Last week I attended a medical conference at Virginia Beach.  Here is a sampling of my favorite restaurants - two tried and true ones and a new fabulous find.
Catch 31

Everything about this restaurant screams trendy sophistication.  I mean, come on, it's at the Hilton.  It is a very busy place and is usually quite energetic.  The food is gourmet and it's one of the best places to have seafood at the beach.  I love to sit outside.  When it's cooler, fire pits are lit to keep you warm.  During the summer, there is usually a band playing right beside of the restaurant.  And there is an ocean view of course.  This is one of the pricier restaurants, and they don't take reservations (booo!) but I think you have to try it at least once when you're in town.

I had the crab cakes and they were perfect just as expected; large chunks of back fin meat with a yummy grain mustard sauce, an unexpected but flavorful pear-tomato chutney, and side of veggies/steamed potatoes.
Aldo's Italian Ristorante

I'm not going to lie.  I ate here two nights.  In a row.  I just couldn't imagine a different place at which I'd rather be.   This is a quintessential Italian restaurant in my opinion.  It's so classy and chic.  On Saturday nights, a musician plays the baby grande and the lights are turned down low.  The whole place just glows.  

I ate classic Italian pasta dishes this time, but I'm sure anything off the menu would be great.  On the first night, I ordered capellini served with the vodka tomato cream sauce which was luscious.  I asked for the half size which was just right.  On the next night, I ate the classic lasagna baked in the wood burning oven which was also decadent and perfect; exactly the way you imagine it should be.  I should also add that the wine list is also amazing.  I found a red wine that was one of the best I had EVER tasted.  Aldo's is about a five to ten minute drive from the shore (on Laskin Road) but is worth leaving the strip!
The Leaping Lizard Cafe

I decided to visit this cafe after seeing it featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drives, and Dives.  It was about twenty minutes from the actual beach but I am so glad I made it out.  The cafe is committed to using fresh produce and it shows.  In fact, there is a produce stand out back where many of the ingredients are from!  (Along with some chickens!)  It seemed that every opportunity was taken to add as many fresh ingredients as possible to the plate - down to the cantaloupe slice that finished everything off.

You should know that seating is pretty limited and I actually never made it inside because most of the seats seem to be outside. It was 100 degrees when I was there and I was a little annoyed at first.  However, I think it was worth it and a glass of cold white wine really makes you forget how hot it really is :-) 

I ate one of the daily specials (of which there are many).  It was a little crab cake with a summer salad (including zucchini and squash), and the summer corn with basil.  (See my last post for my attempt at recreating this).  Delicious!  The serving sizes were a little small, but the food itself was excellent.  For dessert, I ordered the peach shortbread which really knocked my socks off.  The shortbread was just the right consistency and had just the right amount of sweetness.  The peaches were so amazingly ripe and flavorful.  I really do not know what the cooks did to render so much flavor from the peaches but it was on the best desserts I've ever had!  

After lunch (yes I had all of that for lunch), I bought a ton of produce from the back.  I was just beaming after the whole experience.  I loved Leaping Lizard and will definitely be coming back!
After a week long hiatus from cooking (I was at the beach!), I was ready to get back in the kitchen.  I found a produce stand on the way home (more about that later) which was selling fresh corn, potatoes, peaches, and blueberries which inspired this meal.  I served these with grilled chicken basted with bbq sauce.  Scroll down below to see the dessert!
Aunt Janny-June's Red Potato Salad

This recipe is from Aunt Janet!  It's one of the best potato salads I've ever tasted.  It combines the creaminess of real mayo with decadent blue cheese.  It's all finished off with the fresh crunchiness of yellow onions, scallions, and celery.

2.5 lb of red potatoes, cut into 2 inch cubes (leave the skins on)
1 c real mayonnaise
1/2 - 1 c of crumbled blue cheese (start low and add and more, tasting as you add)
2 T sherry vinegar
1/2 c yellow onion, diced
1/2 -1 c diced celery
1 bunch of scallions, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until soft.  Mash slightly and add the sherry vinegar.  Set aside until completely cooled.  

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  

Remember that you must never let mayo sit for too long out of the refrigerator because it can cause food poisoning caused by staph aureus.  
Sweet Corn with Basil

Inspired by the delicious meal I had at the Leaping Lizard Cafe!  This is so good, you'll never serve corn any different way :-)

4 ears of corn, shucked
15 basil leaves, minced
2 T butter
salt to taste

Cut the corn off the cobs and separate the kernels.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter.  Add the corn and basil and cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes.  Salt and serve immediately.    

