Shrimp in Alfredo Sauce over Crispy Polenta with Greens

DSC_0030(Becky, the Mama.)

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.

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polenta skilletI made a quick n’ easy, creamy Alfredo sauce for the shrimp and paired it side dish of greens–  a mixture of kale and some wonderful fresh greens, a gift from our neighbor’s garden.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.

Bon appetito, Ya’ll!

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Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens

Serve’s 2

Ingredients

For Polenta:

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

Dash salt

 

For Greens:

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

 

Directions:

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.

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Easy Moo Shu Veggie or Chicken Wraps

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“Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with.”  Charles Dickens

Greg's Birthday 009

My husband Greg and I love our little pleasurable routines.  It really doesn’t take much to make us happy.  We don’t need high adventure, fast cars, tall mountains, or Broadway plays.  We get a kick out of watching Jay Leno’s “headlines” segment on Monday nights and reruns of “30 Rock”. We can’t wait to snuggle up on Sundays to watch Downton Abbey when it reappears on PBS this winter.  He often watches sports, while I contentedly piddle on Facebook from a comfy loveseat nearby.

We enjoy quiet road trips with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing in the background more than attending rousing stage concerts.  Greg stands and greets me with a kiss every morning as I stumble into the kitchen; me waking up to my first cup of coffee two hours after he’s greeted the morning. We watch Brian Williams tell the news every evening (in his friendly voice,  even the worst disasters sound less terrible).  Then I serve our suppers,  all prettily plated,  as we eat in living room, our feet up, hearts at ease. We usually clean up the unbelievably messy kitchen, afterwards, together.

 During the summer we meet outside on the porch swing for Happy Hour and conversation at 5:00 p.m.  We go to bed, each reading our e-books, a glass of ice water on my bedside table.  I slather on Lemon Cream Lotion and Greg always says I smell like lemon pie before he kisses me goodnight, wishing me sweet dreams. Then he hands me the treasures that have somehow gathered on our bed during the day: hair clips, reading glasses, books, jewelry, pens and notebooks, stray socks, apple cores — clearing room for us to ease under the quilt and fall asleep.

We’re mostly One-Note Nellys without much need for variety or grand adventures.  We find, in the comfort of each other’s company, all the thrill we generally need.  A free evening with nothing planned  is typically our idea of perfection.

Our date night’s are inevitably to our favorite Asian restaurant, John Holly’s, followed by a movie. At John Holly’s I always order the same thing:  Moo-Shu Veggies. I pile them up on thin rice pancakes with a drizzle of thick salty-sweet Hoison Sauce and dash of sriracha, then rolled the delicious stuff up like a burrito.

This quick and savory-sweet recipe for Moo-Shu uses thin uncooked flour tortillas (easier to find than rice pancakes) and has become one of my favorite veggie based cook-at-home meals now.  Greg likes it with chicken but you can substitute edamame, tofu or scrambled egg (or combo thereof) to avoid meat and make this easily vegetarian or vegan.

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Easy Moo Shu Veggie or Chicken Wraps  

1 16 ounce package of pre-shredded  Asian or colorful Cole Slaw mix

1 cup fresh snow peas, chopped into ½ inch pieces

1 cup fresh chopped mushrooms, any kind

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken (or sub 1/2 cup diced tofu, edamame or raw egg, whisked)

1 large clove garlic

1 T. olive oil

1 T. sesame oil

3 T. soy sauce

1 T. maple syrup, honey, molasses or brown sugar

salt & pepper to taste

4- 5 uncooked Tortillas (or the thinnest pre-cooked tortillas you can find)

½ cup Hoison Sauce (in Asian sections)

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¼ cup hot chili sauce or sriracha (optional, if you like heat)

1/2 cup cashew pieces or sliced almonds

Directions:

In a large skillet or walk, heat oils and 1 minced fresh garlic clove.  Toss in slaw, chopped snow peas and mushrooms.  Add chicken and/or tofu/egg. Cook until tender-crisp. Add soy and your choice of sweetener. Heat through.  Add salt or pepper if needed to season.

Lightly cook/brown the tortillas on a flat skillet.  Put about ½ cup of the hot veggie mix down the middle of each tortilla. Sprinkle with 2 T. sliced almonds or cashew pieces.  Drizzle on Hoison and dot with a little hot chili sauce or shriracha if you enjoy some heat with your Asian food.

