This is actually from the other week but Shelby made sure he had a little something for his birthday. Chayce is 23 now! Happy Birthday! :)
I will usually make couscous with basil shrimp at home but it works well with the Genova tuna I was sent. The cool, refreshing tuna atop of the warm, paprika spiced couscous will be a crowd pleaser. We love Mediterranean and Anatolian food, give this a shot and you will not be disappointed. It's easy too! You'll need a few pots and two oiled ramekins to make what you see above. Do not overly oil the ramekins or else the couscous will stick! Approximately 2 servings.
- 1 can Genova Tonno tuna
- ½ teaspoon fresh chopped Dill
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Red Onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Cucumber
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Red Bell Pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped Green Onion
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Pine Nuts
- 2 large clove Garlic
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped Red Onion
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 cup Couscous
- 1 ½ Chicken Stock (heat in microwave before adding to couscous)
- Juice from 1 Lemon
- Grated rind of a Lemon
- 1 tablespoon minced Parsley
- Salt to taste
- Single parsley leaf and chopped tomato
- Prepare the tuna mixture and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Heat olive oil in pot at medium heat for couscous.
- Put pine nuts into oil and let toast for about 2 minutes, stir constantly to prevent burning.
- Add garlic and red onion, sauté for 1 minutes till clear.
- Pour in cumin, turmeric, brown sugar, pepper, paprika and toast seasoning for no more than 1 minute. Add a little salt to taste.
- Add couscous and toast for 2 minutes.
- Pour in lemon juice and let reduce. This will happen quickly.
- Pour in chicken stock and cover pot. Remove from heat and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
- After stock has been absorbed by couscous, fluff with fork.
- Remove tuna from fridge and press half of the tuna into an lightly oiled ramekin.
- Fill the rest of the ramekin with couscous, press firmly.
- Flip ramekin onto plate and tap top until you hear a hollow sound. Gently remove ramekin.
Go back to Genova Tonno!
Arancini is Italian street food and consists of breaded, balled risotto that is fried to perfection. I'm a sucker for anything fried and this is no exception! I mixed it up a little bit and added some extra cheese and seasoning to the risotto that is then wrapped around a chunk of Genova tuna fish before it's panned fried. Everyone loves these things, I've made a bunch of them and shared them with friends and co-workers. This recipe is tested and true. You're going to need parchment paper on hand to pour the risotto on after it's done. 20-30 arancini, depending on the size you form.
Tonno alla Arancini
- 1 can of Genova Tonno tuna
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 cloves of Garlic (finely minced)
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated Mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- ¾ cup bread crumbs
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan
If you haven't made risotto before you'll realize the process is a little involved. It's high maintenance, but worth it in the end. Seriously, you'll see.
- Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and place on low heat. This needs to be hot when added to the rice.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot then sauté the shallot and garlic. Approximately 2 minutes till clear.
- Pour the arborio rice in the pot and stir briskly for about 1 minute. Do not brown the rice.
- Add the wine and stir till reduced, you'll smell it and it'll smell good.
- Start adding the stock to the pot a ladleful at a time. Constantly stir the rice and stock until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Keep doing this until the stock is gone, the starch and mixing will create a nice creamy texture to the risotto.
- When al dente remove risotto from heat.
- Pour risotto onto parchment paper and spread out as a thin a layer.
- Let cool.
- When cool, measure out squares of risotto, approximately 20-30.
- Make sure the risotto easily separates from the parchment, if not, use a oiled spatula to separate from the risotto from the paper before adding the tuna.
- Place a square of risotto in our palm with a piece of tuna in the center.
- Fold the corners over the tuna and ball into your palm, roll till round.
- Complete process till all the risotto or tuna is gone.
- Rolled risotto balls into bread crumbs till lightly coated.
- Heat frying pan with oil on medium heat and brown arancini, place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Serve and enjoy!
A traditional Sicilian winter dish is the Blood Orange Salad. The fruit primarily grown in Italy but is also grown in Spain and the United States among other places in the world. The blood orange has a dark red pulp that is sweet and has many health benefits. Blood orange salad is usually made with shaved fennel bulb but I went with ground fennel seed that is bright and highly compliments the tuna and citrus. Start with the tuna first and let the flavors blend, the orange salad is ready to go as soon as it is plated. Plating consists of arugula that has been used in Italy since the ancient times. This makes approximately two servings.
- 1 can of Genova Tonno tuna
- 1/8 ground Fennel Seed
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely minced Red Onion
- Pepper to taste
- 4 Blood Oranges
- 2 Oranges
- 1 can of Solid Tuna in Olive Oil
- 1 small Red Onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Freshly Course Black Pepper
- Arugula and/or leafy spring vegetables
- 3-4 Kalamata Olives sliced or chopped
- ¼ teaspoon Capers
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- The tuna is lightly seasoned so it doesn't get lost in the mix. Use a fork to toss the tuna with the listed ingredients, wrap then let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour while you prep the oranges.
