Every time I open New York Times Cooking to find inspiration for dinner, I find myself on an endless scroll. It’s the same way my husband and I peruse Netflix these days: mindlessly skimming over things that would be completely new to us, but somehow none of it is good enough. I made a cheese sandwich on a hot dog bun the other day. The struggle is real.
I miss restaurants. I find myself getting wistful frequently. I miss banter with bartenders—heck, I miss being a bartender to banter with. I miss leaning over to the couple sitting next to us at a restaurant to ask about the plate in front of them. I miss after-dinner drinks that dance long into the evening, and the sorry brunch the morning after, with a mimosa to save me from myself. Hair of the dog is a lot less chic when you make it yourself.
But, as my dad would say, “Tough noogies, kiddo.” This is the way things are.
I’m still feeling grateful for all of the bartenders and chefs who are willing to share their secrets. As always, if you enjoy what they’ve offered in this weeks quarantine recipes, don’t hesitate to jump on Venmo and show your appreciation.
Cape Fear Wine & Beer + Casa Blanca
Just as Cape Fear Wine & Beer (CFWB) is known for its monumental beer list, Casa Blanca is known for its thoughtful lattes and locally roasted coffee. CFWB is open from 4-8 p.m. seven days a week to fill growlers or pick up wine and beer to-go. The full beer list is available on Untappd.
Casa Blanca is open from 12-4 p.m. daily for curbside service, with a full drink menu and limited food menu. (That includes half gallons of batched cold brew, iced lattes and more!) Order ahead at casa-blanca-coffee.square.site.
They’ve both decided to show off a little for us this week as well. CFWB bartender Cece Calvano and Casa Blanca Food & Spirits director Sunni Holley are here with two fresh recipes for the quarantine kitchen.
Order ahead at casa-blanca-coffee.square.site.
DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND MARGARITA
2 oz blanco tequila (I prefer Lunazul or Espolon)
Fresh lemon juice
Fresh lime juice
Splash simple syrup
1 oz cranberry juice
Sour Patch Kids (optional)
“I make these when I want a margarita but I don’t want all the sweetness from premade margarita mix,” Calvano says. “Combine tequila, lemon juice, lime juice, and a splash of simple syrup and shake in a shaker tin with ice. You can add more simple syrup for more sweetness. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Top with soda water and cranberry juice, then garnish with a couple of Sour Patch Kids for added cheekiness.”
CHORIZO & EGG TACOS!
Perfect for a late-night dinner and a margarita. These can be made using classic pork chorizo or soy chorizo to keep it veg!
Frozen tater tots
Tortillas (flour or corn, whichever you like)
Cook your tater tots according to package directions; you’ll need about three per taco. Make sure they’re crispy for that textural difference!
While the tots cook, take care of the rest. Warm up those tortillas by either wrapping ‘em in foil and tossing in the oven, or if you have a gas range and want those charred edges, you can warm them over a low flame.
Slice avocado, set aside. Chop up onion and cilantro and place together in a small bowl.
Brown the chorizo in a sauté pan over medium heat, making sure to break it up as it cooks. Once cooked, set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain—or, since paper products are basically worth their weight in gold right now, use a slotted spoon. Dispose most of the leftover oil from the pan.
Beat your eggs together and add them to the same pan, add some salt, scramble to preferred level of firmness (we like softer to mimic a cheesy egg).
Now for the big finish: Grab a warm tortilla, fill it with three tots, a little chorizo, a little egg, and some of that avocado, top with cilantro and onion (again: optional but definitely encouraged), and finish with a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce and squeeze of lime. Head back to the couch and don’t forget the margarita!
Stalk & Vine + The Basics
Remember what having cocktails on the Riverwalk felt like? What I wouldn’t give for a sip and a brunch situation at The Basics!
The Basics is still offering to-go goods and is updating their specials daily on Facebook. Stalk & Vine (on the Riverwalk where Le Catalan used to be ) is waiting with bated breath to open and serve once again.
However, owner Zac Brown of Stalk + Vine and owner Mary Long of The Basics have weighed in to ease our yearning woes for downtown yumminess once again.
