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Recipe: This is a Copycat of a RENOWNED classic: Village Tavern Spinach Dip

Hi, foodies!

One hundred and fifty seven years ago, I was a server at Village Tavern in Winston-Salem…the super cute historic Reynolda Village location. Back in the 90’s it was THE restaurant. I actually enjoyed working there. The tips were good, the vibe was fun, the patrons were nice and the menu was (and still is) awesome. Founded in 1984 and headquartered in WS, they had a Greensboro and Charlotte location too, but Village Tavern has now grown so much over the years with locations in several states. It’s truly a local success story. You couldn’t beat the good food, fun atmosphere and the price. And that still rings true today. And no this isn’t a sponsored post. This about that recipe!

The VT menu has also evolved with their growth over the years but one thing that will probably never ever go away is their famous Spinach Dip. If you’ve ever had it, then you know the “spin dip,” as we called it. And I figured out how to make it a long time ago. I had forgotten how much I love that appetizer until I was reminded of it recently and made it for the fam. I think you need to make it too, maybe this weekend for your Fourth of July festivities. This dip has a Tex Mex flair with flavors of cumin and pickled jalapeño and tons of cheese. It’s served piping hot and melty with soft, warm tortillas. You can use crunchy chips and you may be tempted to, but the warm tortillas is the OG method and absolutely perfect for snacking. There’s nothing quite like getting a scoop of that cheesy goodness and wrapping it into those warm wedges. Mouth watering!

Copycat VT Spin Dip

Copycat Village Tavern Spinach Tortilla Dip
Serves 4

Cheese Mixture
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced finely.
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
4 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, if desired

Veggie mixture
1 pound spinach, I use fresh but you can use boxed frozen, thawed & squeezed, dry
1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, diced plus a few extra slices for topping
1/2 cup fresh Roma tomatoes, diced. Allow the tomatoes to drain some of their liquid.

Directions:
Preheat a skillet or sauce pan with a bit of oil
Saute onions and cumin for 10 minutes until onions are tender and somewhat translucent. Add salt, pepper, cream cheese, and half-and-half. Simmer until cream cheese melts and it’s all creamy and smooth. Fold in Monterey Jack cheese until smooth and melted. Set aside. Allow to cool a bit.

Mix the spinach, jalapenos and drained tomatoes together.
Add to the creamy mixture very gently being careful not to crush the tomatoes.

Place mixture in a deep dish or divide into two smaller oven-proof dishes. Mix enough shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese to cover the top. Don’t be stingy.

Place the dish on a baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven and bake until cheese is fully melted and bubbly. Garnish with additional sliced jalapeños and cilantro (if desired).  Serve with soft warm tortillas cut into wedges or chips.

Do you have any fun Village Tavern memories? Tell me about them!

If you make this, be sure to comment and tag us on social media @triadfoodies.

Recipe: Loco Moco- A Hawaiian “Breakfast”

In true food blogger fashion, I’m thinking of recipes to share with you, while eating a plate of warm leftover risotto that I need to recreate in order to share with you (because it was so incredible),  as I write a blog post…specifically about one of the best meals I’ve made lately.

Last week, I saw Chef Keith Rhodes of Catch Restaurant in Wilmington post a “take-out” special of Loco Moco. (All you folks who are reading this in 2027, remember the CoVID Pandemic that had us all sheltering at home and everything fun closed in March, April and May of 2020? If not, google it.)  The dish looked fantastic and the Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice is what called me because I had just received my order. And as blessings would be, my produce box from Kindly Kitchen had shiitakes and spring onions and a host of other goodies in it a few days later and I got inspired to make it. I also had some local BFR beef (via High Country Food Hub) in the freezer.  After perusing some Pinterest recipes and seeing how easy Loco Moco is, I decided I could just do a mash up of several recipes I saw posted and really they weren’t too different than the gravy I make for my country style steak. Loco Moco is basically a meat patty on rice and gravy, only Loco Moco has a slightly Asian flare, thanks to some soy, chili garlic paste, Worcestershire and perhaps fish sauce and sometimes the beef mixture.  It really varies. The gravy sometimes includes mushrooms and is poured (in this case) around the ground beef patty and is always topped with a fried egg.  Loco Moco is my idea of the perfect breakfast. Like if I was in Hawaii, I would order this before an omelet or pancakes or anything considered breakfasty. It’s savory, spicy and full of umami flavor and is perfect for dinner too, which is when we enjoyed it. We served ours with a side of sauteed spring onions and Solomon’s Seal, which is a wild leafy veg that came in my produce box. Loco Moco doesn’t really need a side, but it’s Spring and my produce drawers overfloweth.