- Place a layer or arugula on your serving plate. The rest of the ingredients will rest on top of the green.
- You'll need a sharp knife to cut the skins and pith off the blood oranges then cut them in slices as seen in the photos. The regular oranges you'll slice the pulp out of the skins after skinning them them. You'll want to ensure the seeds are removed from both types of oranges before plating.
- Lay down a layer of blood orange then a thin layer of red onion.
- Place the regular orange on top of the blood orange and red onion, space evenly to allow room for the tuna.
- Spoon the tuna mixture between the oranges and then garnish with olives and capers.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
Serve chilled to room temperature. This would be good with a vinaigrette too!
I remember when I was a kid, tuna fish was always packed in oil – at least the stuff we ate my house. This was the 1970s everyone was eating tuna fish sandwiches, tuna casseroles, all of the that stuff. Eventually tuna was being shipped in water and marketed as a healthier alternative to the soybean oil it was usually in. My kids grew up eating tuna fish packed in water! We just kind of went along with it and never gave it a second thought.
Recently I was contacted by Genova Tonno (tonno translates to tuna in Italian) to review their canned tuna fish. Genova solid yellowfin tuna is packed in olive oil. If you don't know the difference between tuna fished marked as solid or chunk buy a can of each and check them out. I can tell you that solid tuna in a can looks like a sliced piece of fish nestled into a can whereas “chunk” tuna looks kind of mushy and shredded. They shipped me a nice gift basket to sample their product and inspire me to come up with some ideas on how their tuna can be prepared. It's a nice gift basket too!
I checked out the contents of the basket and grabbed one of the cans of tuna. I liked the branding, kind of along the veins of traditional tuna packaging. If you're into that type of thing, search the web for other examples. The blurb on the side of the can states:
Genova Tonno© Premium Yellowfin Tuna. Wild caught from deep waters, Genova Select Yellowfin if all natural with no additives or preservatives. Packed in the Mediterranean tradition with olive oil, it has a delicious flavor and is a natural source of Omega-3.
When I opened the can it wasn't fishy like other cans of tuna I've had, which was normally the cheapest, store brand. The oil was pretty much clear when I poured it out and the fish inside the can looked solid. I could pull apart flakes with my fingers and when I tossed a piece in my mouth it wasn't mushy at all. Pretty tasty stuff.
Of course the first thing that popped into my head was tuna salad, right? I love that stuff but I wouldn't be doing Genova justice if I just tossed it in a bowl with some relish and mayonnaise. I started to think about traditional Italian recipes and dishes that would compliment the solid, fresh tasting tuna they gave me. You'd probably like to hear a story of my Italian grandmother passing down tuna recipes from the Old Country being passed down from generation to generation but I can't do that. I was born in Bangkok and raised in Virginia Beach, VA – I had to do a little research.
One thing we like to do in our house – and Shelby is great at this – is experiment with food. She'll just take a mental inventory of what we have in the cabinets and figure out what goes well together and then make it. She hits the mark on the head too! I like to look up a few things, get an idea of where a recipe is trying to go and follow that path. After I get comfortable with it, I'll explore flavor profiles and ingredients to come up with something new; this is what I did for Genova. They gave me three cans of their premium tuna fish, so I came up with three recipes. Each one was a nod to regional Italian dishes, or so I hope, that incorporate Genova tuna fish. Find where Genova tuna is sold locally in your area and give these a shot. As always, feel free to modify the recipes to suit your own tastes and preferences.
A traditional Sicilian winter dish is the Blood Orange Salad. The fruit primarily grown in Italy but is also grown in Spain and the United States among other places in the world. The blood orange has a dark red pulp that is sweet and has many health benefits. Blood orange salad is usually made with shaved fennel bulb but I went with ground fennel seed that is bright and highly compliments the tuna and citrus. Click the this link for the recipe.
Arancini is Italian street food and consists of breaded, balled risotto that is fried to perfection. I'm a sucker for anything fried and this is no exception! I mixed it up a little bit and added some extra cheese and seasoning to the risotto that is then wrapped around a chunk of Genova tuna fish before it's panned fried. Everyone loves these things, I've made a bunch of them and shared them with friends and co-workers. This recipe is tested and true – click this link for the recipe.
I'll admit that this one isn't truly Italian but it allows me to share my Golden Couscous recipe with the world. I will usually make couscous with basil shrimp at home but it works well with the Genova tuna. The cool, refreshing tuna atop of the warm, paprika spiced couscous will be a crowd pleaser. We love Mediterranean and Anatolian food, give this a shot and you will not be disappointed. It's easy too! Click here for the recipe.
I mentioned a gift basket earlier and I wanted to let everyone know that Genova has generously offered to allow me to give away one to my readers. Check out the olivewood cheeseboard that comes with it, it's amazing. Shelby feel in love with it as soon as she saw it. Go to I-Heart-Food's Facebook page to learn how you could win this for yourself.
