I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment. This is one such meal.
Last night I put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results? Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly. As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”. Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.
In place of the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes. I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store. It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic. That is because, well, it is. It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise. They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.
I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.
Bon appetito, Ya’ll!
Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens
½ log of pre-made polenta
1 T. butter
1T. olive oil
Dash salt and pepper
For Shrimp and Alfredo:
20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cream
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 T. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced,
½ red onion, diced fine
2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine
4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped kale and/or other greens, thick stems mostly removed
½ cup water
1 t. smoked paprika
1 T. vinegar, your favorite
1 T. brown sugar
Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste
Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste
Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner. In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce. (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)
In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds. Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry. When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side. Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper. Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.
Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp. Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides. (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.) Add cream and parmesan cheese. Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through. Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.
Put about 5 or 6 rounds of polenta on each plate. Pile with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Serve with a side of the greens.
When I worked at the Olive Garden in college, the biggest temptation was the bread drawer, the place where the fresh-out-of-the-oven garlicky bread sticks keep warm until they are to be swaddled in cloth like little dough baby Jesuses and placed in a basket, then delivered to anxious guests alongside a family-sized salad with large clumsy tongs.
Here’s a little server secret: to maximize your salad and breadstick dining pleasure, don’t bother asking for extra dressing or scooping up the last bit swimming at the bottom of the salad bowl. The real indulgence comes in dipping them into a boat of alfredo sauce, it’s a combination you won’t long forget. And the only thing it will cost you is $2.50, 380 calories and 35 grams of fat! Yeah sorry….total buzz kill. But good news is ahead.
This morning, an idea for a simple garlic cream sauce recipe popped into my head. It sounded so easy that right there at 10am, I whipped it up in my Vitamix. And when I opened the blender top ten minutes later, the steaming creamy sauce brought me right back to my shifts at the OG. The smell of garlic filling the air as you opened the bread drawer and winked to the cook for a little ramekin of alfredo. The combination so naughty, yet so irresistible. Hungry servers gathered around to share the quick indulgence, all the while looking out of the corner of our eyes to make sure a manager wasn’t swinging through the kitchen door or the skinny girl with self-control wasn’t looking down on us with judgement.
Somehow this sauce captures that naughty thrilling indulgence – the taste of garlic and cream dancing on your tastebud – but it’s oh so right in so many ways. No oil, no dairy, no cholestorol, just healthy fats from cashews. And with a rich creamy sauce like this, who really needs a refined white flour breadstick to dunk in it? Serve it over whole wheat pasta or vegetables or dip your favorite toasted whole grain baguette in it and you’ll be every bit as satisfied. It’s mind blowingly delicious and the easiest cream sauce I’ve made yet. I see many spin-offs of this in my future. Add a little cayenne for some heat, roast the garlic, garnish with some basil to brighten it up for spring, maybe even add some spinach and artichokes and cook it down to a thick appetizer dip. Oh the potential!
Note: I did not pre-saute the garlic, so it has a little bit of that raw garlic bite…that will stay the evening with you. I am a sucker for garlic, but if you like your garlic a little more milder and not as an overnight guest, then you may want to mince and saute it in a touch of water or olive oil before adding it in.
Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce
Recipe from http://www.laughcrycook.com
Makes enough for 16 ounces of cooked pasta (about four large servings)
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (available at health markets)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large or 3-4 small garlic cloves
2 teaspoons cornstarch (flour will probably work too, but you’ll probably need 3-4 teaspoons)
2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Vitamix or High-Speed Blender Directions
1. Blend cashews, nutritional yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a powder. Scrape corners down.
2. Add garlic, cornstarch, 1/2 of milk. Blend until combined.
3. Add remaining milk and blend on high speed until hot and steamy (about five to seven minutes) and to the thickness desired.
4. Blend in lemon juice and check for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.
5. Serve over pasta or vegetables or as a dipping sauce for bread. Sprinkle individual servings with a touch of pepper.
Vitamix is having a sale on their reconditioned models this month (January 2014). I bought the standard reconditioned model in November when they had the same sale and have officially fallen into the “How did I ever live without it?!” camp. You can use the code 06-009318 at Vitamix.com to get free shipping and to help support Laugh, Cry, Cook.
Food Processor/Stove Top Instructions
1. In a food processor blend cashews, nutritional yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a powder. Scrape down sides as needed.
2. Mince garlic finely or use microplaner to grate into food processor.
3. Stir cornstarch into 1cup of milk. Add to food processor and blend until well combined.
3. Add remaining milk. Blend again.
4. Transfer to stovetop sauce pan and heat on medium to medium high, stirring often until it is heated through and reached the desired consistency (like a thick alfredo sauce).
4. Stir in lemon juice and check for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.
5. Serve over pasta or vegetables or as a dipping sauce for bread. Sprinkle individual servings with a touch of pepper.
(Becky, the Mama.)
The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.
This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)
I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.
Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade
(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)
* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed
In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.
Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.
Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks
3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)
On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.
Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-QX
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
(Rachel, the daughter)
I’m heading out to drop Jackson off with his Mimi (Jared’s mom) for a couple of hours this afternoon. This is the third day in a row that she has offered to help out with Jackson so I can work on the book. Although she insists it is all her pleasure, I’d like to let her know how much I appreciate her help.