This recipe is completely adaptable to leave out the mushrooms, make it more spicy, and it’s gluten-free (unless you hate to cook with corn starch and in that case, make gravy the old fashioned way with a roux…I’m not going to teach that to you here, but the corn starch version is way less fussy than a roux).  I hear Spam is also traditional and I bet this is just as good with ground pork. I hope you make it and love it as much as we do.

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LOCO MOCO  (Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
dash cayenne
Salt/Pepper

1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ketchup
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (you can add more if you like it spicy)
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
1 tsp. oyster sauce (also optional but it gives even more flavor)
1 inch knob of fresh ginger grated or 1 tsp. ground ginger
1 TBS. brown sugar
1 TBS. corn starch
1 1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
Scallions and/or chives for garnish
2 TBS. Ghee or butter
Cooked rice
Eggs (one for each patty)

Prepare the beef with the garlic and cayenne and make into to 4 round patties (about 3/4 inch thick and about the size you’d place on a burger bun–you decide how big). Sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper.

Make the sauce:
Mix the soy, worcestershire, ketchup, chili sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger, fish sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce (if using), corn starch and broth together. Taste and adjust for seasonings. If you like it spicy, have at it. Add a little bit of soy if you need. Set aside.

Get a skillet screaming hot with a bit of ghee or butter.  Place the burgers in the skillet and sear on one side until a nice crust forms, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and sear 4-5 minutes more or until desired doneness. Set aside.

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In the same pan, lower the heat to medium and add a bit more butter or ghee to the pan, then add the sliced mushrooms. Do not touch them for 3-5 minutes. Let them get a little brown before you start tossing them about. Add a sprinkle of salt and a generous amount of pepper then add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the broth mixture, deglazing the pan and scraping any browned bits. Allow the sauce to thicken. You may need to add a bit more broth if it gets too thick. You may adjust seasonings here again. Keep the gravy warm in the pan it should coat the spoon and be very glossy.

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In a separate skillet, melt some butter and crack the eggs, cooking until the whites are set but the yolks are slightly runny. You can cook them all the way until the yolk is cooked through but c’mon, I promise you it’s so good this way. Sprinkle the eggs with a bit of flaky salt (and cayenne if you want).

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To assemble:
Add rice to individual bowls or plates, then top with the patty, spooning gravy on top and around. Add the fried egg on top and garnish with the chives or scallions.

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That yolk shot though…

Enjoy!

If you make this dish, please let me know and tag me @triadfoodies on Instagram and Facebook as well. 

 

 

 

Recipe: “Takeout” Beef & Broccoli

Hi! How are you holding up?

As we lean in a bit longer into the “stay at home” order, we’re continuing to embrace our two options–take out or cook in. One of our favorite things to make at home is “takeout” and this Beef & Broccoli is no exception. It’s even better than any takeout or eat out I’ve ever had. Recipes are abundant online and I adapted this recipe from dozens I found online, tweaked according to what we like and had on hand and we put our wok to good use, however it can easily be made in any large skillet.  

I happened to have some local stir fry beef from a local farm via our online farmer’s market, High Country Food Hub, and simply used some frozen broccoli (because I didn’t want to make a trip just for the fresh stuff) and added that to some local bok choy and ramps I picked up from my Kindly Kitchen produce box.  The family declared this a winner,even though my kidlets don’t love steak. The quick marinade helps the steak come out nice and tender and the sauce is savory and gingery with just a hint of sweetness. I even inadvertently adapted this recipe to be keto leaning with the use of xantham gum as we were all out of corn starch. You can even make this paleo with coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.