Our daughter turned 25 this weekend! So weird to think about how much time has passed. We love you and you're doing a great job out there!
Mom & Dad
When the first Europeans arrived on the shores of the Chesapeake they had an unfortunate skirmish with a group of Native Americans in which both sides retreated a little worse for wear in the end. The Chesapeake natives were on the beach again the next day and when they saw the Europeans heading to shore again they took off to the woods. As the landing party checked out the Indian camp they found large oysters roasting in the fire. Here is a first hand account of settlers getting a taste of the local delicacy recounted in "The Beach: A History of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach Public Library":
"On the second day, another party went ashore and penetrated about eight miles inland without encountering any indigenous settlements. This landing was probably east of Lynnhaven Bay (called
Morton's Bay after their wounded comrade), as the Chesapeakes' principal town was located near the mouth of the Lynnhaven River. Although no Indians were found, the Englishmen did find a fire where
oysters were being roasted. The natives had fled, or at least withdrawn, leaving the oysters in the fire. According to Captain Percy, "We ate some of the oysters which were very large and delicate in
taste." These oysters became known as Lynnhaven oysters and enjoyed an international reputation as delicacies into the twentieth century."
Chris Ludford has been running these waters for decades now and has seen big changes, good and bad, concerning the Lynnhaven. He's active in the preservation of our legacy stock and will take you out on his boat for a first hand experience in oyster farming. Here are his own words on how all of us can help.
"For the last 20 years the Lynnhaven River has either been closed or severely restricted to harvest due to water quality mainly but also due to lack of harvest effort. Fortunately both factors have improved and the latter mainly focused on highly sustainable aquaculture. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the harvest of wild Lynnhaven oysters. This is occurring on privately held bottom and cannot be regulated. We hope that wild harvesters only take a small percentage of their holdings and invest in future wild harvest by planting shell and or seed. An aquafarmer by definition must plant seed or invest in the production of oysters in some way. The unfortunate reality is that removing this stock without respect is akin to clear cutting old-growth forests and is not sustainable. Most of these animals are large, 5+ year-old, spawning stock oysters that we need to rebuild the wild population of the river. Oyster biology is such that the seed of oysters free-floats for a short time over great distances before settling. We desperately need this stock to continue to rebuild the river's wild population and keep her clean with their great powers of filtration."
"What will we do? Conservation groups and oystermen on the Lynnhaven are working together to develop a certification or label of sustainability for Lynnhaven River oyster producers. The criteria for this label is being developed and will include a required majority percentage of harvest to be from aquaculture, a limited harvest of wild annually and possibly some work with conservation groups on the river.
What can you do? At this point in time I encourage you all to ask the people, restaurateurs, watermen and dealers that serve/sell wild Lynnhavens to inform you about their origins and methods of harvest. Ask to see the tag. There must be a tag on every bag or box as required by law. Please tell them how valuable wild Lynnhavens are and that it is important to you that they are harvested sustainability and with respect. These animals are literally dinosaurs and the subject of attention from scientists, conservationists and the watermen for their ability to resist disease.
Who is currently doing it right? Quite simply: If a person or business has no aquaculture or farm-raised oysters in their production of Lynnhaven River oysters it would be difficult for themselves to be called a sustainable producer or farmer. If you are buying Lynnhaven oysters you should request farm-raised, sustainable oysters. If you buy wild ask if the producer is limiting their harvest in some way or using spat-on-shell methods to replenish wild stocks harvested.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully act on my recommendations if you find yourself in agreement. Please remember how valuable those large, wild oysters are to river filtration and repopulation.
This past January's Merroir Terroir at Terrapin was a good one. Local oysterman Chris Ludford and Terrapin's sommelier Daniel Kieser were at the helm of the event with a nice line-up of West Coast oysters and bonus appearance of a local favorite.
We arrived just in time to sit and catch the beginning of the event. We were lucky enough to be sandwiched in-between friends and aquintances—Rex and Lisa Hamaker to our left and the Jo Ann and Buzzy Hoffheimer to our right. Chris talked a bit about oysters and some techniques in enjoying the experience. Looking at the oyster being served, the color of the shell can give you an idea of the environment it was raised in, the size and shape are good indicators of what region they came from, etc..
When it came to tasting you want to smell the oyster, sip it's liquor and then slurp it in. You can pick up the different textures of the oyster when you chew it. Some parts are strong then others, some sweeter. He also talked a little bit about umami. Umami has been classified as one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It was founded in Japan, hence the name, and was only officially recognized in the 1980s. It is savory and can be found naturally in tomatoes, aged cheese and dry cured hams among other things. Oysters are packed with it!
As we listened to Chris the plates of oysters started to appear from the kitchen. We didn't know what we were going to be having, so it was a pleasant surprise to see what was going to be our launching point.
