Locally grown tomatoes, corn and field peas and locally harvested softshell crabs come together for a one-dish entree. Start with an appetizer of Beet Tzatziki and finish with a Vanilla-Almond Cake with fresh berries, and you have memorable summer supper.

Beet Tzatziki + Pita Chips

3-4 medium-size red or yellow beets

2 large cloves minced garlic

Juice of half a lemon or dash red wine vinegar (or both)

1½ cups plain whole-milk yogurt, preferably Greek-style

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh dill

Sea salt

Black pepper

Steam, boil or roast beets until tender. Cool, remove skin and grate. Mix all ingredients together and chill for at least 6 hours. This bright pink or golden yellow dip is an easy nosh with crispy pita wedges, fresh veggies or even in tiny endive cups. You can make extra and use it the next day as a zingy side for grilled fish or pork.

Softshell Blue Crabs with Field Pea Succotash

This is a quick-cook dish. There’s no need to cook all day or fret. If the corn is super fresh, you just want a kiss of heat to warm it up. Blanch the field peas ahead of time, and then the dish comes together quickly.

Serves 4

4 ears corn-off-the-cob

2 medium size, ripe tomatoes, chopped

3 cups field peas (white acre, pink lady, even lima beans), blanched until soft

1 medium local, sweet onion, diced

1½  sticks unsalted real butter

¼ cup good olive oil

8 jumbo or whale-size softshell crabs, cleaned

Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Unbleached flour for dredging

Handful chopped basil leaves

In large cast-iron skillet heat a half-stick of butter until it is frothy. Add onion and cook over medium heat until almost translucent. Add corn, field peas and tomatoes, a generous grind of black pepper and a good size dash of local sea salt. Shake the pan and let it continue to heat over low heat while you cook the softshells.

For the softshells, start by lightly seasoning both sides of the crabs with a smidge of sea salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the crabs in flour and shake off excess.

Using a heavy-bottomed sauté pan or a cast-iron skillet, warm half the olive oil. Increase the heat to high and add ¼ (cup?) of the remaining butter. When foamy, add dredged softshells =how many at a time?= to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes and turn over carefully — watch for popping fat from the high water content in crab — and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until crab turns from translucent to opaque and has a nice golden exterior — usually about 2 minutes longer than you think you should. Remove onto platter. Repeat with remaining softshells.

Remove pan from heat. Swirl in remaining butter and add a bit of sea salt and fresh basil. Set aside. Place succotash on individual dinner plates, top with two softshell crabs and drizzle with basil butter.

Almond-Vanilla Cake

¾ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup cane sugar

1½ cups almond meal/flour

½ cup coconut flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt (I use Outer Banks SeaSalt)

4 eggs

½ cup unsweetened soy milk or organic milk (?)

1 teaspoon real vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, and blend for a full minute after each is added to incorporate structure. Add soy milk and vanilla and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and beat until creamy. Spread into a buttered, parchment-lined cake pan. I have used two loaf pans and I have done a 10-inch round. Two loaves are nice when you want to make one to keep and one to share. This is super delicate when warm, and it’s almost better the next day, if it lasts that long, as it gets a bit more dense. It’s delicious with fresh berries!

{Note: If you buy gluten-free baking powder, this can be a gluten-free dessert!}

Recipes courtesy of Outer Banks Epicurean

(We try to use all organic/natural/real ingredients.)


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