It's sort of healthy!  This dessert features whole wheat flour, doesn't have too much fat and sugar, and is full of fresh, delicious fruit.  Have two servings.
Source: Shine by Yahoo!
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ripe but firm peaches (about 1 pound), pitted and sliced into eighths, or 3 1/2 cups frozen
  • 2 cups (1 pint) fresh or frozen blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place butter and oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Heat in the oven until melted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, sugar and vanilla; stir to combine.
  4. Add the melted butter mixture to the batter and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spoon peaches and blueberries evenly over the batter.
  5. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top of the cobbler is browned and the batter around the fruit is completely set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm.
This is a delicious vegetarian entree or side that is easy to make and very flavorful.  I made this for dinner with the corn muffins posted below.  You may basically use any veggies you want as long as you cut them the same size.  I omitted the pepper and added green beans.
Source: Giadia

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yam, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
2 small or 1 large zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
Salt and pepper
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons dried Italian-style bread crumbs
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the potato, yam, bell pepper, carrots, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss until coated. Spread vegetables evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the onion slices evenly over the vegetable mixture. Arrange the zucchini over the onion. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomato slices over the zucchini.

Stir the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the Parmesan bread crumbs over the vegetables in the baking dish. Drizzle with the last tablespoon of olive oil.

Bake uncovered until the vegetables are tender, and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.
Best corn muffins ever!!  This has quite a bit sugar but no oil.  I loved using Greek yogurt in this; what could be better?  Hint: the book specifically says not to use fat free yogurt or stone-ground cornmeal or they will be dry and less tender.
Source: The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

2 c all purpose flour
1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 c lowfat plain yogurt
1/2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
4 T (1/2 stick) butter 
2 large eggs

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable spray.
2. Whisk the flour, cornbread, 1/4 c of sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, milk, and vanilla.
3. In a large bowl, beat the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and butter together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until creamy and uniform, 3 to 6 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Beat in one-third of the flour mixture followed by half of the yogurt mixture, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining yogurt.  Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated (do not overmix). 
5. Using a 1/3 cup measure coated with vegetable oil spray, portion the batter into each mixture cup. 
6. Bake the muffins until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just a few crumbs attached, 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for five minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
I was really surprised at how much I liked these whole wheat pita flat breads!  What an easy, healthy way to eat pizza!  I used three small pears and think if I make this again, I'll drizzle them with just a little honey to complement the sweetness of them.
 The EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 medium ripe pear, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 6 1/2-inch or eight 4-inch whole-wheat pita breads
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in pear and cook, stirring often, until slightly soft and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vinegar and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated and the onion is tender and coated with a dark glaze, about 2 minutes more.
  3. Divide the onion-pear mixture among the pitas; sprinkle with cheese and walnuts. Transfer the pitas to a large baking sheet and bake until crispy and the cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.
Simple, healthy, and delicious! I'll definitely use two mangoes next time.
Source: EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry

  • 1 pound raw shrimp, (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large ripe, firm mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see Tip)
  • 1 bunch scallions, green tops only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

  1. Toss shrimp with salt, cayenne to taste and turmeric in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; place the shrimp in a single layer and cook until the undersides turn salmon-pink, about 1 minute. Flip them over and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Add mango, scallion greens and basil and cook, stirring, until the shrimp is just cooked and starts to barely curl, 1 to 2 minutes.
I made this last night and the house still smells like curry - yum!  Remember that when using a jalapeno that most of the heat comes from the seeds.  Discard them if you like your curry mild.  I served this over plain Indian naan - flatbread made with yogurt.  
Source: The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

1 14.5 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 1/2 T canola oil
4 1/2 t curry powder 
1 t garam masala
1 onion, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T grated ginger
1 T tomato paste
1 c water
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 cups (about 1 lb) of cauliflower
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/4 c minced fresh cilantro

1. Pulse the tomatoes with their juices in a food processor until no large chunks remain, about five pulses, and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the curry powder and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the water and processed tomatoes.
3. Add the chicken and cauliflower and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 12--18 minutes, flipping the breasts over half-way through cooking.  Transfer the chicken to a carving board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces.
4. Return the shredded chicken, with any accumulated juice, to the pot.  Stir in the peas and simmer until heated through, about two minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the yogurt and cilantro.  Season with salt to taste and serve.
A super fast way to roast up some yummy fish with oregano and summer's best tomatoes.  I served this with lemon spaghetti posted below.
Source: EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook

  • 1 pound cod fillet
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cured olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Rub cod with 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 20 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add olives and capers; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Stir in oregano and vinegar; remove from heat. Spoon the tapenade over the cod to serve.
I wouldn't serve this as a main dish as is but this this is fabulous as a creative and delicious side for fish!  It took no time at all to prepare.  It would be excellent with scallops or shrimp mixed in.  I tasted my sauce before mixing it with the pasta and it was a bit bland so I zested lemon into it before finishing.  I especially loved the addition of fresh basil!
Source: Giadia 

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.