The first oyster we were having was one of our favorites, the Kusshi. These are from the West Coast and have small, deep bowls. The oysters form these types of shells due to tumbling that breaks off the edges. This prompts the oyster to grow a deeper and thicker shell. Blonde, lavender to dark hues color the scalloped shells. The batch we had were very varied from one to the next. Chris suggested that they might have mixed up several batches from the farming area which caused the differences. Variation in color is due to bottom sediment make-up. Daniel poured a 2012 Domaine Pichot Vouvray Le Peu de la Moriette Demi-Sec from Loire, France with this oyster. The pairing was perfect! Sipping a little bit of the white with a little bit of the oyster in my mouth blended well and highly complimented the flavors of both. Great finish and lingering aftertaste was very pleasant.
Second, we were poured Sokol Blosser Evolution 18th Edition, a white blend from Oregon. On our plates were the Rolls Royce of oysters – the Kumamoto! These were raised in Humboldt Bay, CA and had salt up front with a sweet, butterly flesh. The bite was crisp and fruity—think green grapes or light melon. I've only had these a couple of times so this was a treat. They are small but pack a punch, I could imagine eating a bag of these by myself. The wine was bright and paired well with the initial saltiness of the oyster liquor; I think the Evolution would definitely be good with spicy food.
Our third course was another variety of Kusshi known as a Shigoku (which means something along the lines of “outstanding” in Japanese), this particular oyster is being marketed under the name “Fat Bastard.” What separates these from other Kusshi oysters is that they are tumbled by the tides themselves. The oysters are put in bags that are suspended by floats so they never touch the bottom. Twice a day when the tides change the oysters are tumbled. I expected the shells to be bright without coloration, but they were lined with thick, dark stripes. Regardless of what the shell looked like (which was pretty!) they oysters were delicious! Shelby said it was her favorite oyster of the night. Meaty with a strong melon finish. We had a 2012 Côte Bonneville Cabernet Franc Rosé from the DuBrul Vinyard in the Yakima Valley, the arid desert region of Central Washington hold ideal growing conditions for certain grapes. It was citrusy, a little strong for the oyster I thought; still a good bottle though.
We actually got a fourth course and we made our way back to the East Coast with Chris' own Pleasure House Oysters! Salty liquor, juicy, these were bred especially for Terrapin restaurant. Smaller and easier to eat, these were started in 2013. The standard Pleasure House Oyster is huge, the idea behind farming these a little smaller was that it would be a lot less oyster to handle from one shell. The big ones are called chokers for a reason. Daniel poured a 2012 Bollini Pinot Grigio from Trentino, Italy. It went well with the five Lynnhaven mollusks Chris generously gave us. It was my lucky night too, one of the patrons at the end of the bar had a pea crab in her oyster I got to eat. About eating it herself, she said something along the lines of "maybe next time."
While we enjoyed out oysters and wine Chris described some of the recent conditions of the Lynnhaven. In 2013, Lynnhaven Inlet didn't have as much rain which in turn increased the salinity of the water. These conditions directly affect the flavor of an oyster. The tide has a huge influence on how an oyster tastes too. Tide creates flow, the flow of the water provides food for the oysters. Like most of what we eat, the animal's diet can be detected in its flesh. He said we should consider the oyster when we purchase animals to eat. Try to know where they came from and how they've been handled. The Pleasure House Oysters we ate that night were only touched 15 times before we ate them.
Oh, another nice thing about Merroir Terroir that night is that it was Shelby's Birthday. They brought out a little Valhrona Cocoa Chocolate Pudding with Sea Salt and Olive Oil. Next to the pudding was a single candle that glowed warmly at the low-lit bar. A great way to cap off the evening of great oysters, wine and company.
Yesterday was Shelby's "bertday"! Normally we have family over for cake and pizza, like we do every year for our birthdays. This year though we had cake night the day before her actual birthday and had dinner at Terrapin last night. This month's Merroir Terroir ended up being on her birthday, Merroir Terroir is Terrapin's seasonal wine and oyster pairing they hold once a month--I'll write more about that later. I just wanted to give a little shout out to the best wife and buddy a guy could have. Happy Birthday Shelby! XXXOOO
I remember being at Yiannis Wine Shop last year and Yiannis said I had to check out the Greek place across the street. He said the food was very good and authentic, I assumed he knew what he was talking about since he was from Cypress. Yiannis even offered to pay for dinner if Shelby and I went to check it out. I declined his generous offer and promised that I would check it out. Sadly it took me several months but we finally made it and we weren't disappointed.
I met Shelby and her friends Crystal, Laura and Jonathan who were already seated. There were supposed to be 6 of us but one of them couldn't make it, no worries though, seating was readily available for them when walked in arrived. Our server, Adriyan, promptly offered water and asked if we wanted anything else to drink. The Restaurant Week menus were on the table, we checked out what was being offered.