Zac’s Venmo: @zacbrown7
1.5 oz Bulleit Rye Bourbon (Rittenhouse Rye or Templeton Rye kick it up a notch)
4-5 lime wedges (quarter slices)
4-5 slices jalapeños
Spice to taste: On average smaller jalapeños add more heat than larger jalapeños, so beware
0.5 tsp cane sugar (substitute: simple syrup)
Muddle lime wedges, jalapeños and sugar until all juice is extracted out of the lime wedges and jalapeños, and sugar is a light paste. Add bourbon, one scoop of ice (6-8 cubes), and shake. Strain mixture over a rocks glass full of ice. Top with club soda.
Want to be fancy?
Rim the glass with sugar or salt. Sugar will cut the heat and salt will accentuate it. Add pineapple/strawberry chunks/juice to make it a bit more tropical.
(Rittenhouse Rye and Templeton Rye kick this up a notch as well.)
FLATIRON STEAK WITH CREOLE SEASONING AND PINEAPPLE SALSA
“I think the acidity and sweetness of the salsa in this dish will really complement the earthy flavors of the rye,” Long says. “Since you would already be picking up jalapeños at the store, this makes for a nice crossover!”
1 16-24 oz flatiron steak, or protein of choice (works well with grilled seafood)
Pierce the steak on both sides with a fork. Rub spice mixture (recipe below) generously on both sides and allow meat to rest for 30 minutes.
Creole Spice Mixture:
¼ c paprika
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp black pepper
1.5 tsp dried thyme
1.5 tsp granulated garlic (not garlic salt)
1.5 tbsp dried basil
1.5 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder or salt)
2 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine together. Store leftover spice mixture in airtight container for future use.
1 small red onion, diced small
1 small red bell pepper, diced small
1 small green bell pepper, diced small
1 jalapeño, deseeded, diced small
Combine these vegetables together in a mixing bowl. Set aside half of mixture for another use. (We call this “migas mix” at The Basics, and saute the vegetables and add eggs, scrambling them altogether with tomatoes for our popular breakfast dish!)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp minced cilantro
1.5 tsp kosher salt
0.5 tsp black pepper
1/4 fresh pineapple, peeled, core removed, and diced small
1 tsp sugar
Toss together all ingredients and set aside. Preheat grill to 375 degrees.
Season grill with vegetable oil, and place meat on grill until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for medium rare, approximately 6 minutes per side. Allow for 5-minute rest time, once meat is off the grill. Slice the beef and arrange on a platter, topping with the pineapple salsa.
Note: The extra pineapple can be sliced and used to garnish the cocktail, if so desired.
Beer Barrio + True Blue
Admittedly, of all the margs I’ve made, I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t even thought to pick up a peach or peach-related product. Luckily, Sheena O’Reilly of Beer Barrio (and Dock St. Oyster Bar) has my back. And chef-owner Bobby Zimmerman of Wrightsville Beach’s own True Blue is coming in correct with tuna poke to balance out all of the red meat I’ve been eating this quarantine.
Sheena’s Venmo: @Sheena-OReilly
JALAPEÑOS PEACH MARGARITA
2 fresh peaches, pitted and diced
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice (roll limes underneath palm if under ripe)
1/4 c jalapeño simple syrup (see recipe below)
3 oz Patron Silver
Jalapeño Simple Syrup:
0.5 c sugar
0.5 c water
1/2 of a fresh jalapeño, sliced in half (do not remove seeds)
After making simple syrup and allowing to cool, combine all margarita ingredients in a blender and add 2 handfuls of ice. Garnish with peach slice, lime, and jalapeño on the rim.
Makes two cocktails. Enjoy!
1 lb fresh sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna (minced)
2 tbsp Vidalia onion (minced)
0.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, sliced thin
Pinch Kashmiri chili powder (substitute: cayenne chili powder)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp honey
1 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp tamari
2 tsp sesame oil
Combine all ingredients except tuna in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Then add tuna. With a wooden spoon, mix vigorously for 1-2 minutes.