Friday already?? This week zoomed on by. So much happening in preparation for the big Memorial Day Weekend!!! It all started with our Sunday trip to the market, where spring veggies were available by the bushel- full.
Radishes and broccoli continue to be harvested,
and turnips are flourishing.
This particular concoction was created for a client family of mine who is going camping this weekend. I hooked them up with all kinds of delicious foods that travel well and will keep them mmmm-ing and ahh-ing while they are away from home. I had so much fun planning their camping menu and packing their cooler. A Plan to Plate specialty.
Kohlrabi is still going strong,
And we implemented the greens in a simple saute
along with our turnips and cauliflower to accompany baby back ribs glazed with a grilled leek-y peach barbecue sauce for Sunday dinner.
There were people singing and dancing at both ends of the market,
which always makes me happy. I saw a few farmers grooving to the wonderful music too.
These cute little mushrooms totally caught my eye.
And I was surprised to see the first of the zephyr squash under Le Tre Lune’s canopy.
Jackson Lowe folks will be receiving a couple of these guys in next week’s share. We’ll be eating lots and lots of ’em this summer- which is fab, because they can be incorporated into millions of dishes!
Onions made an appearance on many vendors’ tables.
As you can imagine, that suits me just fine, since I start nearly every dish with onions. Did you know that onions are super good for you? It’s actually recommended that you eat half an onion a day!
Here’s a dish that begins just that way.
Shrimp and grits. A southern staple that I happen to adore. It’s pretty quick cooking and flexible in nature, and it makes me think of The Big Easy. I took Adam there for his 30th birthday, and we had a magical time. That place just bubbles over with festivities, music, and food. I actually welled up while watching Panorama Jazz Band at The Spotted Cat Music Club- because I was embodying exactly what I had envisioned to be the quintessential New Orleans experience. Horns, grit, personality, creativity, art, and amazing energy. My kind of spot.
I follow a fairly solid outline each time I cook shrimp and grits, giving respect to the New Orleans “Holy Trinity” of onions, celery, and green peppers, but I’m bound to stir in whatever veggies I have on hand. Grits are an especially perfect canvas for that. The last time we made this dish, we were in our kale-every-day phase. A lovely time of year. The dinosaur kale works swimmingly in the grits.
It all starts with good stone ground grits. Mine are yellow. You could call them polenta- I still call ’em grits.
For the grits:
1 Cup stone ground grits
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Cups milk
2 Cups water
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Start by melting butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Once that butter begins to turn into a pool of wonder, press in your garlic and let it warm up gently, moving it with a whisk. When your garlic starts to sizzle around the edges, pour in your milk and water.
Then slowly stir in your grits.
Keep stirring as you stream in your grits. If you don’t stir, they’ll get all clumpy.
Then, raise your heat and bring the pot up to a quick boil. Once boiling, add a couple good pinches of salt and pepper.
Grits are kind of like potatoes in their need for seasoning. So, be liberal.
Turn your heat down to about medium low, and allow the grits to simmer. You want to stay pretty close by and stir often as the grits begin to thicken, otherwise they’ll stick to the bottom of the pot. It takes a good 15 – 20 minutes or so, giving you time to assemble the rest of the dish.
Cut your kale, or whatever veggies you are stirring into your grits, and have them ready to go.
Then, peel your shrimp and remove the vein that goes down the back. I use a paring knife to do this, and, although it used to gross me out, it’s really not all that bad of a process.
Heat a large pan with a good drizzle of olive oil, or butter, or bacon fat to medium heat.
Here’s the ingredients I employed this time:
1 local onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
heaping T paprika
good pinch of cayenne pepper (as much as you like)
juice of a lemon
3/4 Cup broth- I used veggie, but you could use shrimp or fish stock here too
5 (or a bunch) of shakes of good hot sauce (We like this one called Lousiana Hot Sauce.)
4 – 7 Georgia shrimp per person
several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off stems (save a little bit for garnishing)
about 2 Cups ripe grape tomatoes- I have used canned tomatoes, and big fresh tomatoes, and no tomatoes at all.
**You can incorporate your zephyr squash into this veggie sauce too. Just dice them up small.
Onions go in first with a sprinkle of salt. Cook a few minutes, until they begin to soften. Then, add the other two components of the trifecta.
Let the peppers and celery cook down a few minutes.
Next, add your garlic, spices, lemon juice, and broth.
Stir to incorporate all of the goodness. Add your hot sauce too, and let it cook down.
You want to simmer the pan at a pretty good clip- medium to medium low, depending on your stove.
Meanwhile, finish off your grits.
When the grits have thickened up nicely, but they still have some “tooth” to them, taste and adjust seasoning, keeping in mind that you’ll be adding a salty cheese. Stir in about 1/2 Cup of shredded Parmesan cheese.
Introduce your kale (or swiss chard, broccoli, peas, spinach, green beans, etc., etc.) a little bit at a time, until all is harmonious in your pot.
Give the leaves a few minutes to heat through, and then taste the mixture again. You want the kind of grits that make you wish hot food would stay on a popsicle stick. Think: grit pops, mashed potato pops, mac and cheese pops, creamed spinach pops, green bean casserole pops…catch my drift?
If you want to make your grits ahead, you can. To reheat, just add a touch more milk and warm the grits over medium low heat, stirring until they are hot and creamy again.
Time to add the shrimp and fresh herbs. Taste your sauce first, and be sure you are happy with the balance of flavors, because that’s what your shrimp will taste like!
You’ll want the heat to be at medium and the liquid to be bubbling. If you’re using zephyr squash, add them when you add your shrimp. They won’t take long to cook. Since I was using grape tomatoes this time around, I wanted them to retain their shape and texture, rather than breaking all the way down and leaving me with a bunch of skins floating around. I added them after I had the shrimp in the pan for about 2 minutes.
Toss the contents of your pan lovingly and remove it from the heat when your shrimp curl up into “U” shapes. Not all the way closed into a circle- but just firm and tender.
To serve, ladle some grits and kale into bowls, top with several shrimp and plenty of veggies and sauce. Sprinkle a little bit of Parmesan cheese and thyme over the top for garnish.
MMmmmm. Creamy, savory, herbacious, and full of vegetables. The shrimp were so tender and juicy and flavorful! This dish is comforting and can easily feed a crowd. And it’s going to be even more amazing when we get our local peppers and tomatoes from Rockmart. I jumped the gun a little bit, since I saw tomatoes and Green peppers from Florida at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. You know I can’t stand the time of year when tomatoes are unavailable. Once I see them, I must have them.
I hope you’ll put this one in your pocket and that it will bring you joy- and a place to incorporate the veggies you’ve got on hand. You could add cream to the sauce, or start the sauce with andouille sausage or bacon. More power to you! This version felt satisfying and fresh without heaviness.
I’m off to cook up a storm for a Memorial Day weekend with friends. As the resident menu planner, I took it upon myself to organize the eating festivities for a crew of 15 folks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for the weekend. There will be Mexican lasagna, slow-cooked meat, Super Slaw, spring veggie casserole, mac and cheese, grilled steaks, corn on the cob…and of course, burgers and dogs. My lists have lists and there’s nothing I love more.
Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. Soak up the sun and your favorite people. Enjoy the yummy offerings of the season.
Happy cooking and eating to you.