We were given choices for two courses, here's what was being offered:
- Choice of Dip (tzatziki, melitzanosalata, taramosalata, scordalia, tirokafteri or hummus)
- Cup of Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo or Lentil Soup
- Gyro or Chicken Pita with Fries
- Small Greek Salad with Gyro or Grilled Chicken
- Mediterranean Pasta
I already knew Shelby would go for the Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, she loves that stuff. I saw a Greek version of Baba Ganoush called Melitzanosalatawas available with the pita so I ordered that. Crystal, affectionately known as “Turd” had the Lemon Chicken Orzo too, Laura took the Spanakopita and Jonathan had a cup of Lentil Soup. Adriyan was a great help explaining what was available and what might be the best bet when ordering courses. She told us the Lemon Chicken Orzo is on the normal menu, but the Lentil Soup was a special for Restaurant Week. I think that had Jonathan lean towards the lentil which he ultimately ordered.
Adriyan went over the our second course options and I decided I'd go with the Chicken Gyro since Shelby was ordering the Greek Salad with Gyro. Laura and Jonathan both went with the traditional gyros plates and Crystal had the Mediterranean Pasta. After heading back to put in our orders she quickly returned with our first course meals. My Melitzanosalatawas was served with a generous amount of soft pita for dipping. I liked the texture and it had plenty of garlic, which I love. I don't know if Shelby will later when we were home though. I didn't get to try the soups but the feedback was good. I was snapping photos of peoples plates but didn't get a shot of Laura's Spanakopita, she had already ate half of it!
Before we could finish out the first course the second came to the table. The portions were good and everything smelled great. My Gyros plate came with fries so I started picking at them. I have a tendency to always eat my fries first—I have no idea why, been doing it since I was a kid. I pinched off a piece of the grilled chicken in my pita and it was cooked perfectly. Moist, a little grill char on the outside and seasoned nicely. The sauce and vegetables in the pita wrap blended well and I didn't have a problem finishing the whole thing. Shelby's salad looked good and she was getting into the feta cheese and olives. The gyros meat on the salad was the same in the Gyros meals and it was standard fair, what you would find in most Greek restaurants. Crystal seemed to be enjoying her pasta which had sun dried tomatoes, capers, onions, olives and a few other things including a white win garlic sauce.
All in all it was a good meal and the service was great. I'd like to come back and hit the regular menu for a proper dinner sometime. I love lamb and I bet they have a couple of great plates with it. Their Restaurant Week dinner menu does have a braised lamb on it, so maybe that's an option? Maybe next time, we try to head to different restaurants during Virginia Beach Restaurant Week to try places that are new to us.
Can't wait to see where we end up next!
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week 2015 has kicked off for the new year! Just thinking about all the possibilities for lunches and dinners has me worrying about my cholesterol and blood pressure. If you're not familiar with Restaurant Week, participating area establishments offer lunch and/or dinner specials at reduced prices to entice diners to visit their restaurants to try something new. On average lunches are $10 and dinners run from $20-$30.
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week is celebrating its 10 year anniversary with over 90 restaurants taking part. We were able to hit a few last year: Braise, Croakers, and Chic's to name a few. Our first Restaurant Week outing this year was to Mannino's for lunch! If you didn't know it yet, Mannino's has the best She-Crab soup in Virginia Beach—hands-down. I don't say those words lightly either! Starting with a good soup sounded perfect since we're in cold weather now. Shelby made reservations for us at the new Oceanfront location, this will be our first time at that shop.
They have an extensive Restaurant Week lunch menu made especially for Restaurant Week. I didn't realize how much they were offering until I actually checked out the menu. For $10 you get two courses: The first could be Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella, Calamari Friti or a cup of the Award Winning She-Crab soup! (I know what I was ordering.)
The second course ran one and a half pages, anywhere from salads, sandwiches (including an Oyster Po' Boy), and a wide range of pastas and sauces. We had 5 in our lunch group Shelby, myself, Nana and Marleigh who brought along a friend for us to meet. Once we were seated our server brought out a hot, fresh loaf of bread for the table and small plates to mix olive oil and balsamic. We used the delicious, crusty bread to dip into the mixture and finished off the small loaf quickly. I asked for another immediately afterward. The table pretty much stuck with the first course She-Crab soup except for Nana who has an aversion to shellfish. Our meals came with salads too, a nice house salad and a Caesar. As for entrées we ordered the following: Two plates of Four Cheese Ravioli (one spicy), Vitello Parmigiana, Smoked Turkey & Provolone Panini and a Fried Oyster Po' Boy.
When the first course was brought out I was surprised at how large the calamari plate was, it was the regular serving size. The soup came in cups, as described on the menu. Nana ordered the calamari and passed it around the table to share, even after doling out some to everyone she had a healthy portion left to herself. The She-Crab soup was spectacular as expected. The large chunks of sweet crab meat were hiding just below the creamy soup and I made sure to divvy out equal amounts of each with every bite. I can be a little anal about how I eat my food. The Caesar was very nice and I loved the croutons that came with it, I like mine a little airy. I didn't try the house salad but it was pretty with a variety of lettuce and long slivers of carrots and beets.
