If you’re driving down the “main drag” here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (aka Route 13), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to turn off the beaten path. All roads lead to the water eventually – seaside or bayside. It doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ll stumble on a seafood shack in your travels. And this time of year, they’re all sure to have fresh soft shell crabs. A delicacy here, as well as around the world.

My favorite spot is Martin’s Crabhouse in Saxis, VA. It’s about a 20 minute drive for me on Chincoteague, but when it comes to crabs – it’s always worth the trip. You’ll usually find two old salts sitting on the front porch of the crab shack, no doubt talking about fish tales. One of the younger guys inside will shuffle over to the peeling tables and fish out a dozen for me – wriggling as they’re pulled out of the water and placed in the box. It really doesn’t get fresher than that.

Up until last week, breading and pan-frying was my go-to prepare a soft shell crab. But, after putting them on the grill…I fear I can never go back. First off, it was easier and way less mess. Always a win! But the flavor. THE FLAVOR. Sweet, tender crab with a heady dose of smokiness from the grill. I brushed with fresh garlic herb butter while cooking, which helped them to not stick to the grill – as well as impart more wonderful flavor. A few minutes on the grill, and they plump up to pure perfection.

I wanted to pair them with pasta, so I made a quick scampi sauce using the usual suspects – butter, garlic, lemon, white wine. And, a few cherry tomatoes and basil for a little extra flair and color. Was just enough to make the pasta moist, and paired perfectly with the crab – just making it’s flavors sing a little louder.

Move over, Shrimp Scampi. There’s a new kid on the block…


It’s that time of year here on Chincoteague. When a friend or neighbor will knock on your door, and present you with a Ziploc bag full of freshly caught scallops, soft shell crabs, drum fish, shrimp…whatever happens to be good on the docks or our little roadside seafood markets that day. It’s pretty much my favorite time of year on our little island, aside from Pony Penning…

So when my BFF stopped by last week with these gorgeous scallops, it made me feel one step closer to full-blown summer. I’d also happened to restock my supply of Geechie Boy grits last week too. While shrimp & grits is a regular on our menu this time of year, I thought – why not scallops instead?

Seasoned them simply with some of my homemade seasoning salt and pepper, gave them a quick sear. Happened to some fresh spinach on hand that needed to be used, so I sauteed that with a little bit of garlic and champagne vinegar – which did a great job of deglazing the pan and bringing all that awesome flavor into the dish. I think kale or chard would also be wonderful in place of the spinach!

The grits are a perfect accompaniment, because they kind of take care of themselves on the stove while you get the scallops squared away. Also, grits are so versatile when it comes to different flavors. I wanted something with a little bit of a coastal twist – so I stirred in some Old Bay right before serving. Life changing, ya’ll…

Served with a lovely local Rosé and a salad, it was the perfect way to break-in dinners on the back porch season for us! 

Roasted Vegetable Quiche

This summer was insanely hectic. I feel like it passed it a blur of beaching, boating, and warm summer nights. I wasn’t in the kitchen making new things to share with you as much as I’d like, but now that the days are becoming cooler – it’s my favorite time of year to be in the kitchen. Not to mention it’s the best time of year to work with the bounty that your garden, or local farmers in your area have produced.

I’ve always been passionate about gardening, and particularly varietal history and seed saving. So when the good folks at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello reached out and asked me to share the details on their 10th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival happening this weekend, I was delighted to do so!

Thomas Jefferson championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation, and sustainable agriculture. In today’s modern world,  they are continuing that tradition at Monticello – and have been doing so, for many years. They were kind enough to send me a beautiful box of garden goodness fresh from the fields.

monticello

I mean – what an honor. Talk about tasting history! Eggplants (Listadia di Gandia and Black Beauty), Peppers (Marconi and Fish Hots – a variety that was used in seafood houses in my region for hundreds of years), a Green Nutmeg Melon, fresh sesame, and some of their locally made Hickory Syrup and Peach Butter available from their online shop. I can’t thank them enough for sending that box of loveliness my way, it was a real treat!

I ended up tossing the eggplants Marconi peppers with a little olive oil and salt, and added a tomato and some garlic from my dad’s garden for good measure – then roasted. That’s a great way to get out excess moisture, that can lead to soggy situations in whatever dish you’re preparing. Plus, it really intensifies all of the flavor.

Used my favorite pie crust recipe to line my tart pan, and blind bake. Then piled in the roasted vegetable goodness and a rich egg-custard to fill in all the nooks & crannies. And a little goat cheese for good measure. A local farmer has been selling his goat cheese at the farmer’s market here on Chincoteague, and it’s insanely wonderful. Have been enjoying it every chance I can get!

A quick bake for about half an hour, and you’re good to go. Paired with a simple green salad, it’s the perfect meal for this time of year. Could also be made in a pie plate without the crust!

And, if you’re in the vicinity and looking for something to do tomorrow – make sure you check out the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. The’ve got a great lineup of speakers, activities for kids, gardening info, seed saving, good eats….they’ll have it all! A great day to get outside and live, breathe, and taste history.

 

Iced Coffee Tonic

The dog days of summer haven’t hit us yet, but I wanted to be prepared when they do. My friend and coffee roaster Kristen, down at Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company, had made us these refreshing concotions after a long day on the road – literally all over the Eastern Shore. It was for a farm tour hosted by the good people at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station. Last year they had their first Serving Up The Shore event, and it was a great success. Local farmers and producers donate an array of items, and local chefs donate their time. Last year I attended, and have anxiously been awaiting this year…

Imagine my surprise when the folks at the Field Station asked me to come and prepare the salad course! I’m excited, and a little nervous – but I think we’ll have great fun! It’s really an honor to be in the kitchen with the chefs and farmers/producers they have lined up…go buy your tickets!

Anywho, I’ve long been a fan of ESCR and their coffees. So to get to know Kristen and Jamie, and to have them take the time to show us a roast from start to finish – was just such a treat! And then, to end it all with an amazing treat like this iced coffee tonic – well, that was just the icing on the cake for the day! If you’re local, look for their coffees at Poseidon’s Pantry as well as Wine, Cheese & More (downtown) here on the island,

Kristen used their Marsh Mud cold-brew blend, which is phenom. But whatever your favorite method or brand for cold brew is will be fine. Look for a post on that here soon! So, about 3/4 parts cold brew to 1/4 cup tonic or seltzer. I kind of liked the slight “twang” that the tonic water lent, but have since made it with seltzer and it was equally delightful.

A little sugar or simple syrup. And maybe a splash of half & half, if that’s your thing. I’ve also added a splash of coconut milk, and it was absolute perfection! Garnish with some sort of herbacious sprig – we used rosemary, and really enjoyed that little herbal note lingering in the background.

The perfect summer sipper to put a little pep in your step during these warmer months!

Source: I get by with a little help from my friends at ESCR. Thanks, guys!