Last Friday on the way to NY, I stopped in Annapolis to pick up my sister. She and her husband treated me to dinner because I “forgot” my wallet. (It totally works. Try it.) I requested we keep it low key. Given the traveling and humid weather, I needed a place that wouldn’t mind my hoodie and frizzy hair. My sister suggested Punk’s Backyard Grill. “It’s good!” she said. “It’s in the mall.” The Mall? On a Friday night? Like, totally.
My memories of mall cuisine are entirely from my teenage years and include me walking back and forth in front of a certain fried chicken joint collecting free samples and then stopping at the next counter over for frozen yogurt. Swirl with rainbow sprinkles. Then I’d go spend my dinner money at Claire’s on a new pair of earrings. Free chicken on a toothpick and frozen yogurt for dinner? Like, totally. I wasn’t that interested in food then and my ears were bedazzled. That’s all that mattered.
Times have changed. I now wear two earrings. Not seven. And Punk’s is not even close to any food court, fast food chain. It’s not a chain at all. There’s only one. And upon entry, you feel like you’ve entered a cool, clean, cozy “backyard.” There are even live trees growing in the dining area with the grill at the heart of the restaurant.
You can taste the love. The food is fresh, local, and simple. Simply phenomenal. I should have known. The chef is Dean Maupin, who is rooted in Charlottesville, where my love affair with good food began. Chef Maupin has an impressive culinary resume and brings his magnificence to the Punk’s menu. It’s classic yet creative. It’s real. It’s fresh. It’s outstanding.
I ordered the Grilled Salmon Salad and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. So you know, in true Make It Naked fashion, the recreation began. Grilled salmon sits on a bed of bibb lettuce with red onion, pickled cucumbers (not pickles), avocado and feta. I know, the avocado and feta sold me too. It’s topped with a creamy, feta dill dressing. I used sour cream for the base of my dressing and thinned it with a bit of olive oil. The salad is light and healthy and the dressing, although creamy, isn’t heavy while still full of flavor. I’m certain it will show up on a few more meals this week.
I highly recommend Punk’s if you’re ever in the area. But until then, fire up your own grill, blast your NKOTB, Boys II Men, Madonna playlist and get cooking. Oh, that’s just me? Like, totally.
Grilled Salmon Salad with Feta Dill Dressing (for 2)
For the salmon:
Fresh salmon filet (Mine was a little less than 3/4lb)
1/2 a lemon
Fresh dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
For pickled cucumber:
1/2 a cucumber
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the salad:
1 head bibb lettuce, leaves separated
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup pickled cucumber
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (or more if desired)
For the dressing:
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Posted on May 21, 2011