It Was a “Hottie” River Fest

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

Hot sun, spicy food and crispy hot local perch kicked off our summer river celebrations. Chef/Waterman Ross Dineen did his eagerly awaited riverside fish fry-after he had just caught the perch, no less. Neighbors brought luscious side dishes, a loin of pork, chicken drummettes, steak, salmon and burgers. Fresh garden strawberries picked that very morn found their way into a strawberry pie with an incredibly flaky crust. In addition to the basic tabouli, I’ve included a recipe for quinoa tabouli in case you’d like to test it with that ancient South American grain, full of protein.

Eastern Shore Asparagus with Goat Cheese Dip

This simple dish was the perfect enticement for hors d’ouevres. The gal that made this and the tabouli has a glorious herb garden so her food always is very fresh and inviting.

1 pound Eastern shore fresh asparagus, cleaned and tough ends snapped.

Steam the asparagus until al dente. Quickly dip in an ice bath to chill.


Lemon Garlic Goat Cheese Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cup dip

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek style plain yogurt)
  • 3-4 ounces fresh creamy goat cheese (chevre)
  • zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1  medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 dash cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to let it all settle.


Recipe courtesy Nassif Grayeb at Falafel’s Drive-In, San Jose, CA

Serves 8

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fine cracked wheat
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoons sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, pour the water over the cracked wheat and cover, let stand about 20 minutes until wheat is tender and water is absorbed. Add the chopped herbs and vegetables and toss with the mix. Combine the oil, lemon juice, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to wheat mixture and mix well. Chill. Serve and enjoy.

Quinoa Tabouli

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup scallion, chopped
  • salt, to taste

Place quinoa in a colander and rinse several times rubbing the grains together to remove the bitter outer layer.

Place water and quinoa into a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop the tomatoes, parsley, and scallions. Add lemon juice, olive oil and fresh mint to the tomato mixture.

Stir in cooked quinoa and salt. Mix well.

Let tabouli sit in the refrigerator for a day to blend flavors.

Tabouli is traditionally served at room temperature so remove from fridge 30 to 60 minutes before serving.


Perch in the Chesapeake

White perch are one of the most common and most favored fish found in the Chesapeake Bay. Although smaller in size than striped bass, these pan-sized fish share a number of traits with their larger cousins. Both the yellow and white perch make up for their small size with sweet delicate flavor

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, white perch migrate seasonally. From late fall thru early winter, tidal white perch move into deeper areas in response to decreasing water temperatures. In late winter through early spring, white perch begin moving back into rivers and creeks to spawn. In many rivers and creeks, white perch remain far upstream for the summer season, feeding on abundant food sources. By fall, the migratory cycle begins again.



Fried Crispy Chesapeake Perch

Serves 4



It’s a tradition at Cap’n Ross’ fish camp to serve his perch with a selection of hot sauces.  Cap’n Ross tells us that if you toss even a small amount of fish in the heating oil, and you get some “spit and sizzle”, it’s hot. Don’t overheat the oil or you’ll have burned fish. The prep and breading of the fillets can be done in advance and kept refrigerated, in a single layer until ready to cook.

Note: If you prefer NOT to deep fry, you can prepare the perch the same way and saute in a bit of butter.

  • 1 pound perch fillets
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning


    2 eggs

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup oil

Heat oil until hot in a deep sided pan.

Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and seasonings in a medium size container. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs and milk together.

Dip the filets 1st in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture. Place on a flat plate or tray until oil is hot. Repeat with all of the perch.

Deep fry until golden brown. About 3 minutes per side.