After the bread, salads, soups and calamari we were getting full. I had to finish Marleigh's soup because it would have been a sin to let that go back to the kitchen to be dumped! When the entrées were brought out we saw they really did stay with the regular menu portion sizes (or close enough!) I had the Vitello Parmigiana, veal Parmesan, that I really enjoyed. I don't get out for Italian much so this was a nice change of pace. The veal was lightly breaded and cook well, the cutlet was sitting on top of a mound of penne and sauce. I ended up giving the rest to Shelby in a take-out. She had the spicy ravioli and was gushing over the sauce. Nana had the panini and seemed pretty happy with what she ordered, it looked good and she ended up taking home some too. Marleigh's friend Patrick had the oyster po' boy that was huge. It had at least 6 plump, fried oysters in it with all fixings to the side with two sauces to choose from.
Overall everyone was impressed with the meals being offered on Mannino's special menu for Restaurant Week and can't say enough how great of a deal it was for $10 a plate! I hope we're as lucky with the next place we pick. Make sure to get out and see what's being offered, the chefs and kitchens usually put something special together to let people get a taste of what they have to offer. Take a tour of Virginia Beach's restaurants, see if you find a new favorite out there.
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week runs from 10-19 January 2015.
I love Thai style fried rice, Thai food in general. People would assume it's because my mother is Thai but that's not it. I grew up in Virginia, I ate a lot of fried chicken, pork chops and hamburger gravy (sounds gross but it's so good!) My mom would make the foods she thought we should eat since we were in the U.S. When she ate though, she liked to make the foods she grew up eating.
I remember watching my mother prepare Thai food. She would sit in the middle of the kitchen floor with a wooden mortar and pestle she brought over from Thailand. It was worn down in some spots from her pounding and mashing Thai chilies, garlic and any number of ingredients in it. Years of use had seasoned it so that when she brought it out you could smell the delicious aromas pouring from its smooth center. It smelled great and that seasoning would be infused anything crushed in it.
My mother's food was hot. Very hot. When I was very young, I tried to eat some of a meat salad she made (Yum Nua) because it looked delicious. As soon as I put it in my mouth it started to burn and I became very cautious about eating the food she made for herself. That didn't mean I wouldn't eat any Thai food, fried rice and the whole fish she made was something I enjoyed a lot. If I could see chopped or whole Thai chilies though...I was wary. It was years later, when my palate matured, I could properly appreciate Thai food. We eat it frequently now.
Being familiar with what I grew up with and eating out at countless Thai restaurants I came up with my own recipe for Thai Basil Fried Rice, known as Khao Pad Kraprow. If you search for it you'll see it is spelled many different ways. I've seen simpler recipes and I've seen more complex ones, this is how I like it. Give it a shot at home, start by reading the pointers I listed.
A few tips before you get started:
Cook the rice the day before. Day old rice is better suited for fried rice. It's less sticky so it sholdn't attach itself to the wok. Fresh, moist rice tends to fall apart a bit too while its being tossed and scraped in the wok.
Do not salt! Fish sauce is very salty, if you're familar with it you know this already.
I prefer pork when I make this, I think it picks up the flavors the best but anything can be used (chicken, beef, tofu,
Most people cook with vegetable oil, I like sesame seed oil. It has a nice nutty flavor but it's a little more expensive
Whisk the sauces and sugar together before you start. This will give the sugar a chance to disolve a little and you'll be using it as you go along.
You can make this a vegetarian dish easily by substituting the meat for a viable options. If you're vegan the fish and oyster sauce can be substituted with a vegatarian "fish sauce" found at most Asian markets.
I've also included a photo walk-through at the bottom of the page. Click through each step for tips on how to cook this!
- 1 pound of protein of your choice (I prefer pork)
- 4-6 Garlic cloves, crushed or minced finely
- 2-4 Red chilies, Thai, crushed/ground
- 1-2 teaspoons White Sugar (to taste)
- 1/2 to 1 large bunch Thai Basil, whole, chopped, julienne, however you want it, more is better!
- Several dashes of Golden Mountain sauce
- Several dashes of Fish sauce (maybe one or two extra)
- Several dashes of Oyster sauce
- Pepper to taste
- 2 cups jasmine rice (measured uncooked)
- 1 Red onion, chopped
- 1/2 large Green bell pepper
- 1/2 large Red bell pepper (mainly for color, but they're a little sweeter than the green too)
- 2 handfuls - Green beans, trimmed
- 4 Green/Spring onion, chopped
Prep the vegetables and meat, this cooks fast, so you won't have time to chop up stuff once you start cooking. Cut it all to whatever size you like, personally I like the vegetables to be a little chunky and the meat sliced thin. I use a wok and I usually cook out back on my grill's side burner to reduce smoke in the house. One time I made this at a relatives house and when I started cooking the chili in the pan it was like a low level crowd control gas canister started leaking. I started hearing coughing in the next room.