 

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Roll up like a burrito and slice on the diagonal, in half to serve.

moo shoo pork 012Variations: Use any veggies you like: peppers, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, celery, some fresh grated ginger – use your taste and imagination.  Try using leftover beef, pork or shrimp instead. Experiment with different nuts or sesame seeds, sliced green onions, crispy Chinese noodles or fried won ton strips, perhaps a squeeze of fresh lime.


Pina Colada Shrimp Kabobs

Pina Colada Shrimp Kabobs

(Becky — The Butter Lovin’ Mama)

Those who know me well know that I have a tough time remembering where I put things.  It isn’t early onset dementia, unless it set upon me at age thirteen. For me, the arrival of puberty came with an extra dose of ditziness that has never gone away.  So if I ever do slip into true senility, I’m not sure  anyone will actually notice. 

Just this past week I was serving lunch to some girlfriends and confessed, “I’ve lost my kiwi.” 

“Is that a euphemism for ‘you lost your marbles’?” one gal asked.

“No,  I wanted to serve you all a special dessert with strawberries and kiwi, but I have no clue where I put the kiwi.  So strawberries it is!”

The mystery kiwi showed up a few days later, nestled near the  small potatoes in the pantry.  As my husband was searching in that very same pantry a few hours later, he hollered, “I found a glass of tea on a shelf in here!”  I lose glasses of tea and cups of coffee so often that I rarely bother looking for them.  I just make another cup or glass, sure that eventually the missing ones will show up.  But who knows where? Or why?  

This week I bought an entire bunch of celery and believe it or not, also lost that.  Three days later I found it: in my computer bag.  The stalks were a little limp, but still salvageable.  (Just don’t tell my daughter I said that.) How it got there?  No clue.  The things I do unaware, astound even me.

Functioning with a brain like this is a bit of a challenge, some days more than others. On days when I’ve “lost my kiwi” (speaking metaphorically now), I sure don’t need a long complicated recipe for dinner.  This recipe for pina colada shrimp is one of my new favorite go-to meals for otherwise complicated days.  It is super fast, just a few ingredients, incredibly easy and so yummy, you’ll want to lick the platter clean.  Sweet/salty, rich and creamy…it will take you to Hawaii in your mind.  It pairs perfectly with a side of rice pilaf and a bright green veggie like broccoli or asparagus. (Just make sure you store your green veggies in the crisper and not in your computer bag.)

Becky’s Pina Colada Shrimp Kabobs

Serves 2-4 depending on appetites, and size of shrimp

Ingredients

24 medium shrimp, raw, peeled. (Thread six shrimp on each of 4 skewers.)

2 slices of fresh pineapple cut in about 1 inch pieces (canned will also work, but not quite as tasty as fresh)

4 t. coconut oil

4 t.  soy sauce

1/2 c. pineapple juice

1/2 c. coconut milk (From a can, usually near Asian aisle at grocery.  Get full fat, not the “lite” kind.)

2 t. brown sugar

Directions:

Mix soy sauce and pineapple juice in a large measuring cup,  to make a marinade.  Pour 1/2 the marinade over the shrimp kabobs (in a large shallow pan) and let sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Reserve the rest of the marinade for use later in the recipe.

In a grill pan or large skillet, heat the coconut oil on the stove top to medium high. Lay marinated shrimp on skewers in the pan, alongside the pineapple pieces.  Cook shrimp until pink and turn over.  Turn over the pineapple when it gets golden brown marks on it.  Cook until both sides of the shrimp and pineapple are done.  Remove shrimp and pineapple to a plate and cover to keep warm.

In the same skillet or grill pan, add the remaining marinade along with coconut milk and. brown sugar.  Heat until bubbly and creamy. 

Arrange shrimp kabobs and pineapple on a serving plate (as shown in picture) and pour sauce over all.  You can also put on a bed of rice if you like, and decorate with broccoli flowerets or other bright-colored steamed veggies around the edges.

Variations:

Skip the skewers and saute shrimp and pineapple together in a pan, mix with sauce and serve over rice. Garnish with toasted coconut and chopped macadamias or cashews.

Vegans &  Vegetarians: Alternate pieces of firm tofu or vegan meatballs or sausages with slices of red pepper and sweet onion in place of shrimp.  Marinate and proceed with recipe above. Garnish with chopped macadamia nuts.

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