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Ingredients:

2 lbs beef stir fry (usually pre-cut in the meat section) or slice flank or flat iron thinly against the grain
1 TBS corn starch or xantham gum
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 TBS oyster sauce
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS sesame oil

2 cups broccoli florets, fresh (or frozen but thawed)
pepper

Sauce:
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce (or coconut aminos if paleo)
1 TBS honey or brown sugar
1 TBS sriracha
1 TBS oyster sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic, grated
1 inch knob ginger, grated
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons corn starch or xantham gum

Additional ingredients:

1-2 Scallions as garnish
Cooked rice or noodles, prepared according to directions.

Combine the steak and all ingredients for it except for broccoli along with a generous pinch of pepper and set aside. You can do this several hours in advance for extra marinating. 

Combine ingredients for the sauce and set aside. 

Prepare your rice or noodles and while that’s going, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil (or regular oil) in a wok or skillet. Once the oil shimmers, saute the beef until it’s beginning to brown on all sides.  3-5 minutes.  You made need to do this in batches.  Remove the beef from skillet onto a plate and set aside. To the hot skillet, add your broccoli (or any other veggies you want to use), and sauce and cook the veggies until al dente. Add the meat back to the wok or skillet and heat through until beef is coated and the sauce has thickened a bit. You’ll know. If you’re using corn starch, you’ll want to make sure you cook out any bitterness or “starchiness” that is remaining. Again, you’ll know.  

Serve the beef & broccoli on top of steaming hot rice or noodles and top with scallions or sesame seeds.  Enjoy! 

If you make this recipe, give us a comment! 

Follow me on insta and Facebook and tag us there @triadfoodies.  

Recipe: Asparagus & Sundried Tomato Pasta w/ Feta

Day 137, 157 of staying in. I hope you haven’t found yourself in a rut. I can tell you, I cannot type as I have mistyped every. single. word. up to this point.

The recipe I’m bringing today goes waaaaaaay waaaaaaaay back. Way back to the mid-90’s (ish) in Winston-Salem, NC, well before the city was known for its food scene but still had a few commendable restaurants and a couple of ever so new and trendy coffee shops.

My favorite restaurant at the time was a place called The Maze. It was in Reynolda Village and I loved eating there on my evening break when I worked at WXII. If I remember correctly, it was very vegetarian heavy (not that I am one) and I just loved this creamy penne pasta dish with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes that was topped with crumbled feta. It was creamy, tangy, and savory and the shining star was the sun-dried tomatoes, which I’d never even heard of at the time. We’ve come a long way baby.

Well, The Maze has long since closed but I think I’ve copied it well enough.  Up until this week, I hadn’t made it in forever and thought I’d share it with you. This dish makes an excellent main meatless course, but I also like it as a side. And if you want to add shrimp or chicken for protein, it will not disappoint. Any pasta would do but the original was presented with penne and it’s pretty perfect for it. (If you look closely, you’ll say I don’t have penne here, rather a similar pasta plus another pasta with no ridges because I was using what I had and I refused to go back out just for one thing).

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Asparagus & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta w/ Feta

Ingredients:
1 lb penne pasta or similar, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1 bunch asparagus, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (either in oil or dried but reconstituted)
1/2 cup fresh feta, crumbled
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs. oil of choice
salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
As the water boils and pasta cooks, heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelize. Add asparagus and cook 5-8 minutes over medium heat until the asparagus is beginning to get tender, but do not let it get mushy. Toss in the tomatoes and stir. Once the pasta is completed, add 1 cup of the pasta water to the mixture. Add the cream and stir until thickened and just slightly creamy but not swimming in it.  Add the pasta and mix well, adding a splash of cream if you think it needs it. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the feta, then top with a bit more before serving.