- Heat the wok up, once it's hot pour some of the oil in. I like to make sure the bottom is coated. When the oil starts to smoke, toss in the half of the garlic and red chili you prepped, remove from heat and swish it around the wok. You'll coat the sides of the wok when doing this.
- When you can smell the garlic and pepper put it back on the heat and throw in the meat. (If the pepper hits your nose and it makes your eyes water, that's a good thing)
Note: I just wanted to mention if you leave the garlic and chilies on the burner/heat after you can smell it, chances are good that you're going to burn it.
- Add some of the seasoning mixture you prepped earlier, about 1/3. I also season it with some pepper and let it brown a little before tossing it, brown the other side.
- Add about 1/3 of the basil.
- Keep in wok until all of it is cooked. Obviously, the pork needs to be cooked all the way through. If you use shrimp or beef, the cooking time is a lot less.
- A lot of recipes don't do this, but I like to remove the meat from the wok and place it aside. You'll add it back in again (juices and all) after you get the vegetables and rice cooked.
- Add some more oil to the wok, then work the garlic and chili again, same drill as before.
- Toss in the all the vegetables except the green onion, that tends to gets soggy pretty fast. I like a little char on some of the vegetables before I toss them but they should be firm and not over-cooked.
- While the veggies are cooking, toss in 1/3 of the basil, sugar. Pepper and add sauce mixture.
- Keep vegetables in the wok, add the rice and the rest of the ingredients that are left. Add the green onion at this time too.
- When you start to mix the rice add the meat and drippings in. Add the remainder of the sauce mixture; salt and pepper to taste and let it brown.
- Optional - You can squeeze a little lime on it once you're done cooking it if you have any sitting around.
Seems a little involved, but it's really easy when you get the hang of it.
If you don't have a wok or Golden Mountain Sauce, go to the local Asian market. A good wok is about $12-20. You'll want to clean off all that funky stuff that's coated all over it from shipping. Scrub it real good, wash it, and then season it with some oil, burn it into it. I don't scrub my wok after I start seasoning it, it has a nice carbonized, black coating on it now. Nothing sticks to it.
As for the spices and ingredients, you can add or remove as much as you like. A lot of the time I'll use whatever I have in the fridge, it's great when I have a little bit of everything in the crisper. I don't use soy sauce in this dish. Thai basil and fish sauce are needed to make this the right way. Thai basil is in any Asian or international market you might have in your area (well, probably not the Russian one.) If you've never bought Thai basil, the leaves are smaller and the stalks are purple. It has a slight licorice flavor too, you'll be able to smell it through the packaging.
Good luck and send me feedback with your own experiences making this. I have my Mom's seal of approval with this stuff so it's gotta be alright.
The Old Beach Farmers Market is in the off-season, one day a month cycle. This month had a few new vendors setup. One was BBQ and I ate a bunch of it.Read More
After having something similar in an area restaurant I wanted to try my hand at a butter/wine sauce for clams. It came out great and the sauce is delicious with crusty bread. Here's what you need:
- 1 stick of Butter
- 1 cup of white wine
- 1 cup clam stock
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of cream
- 3 tablespoons chopped Parsley
- 1 small Lemon
- Zest from the lemon
- 1/2 an medium onion
- 1/2 lb Bacon, cooked soft, roughly chopped
- 3-5 lbs of Little Neck Clams
Pepper to taste (the clam liquor will be salt enough)
To get the cup of clam liquor you need for this, you'll get from the clams you cook. It's easy:
- Fill a stock pot with about half an inch of wine and then place the steamer and clams in. Turn to high and cover, steam for 15 minutes. You'll know they're done when they open. Discard any clams still closed after steaming.
- You should have a couple of cups of clam stock in the bottom of the pot. Don't throw it out! Freeze what you don't use in the recipe for later.
To make the sauce:
- Heat a large sauce pan to medium-high, place butter in pan.
- Add garlic and onion and saute till translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, wine and clam stock. Switch heat to High until boiling, then reduce to medium. Simmer and reduce for approximately 20 minutes or until reduced to close half volume. (At this point you can serve it at whatever consistency you like, add a tiny bit of flour if you want it thicker.)
- After reducing liquid add heavy cream, lemon zest and lemon juice. Simmer for 15 minutes, stir regularly.
- Add parsley, stir and remove from heat.
- Place clams in large bowl and sprinkle the bacon on top. Then pour the sauce all over the clams.
- Serve and eat with bread!
The day after Thanksgiving I meant to put together a big post about what I cooked for the holiday write a little about family but I didn't. Our son Chayce was home for the weekend and it was nice to spend time with him and kind of relax a bit. Before you know it the weekend is gone and Shelby and I are in the house alone again.
