordered in the afternoon and picked up a couple hours later, arriving to game night like a champ with my fancy, shareable snacks for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t have any special requests for the cheese board, just that it would feed four people and I casually mentioned to Scotty, who works in the kitchen and behind the cheese counter, “The funkier the better.” A little while later, I wondered if I shouldn’t have thrown that comment out there so haphazardly… maybe not everyone in my group loves the overripe, moldy cheeses that I’m so smitten with?

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What to do with kale stems

Lotta kale going on around here lately. Lots and lots of kale. Creamy kale stuffed into toasty roasted mushrooms. Cheesy kale stuffed into sweet, earthy spaghetti squash. It just seems useful at this point to share my favorite thing to do with all the leftover kale stems. I freeze mine so I usually have a bag waiting for me whenever I need an easy meal or a quick, convenient appetizer. Here is my favorite “recipe”, if you can call it that. It is spicy, garlicky, and served on toast. Plus, it takes less than 10 minutes to make, so… yes, we’re on the simple track to easy town.

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Cheesy Kale-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Just waaaayy too busy being delicious and nutritious over here to bother with good looks. I know, this recipe is not very photogenic. But, actually… The longer you stare at it… It kind of becomes beautiful. All golden-bubbly and cheesy, full of a super-savory leek, onion, and kale mixture, with a little extra cheese mixed in for more yum.

Half of a spaghetti squash filled with kale and topped with a cheesy crust on a white plate
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Stuffed Mushrooms with Kale and Cream Cheese

High five for little roasty mushrooms stuffed with onion-y kale and cream cheese, topped with toasty breadcrumbs! These were my recent addition to a family Christmas get-together where I was tasked with bringing some kind of vegetable appetizer. I’m not a crudités kind of girl, I refuse to bring something raw to the party. I’m here to cook and make things creamy and roasted and crispy on top. Can’t stop me. So, vegetables? No problem – earthy, meaty mushrooms + kale. Appetizer? I gotcha – bite-sized + finger food. Let’s party.

Stuffed mushrooms with kale and cream cheese on a white plate
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A Tradition of Remembering

Christmas traditions are a funny thing. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts- the value is actually in all the little components and the story behind the tradition.
Given the opportunity to peek into three local chefs’ Christmas traditions, a few things became clear to me. Food is more than just food, traditions keep important memories and bonds alive, and kindness is hiding in plain sight on the Outer Banks.

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Miso Deviled Eggs

Just in time for last minute holiday entertaining: Miso Deviled Eggs! Deviled eggs, without fail are the one thing I can whip up last minute, without having to make a trip to the store and they’re great for a crowd. Disclaimer: I’m saying “whip up” but this is the mess I make every time I make deviled eggs. Whatever.

The makings of miso deviled eggs, bowls, a fine mesh sieve, and a cutting board with knives and chopped green onions on it
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A Chef’s Recipe for a Holiday Symphony

Holidays meals have a rhythm and feel all their own. Chef Joey Russo described it as a symphony, with friends and families playing the music of kitchen hustle and bustle, all culminating in an epic, heartwarming feast. Hoping to capture the almost tangible food energy surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas, I met Joey in the kitchen at Russo’s Bistro & Bar, ready to cook a holiday dish to share here. But, Joey Russo’s undeniable cooking prowess comes second to his ability to inspire you and make you feel a part of a moment. We cooked food. And I learned a few things, for sure. But the act of preparing a meal, amid talk about holiday memories and traditions was so satisfying; it crystallized for me the basic goodness and peace that’s found in cooking and feeding others. It doesn’t really matter what’s on your holiday table; the celebration and symphony is in getting it there, and sharing it with people you love. 

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