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Recipe: Salmon & “Black Caviar” Lentils w/ Creamy Dill Sauce

As we head into day 137,137 of our stay at home/quarantine, I decided to do a little something outside of our comfort zone and make salmon…at home. Now, I rarely order salmon out unless its sushi, but I’ve had just a few successes at home with salmon and this dish was no different….plus it’s so pretty.

And don’t let the fancy name scare you off. This was super easy. I ordered my Black Caviar Lentils, aka “Beluga” lentils from Rancho Gordo well before the pandemic so I’m not sure how readily available they are in stores, but they are still available here with some possible shipping delays of course. They get their name because they look so much like Beluga Caviar.  I’m actually looking forward to cooking with these type of lentils again. They have so much flavor and add drama to any dish. When they arrived I wondered,  “what in the world what have I done?” What would I make with them? But a local chef  years ago had made them as a bed under some prawns and I saw another dish somewhere on the interwebs with scallops. Well, I’m fresh out of scallops here, but I did have 2 pieces of salmon in the freezer, so that’s how we got here.  Serve this salmon and lentils with asparagus or spinach and you have a complete, colorful meal.

About the sauce in this recipe, you can make just about any sauce you want, but dill loves and seafood and cream. I’ve seen similar recipes of dill sauce calling for creme fraiche but I wasn’t about to make a special trip for that so I used cream cheese instead and have noted that in the ingredients. There’s also a tip below for a totally alternate method that I’ve made before (with some modifications) and it’s almost as good just not warm.  Both sauces are keto-friendly (but the lentils are not).

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Salmon w/Creamy Dill Sauce & Black Caviar Lentils

Ingredients

Wild Caught Salmon filet (try to find one that’s beautifully pink and about 3/4-1 inch thick, about 6-8 oz)
1-2 TBS capers (reserve some juice for later)
Olive oil

Creamy Dill Sauce 
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS butter
3 tsp. dijon mustard
4 TBS cream cheese (or creme fraiche if you can find it)
heavy cream (if using cream cheese to loosen to desired consistency)
3 tsp. lemon juice or the reserved caper juice
3 tsp. fresh dill, coarsely minced, plus a few sprigs for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
**see note

Lentils
1 cup black caviar/beluga lentils
oil or butter
Chicken stock or water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
dry aromatics like bay leaf or oregano (or you can omit)

First you’ll want to prepare your lentils. Heat oil or fat in a sauce pan. Add lentils and stir to coat. Add the garlic then enough water or chicken stock to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until just tender.
Note: I strongly suggest you take a look at the recommendation on the lentil package as some may require a bit of a different length of cooking time, but this is what I followed per Rancho Gordo. 

While the lentils are cooking…
If using a thicker piece of salmon, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add a oil to a hot pan and sear salmon, skin side up, until golden then flip and sear for a couple minutes more. Scatter in the capers (without the juice). You should hear them sizzle and start to crisp. Place pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes until medium doneness. You can cook a few minutes more if you like it more done.  Note: my salmon was pretty thin and did not need the additional cooking time beyond the sear, but you may need to do bake it here.

For the sauce:
While the salmon finishes, heat the butter in a sauce pan. After it melts, add dijon and stir well, then add cream cheese or creme fraiche and whisk until smooth and creamy.  If it’s a little too thick, add a bit of heavy cream to loosen. I needed about a 4 tablespoons.  Add the lemon juice or caper juice, then the dill and stir.

Plate the salmon and capers, drizzle the sauce liberally over (as little or as much as you want) and finish with a sprig or two of fresh dill. Serve along side or atop the beluga lentils. I topped with some local microgreens.

Enjoy!

**Let’s just say you haven’t been to the store in 37 days and you’re fresh out of cream cheese. Well you can still make the dill sauce with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 TBS lemon juice, 3-4 TBS. fresh dill, pinch of salt. You will not heat this. Just mix and serve. Easy peasy. And save it because if you decide to add capers or relish later, it’s totally a tartar sauce and so is the one above that’s heated first, come to think of it.

 

Enjoy!