I was cooking when Chayce arrived at the airport on Thanksgiving Day. Shelby and Marleigh picked him up. It was great to see him walking up to the house and our dog Jasper didn't know what to do with himself. So he ended up running around in circles creating a wide circuit between the mailbox and Chayce. He eventually rolled over onto his back and piddled in the air.
I've been working my turkey game and the past couple of years the turkey has been roasted upside-down. This been done by plenty of people for as long as turkeys have been roasted I'm assuming but it's new to me. After talking to someone last year I decided to try it and I think it turned out great. The breast meat is constantly basted in the juices and the skin on the bottom of the turkey is brown and crispy. Everyone knows crispy turkey skin is the best! The last hour of roasting was breast side up to brown it and then about 20 minutes resting. The brine could be tasted in the turkey and complimented the bird. I was pretty happy with how it turned out and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I made our favorite mashed potatoes: heavy cream, garlic, Parmesan and a stick of butter. A little parsley is good too but I forgot to put it in while I was running around the kitchen. I was actually only an hour behind serving which is pretty good for me. We had 7 dishes or so, not including the pies Shelby made the night before, some easier than others to put together. The gravy is usually last to be made. I use the the braised vegetables from the turkey pan to make the gravy in addition to the giblets and neck stock.
After we all ate dinner we celebrated my birthday--it was the next day but it's easier to do it while we have everyone in one place. Shelby made my favorite: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Every since I was a kid this has been my favorite cake to eat. I think it was because we didn't get stuff like that often and seeing the typical yellow cake and chocolate frosting on the packaging looked really tasty. Luckily, anything buttery is good in my book; I love it every time.
We were able to do a little bit while Chayce was home but before you know it he's back on the plane and out of here. We'll be able to visit some more over Christmas and there is always something going on here, but it's nice when we have the kids home again.
It's Thanksgiving! One of my favorite holidays of the year and I love to cook dinner for the family. The smells, picking at what's being made and the thought of everyone home just feels good. Bonus for us: Our son will be home for the weekend from his training! Can't wait to see him.
I've only recently started brining turkeys, this being my third. I've browsed a lot recipes out there and picked what I liked from them. This recipe will produce a nice aromatic mixture that will add flavor to your bird. Another thing I like to do too is roast mine upside down and them flip it the last hour to brown the top. I can write about that later.
The following brine recipe will be mixed with approximately 2 gallons of water. Brine the fully submerged turkey for about 24 hours (12 in a pinch!) If you don't have room in the refrigerator to hold it, you can use a large, ice-packed cooler. Half way through brining make sure to flip the turkey.
4 cups Apple Cider
½ bottle White Wine
1 ½ cups Kosher salt
6 cloves of Garlic, crushed
5 medium Bay Leaves
2 cups Brown Sugar
2 medium Onions, sliced
2 Oranges (just the peel, no pith. I put the peeled, oranges inside the turkey while it's roasting)
2-3 tablespoons of Rosemary
2 tablespoons Black Pepper Corn
2 tablespoons Coriander
1 tablespoon Mustard Seed
1 tablespoon Fennel Seed
A few sprigs of Thyme
Mix all ingredients in a stock pan and bring to a roll. Lower heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes, until the salt has dissolved. Cool before pouring in brining container with turkey. From what I've read it could cause problems with bacteria if you pour hot or warm brine on the turkey. You can use ice to cool down the brine if need be, just make sure you don't add as much water when you mix it all together.
I don't get over to the Peninsula to eat much but when I do I try to hit Chic N Fish in Newport News. I haven't found a better place in the area to buy Korean style fried chicken. Unlike Southern fried chicken Korean style doesn't have the thick batter or coating on it. It's tossed in seasoning then double fried. They fry it twice to give it a nice crispy skin that is light without being greasy.
At Chic N Fish you can get it with three different sauces: Soy Garlic, Spicy and Extra Spicy. On our trip we got the Soy Garlic and Spicy pieces. We ordered 16 wings between the two of us and ate every single one. These are cooked to order so if you don't call ahead you might have a wait, depending on how busy the place is. It's better to eat them fresh, because if you saved some for later you'll lose the crispiness you get from the double fry.
Chic N Fish is located at 954 J Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News, VA 23601.
About 3 weeks back O'Connor Brewing Co. took over the taps at Lynnhaven Pub. Since then a ton has been going on and I forgot to post about it!
OBC brought 5 casks of one-offs the brewers had experimented with. The casks were brand staples with added ingredients, mixing it up a bit. It was a Friday night so Charolette was pouring out back for $5 a pour.
O'Connor was represented by several of the brewers who were willing to discuss their casks with Pub patrons. Rob, Lynnhaven Pub owner, was out back smoking meat and experimenting with coffee grinds he got from Lynnhaven Coffee Roasters.
Got to see Bill at Grape & Gourmet's Friday wine tasting. We took home a Pinot Noir and