In my husband’s family, steak is probably the most revered food item… followed closely by chips and salsa. They aren’t into chocolates or sweets. I know, GASP! Their idea of dessert is a bowl of salty popcorn. But they love their meat and potatoes and their chips and salsa. Since steak is an awkward gift for a vegan to give, I often jar up my love and appreciation for them in the form of salsa. Occasionally, Rhonda will show up at my door with an empty jar, “In case you or Jared plan on making salsa anytime soon,” she’ll wink.
Last weekend I stumbled upon an amazing salsa recipe by chance. I was out of a few of my staple salsa ingredients and just started throwing things in the food processor to try and whip up a make-do salsa for our Mexican-themed dinner. I was bummed when the food processor stopped spinning and I opened it up to see a thin almost watery salsa. I grabbed a can of pumpkin and added it to the salsa, then found some chipotles in Adobo sauce in my freezer. I gave it another spin and voila, I had a thick, creamy, smoky salsa with a touch of sweetness, a hint of pumpkin, and a nice kick of spice. I was smitten.
I liked it so much I made another batch today (some for us and some to share with Jared’s parents). It conveniently makes enough to fill two 32 oz spaghetti sauce or mason jars–one for you and one to share with a friend. Don’t be surprised when they show up at your door step with the empty jar and a little wink and a nudge, though.
Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa
Makes 4 cups
2 cups of frozen corn (or 1 can drained and patted dry)
2 small jalapenos
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt
1 14.5 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 chipotles in Adobo Sauce (slice open and remove seeds from two of them)
1 can of pumpkin
1/2 c. cilantro (use it if you like it, but it’s optional)
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. onion powder
1/4 t. salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Pour corn kernels on one half of pan. On the other side, put the jalapenos, garlic (wrap unpeeled garlic in foil to prevent them from burning–not like shown below), and tomatoes sliced in half with cut side up. Use a pastry brush to put a small amount of olive oil on the tomatoes and corn. Sprinkle tomatoes with a touch of sea salt. Roast for 20 minutes.
In a food processor, add all the remaining ingredients except the corn, plus the tomatoes and jalapenos (you may want to seed the jalapenos if you don’t like a lot of spice–you can always add the seeds back in if it’s not spicy enough). Squeeze the garlic from its peel into the food processor bowl. Process until everything is chopped and blended to the desired texture. I went for a smooth texture on mine. Stir in corn. Serve with chips.
I bought three pounds of fresh prunes.
I’ve never bought a single fresh prune, let alone three pounds of them.
What was I thinking?
Well, I was thinking “What a deal, three pounds of prunes for only $7!”
At Costco, among the pallets of 50-pound bags of dog food and cases of toilet paper bigger than my bathroom, three pounds of prunes and $7 purchases seem like nothing … until the cashier tells me the total sum of all my “little” purchases and I try to find room in my crisper, already filled with a 10-pound bag of organic carrots, for the case of prunes.
Technically, I think they are plums, Italian Prune Plums. They taste and look a lot like plums, just a little more tart. Jackson and I enjoyed snacking on them fresh out of the over-stuffed crisper drawer for awhile. I put them on a pizza, with caramalized onions, vegan applewood sausage, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, and grapes. Prune pizza, who knew it would taste like a little slice of sweet and savory heaven?
One night, I chopped them up and threw them in pot on the stove while I heated up some of another impulse Costco purchase, a huge box of spring rolls. Can you see I have a problem? Anyway, the prune plums reduced into this gorgeous sweet red sauce. With a dash of spicy chili paste, it made the perfect dip for a spring roll. Though I could eat egg rolls and pizza every night, I probably shouldn’t. So, I needed a recipe that would really make a dent in my prune inventory without putting unsightly dents on my thighs. Last night, I made the prune plum sauce again and served it with buttery roasted vegetables and tofu over brown rice. All the flavors were rich and deep and the colors were so beautiful.
I’m almost out of prunes now and I’m tempted to buy three more pounds.
Buttery Tofu and Vegetables with Spicy Plum Sauce
Buttery Tofu and Veggies
- 2 slices of tofu, lightly pressed with paper towel to absorb extra water
- 1 c. Cabbage sliced into thin long strips
- 1 c. Carrots, cut into thin long strips
- 1/2 c. Onions, sliced into thin long strips
- 1 c. Brussel sprouts, sliced in half
- 1 T. Earth Balance or prefered butter
- 1 T. Olive Oil
- 1 T. Braggs Amino Acid (or Low Sodium Soy Sauce)
- 1 t. Agave + a extra drizzle for tofu
- 1 t. Kosher Salt
- 1 t. Fresh Cracked Pepper
- sprinkle of dried parsley, optional for color
Spicy Prune Plum Sauce
- 2 c. Italian prune plums (or any variety of plums), chopped into small chunks
- 1 t. Chinese chili paste
- 1 t. Agave
- 1/4 t. salt
Serve with brown rice.
Buttery Veggies and Tofu
Preheat oven to 400. (My oven has a convection roast setting that works nicely for this, but you certainly don’t need it). Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and spread out sliced veggies and tofu. Mix butter, oil, Bragg’s, agave, salt and pepper, and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the veggies and tofu. Drizzle tofu with a little extra agave and a pinch of parsley for color. Cook vegetables and tofu, stirring veggies after about 10 minutes. Roast until the carrots, onions, and cabbage are soft and the Brussel sprouts are golden brown, 20-30 minutes total.
Chop plums into small dices, heat on medium heat for five minutes, stirring often. Add agave, chili paste, and salt. Continue to cook and stir for about five more minutes or until the plums turn into a beautiful red chunky sauce. Delicious with a bite of buttery flaky tofu or with fried spring rolls.