September 18, 2020
by Megan Scott
Outer Banks visitors and locals alike know the delight that can be found at The SaltBox Café on Colington Road. Classically trained chefs and owners Randolph and Amanda Sprinkle and their delicious twists on fresh, local food have inspired a cult-like following since the restaurant opened in 2014.
The Sprinkles combine flavors and textures in ways that could make anybody swoon, and the entire Salt-Box crew is some of the most warm, welcoming folks on the beach. A meal there is always one to remember. But, if you’re content to spend a cozy evening at home, the recipes featured here come straight from SaltBox’s menu, and both are deserving of a spot on your table. The Sprinkles’ dishes show how easy it can be to turn simple, seasonal ingredients into something special.
First up, a Vegan Buffalo Mac and “Cheese” that will gratify comfort food cravings. If you’re new to vegan cuisine, a recipe from Amanda Sprinkle is the place to begin. As a vegetarian herself, she knows how to coax mouthwatering flavor out of every ounce of these plant-based ingredients, and the results are utterly satisfying.
This dish is loaded with veggies and the sauce is made from cauliflower that’s been simmered in stock spiked with Tabasco for that classic buffalo taste. The cauliflower is pureed along with coconut milk and cashews for creamy texture, plus some nutritional yeast for a boost of flavor. Yes, nutritional yeast is good for you, but you’ll love it for the rich, nutty, cheesiness it provides. This meal feels like the ultimate indulgence and just the thing to snuggle up on the couch with.
Next comes the Sprinkles’ Seared Scallops with Sage Butter over a Parsnip and Pine Nut Puree. The Sprinkles get much of their seafood from O’Neal’s Sea Harvest, near the docks in Wanchese. Make the trip if you can; the freshness speaks for itself.
In this recipe, sweet, tender scallops benefit from a fast, hot sear in a skillet while they’re gently basted with sage-infused butter. Sounds amazing, right? Thanks to Randolph, we’ll be basting everything in life with sage butter from now on. The scallops are then paired with a silky, nutty parsnip purée that’s surprisingly simple to make and, before you know it, you have a gourmet meal on your hands worthy of the good plates and a fancy bottle of wine.
Give these SaltBox Café favorites a try and soak up all the late summer/early fall vibes they bring to the table. Your taste buds, and your family, will thank you.
Vegan Buffalo Mac & “Cheese” with Panko Crust
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni noodles
2 cups diced butternut squash or sweet potato, oven
1 cup sliced mushrooms – cremini or portobello are best
1 medium head of cauliflower, cleaned and chopped
1 small yellow onion – slice one half and dice the other half
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup Tabasco sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup roasted cashews
1 green onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup plain panko bread crumb
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon dry harissa seasoning or blackening seasoning
■ Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium pot and add sliced onion and chopped garlic, cooking until translucent. Add cauliflower and cook until lightly golden. Add vegetable stock and Tabasco sauce and simmer until cauliflower is tender.
■ In a blender (be careful as the mixture is hot), blend cauliflower mixture. Add cashews and nutritional yeast and blend until smooth. Slowly add coconut milk until creamy.
■ Add remaining tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion, mushrooms, and squash or sweet potato and cook until tender.
■ Add “cheese” sauce, green onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and slowly add noodles. Stir and simmer together until slightly thick and creamy.
■ Melt the coconut oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir occasionally until toasted, then add harissa or blackening seasoning to taste.
■ Place hot macaroni and cheese in serving dish and top with seasoned, toasted panko breadcrumbs.
Seared Scallops with Sage Butter over Parsnip & Pine Nut Puree
8 large fresh scallops, cleaned and patted dry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup peeled and diced parsnip
1 small cauliflower head, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
■ Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat and add diced onion; cook until translucent. Reduce heat to low and add parsnip and cauliflower. Cook for 4-6 minutes until golden. Add water and cream and let simmer until vegetables are soft. In a blender, puree parsnip mixture and slowly add toasted pine nuts. Add salt and pepper to taste.
■ Add vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper and slowly add them to the skillet (make sure skillet is very hot). Slowly add butter and sage leaves. With a large metal spoon, baste the scallops with butter. Flip scallops over after 2 minutes and repeat basting on other side. Cook for 2 more minutes.
■ To serve, spread parsnip puree on the bottom of a plate and place scallops on top. Serve with delicious sides such as braised collards, roasted sweet potatoes, or sautéed broccoli rabe.
What: The SaltBox Cafe, unique twists on fresh, local food
When: Lunch and dinner Monday, Wednesday-Saturday; brunch on Sundays, closed Tuesdays
Where: 1469 Colington Road, Kill Devil Hills
Megan Scott is co-owner of The Spice & Tea Exchange in Duck. You can check out her food blog at servingtonight.com.