Shrimp and Grits – 16/67

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I’ve always said that I know I still love living in New York because when I get off the plane after a trip, I’m excited to be here. Well my friends, this past arrival is really throwing my brain for a loop. I just had the most magical weekend celebrating my friends’ marriage in Vail, Colorado. Vail is unfairly beautiful. I was there a few years ago for a ski day, but I don’t think the extent of the beauty hit me til this weekend. Snow covered mountains! In June! Trees in every shade of green that literally made me want to take up painting! Glorious aspens, framing a lake, framing a mountain! Adorable old-timey Main Streets. I mean, how is this fair?? NYC doesn’t have any of these things 😦

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Man, weddings are the best. It felt like a band trip or college reunion — all these people I love and who live across the country all of a sudden staying in the same hotel and having a bunch of meals together. Such a treat.

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Meg and Jonny put together a truly beautiful celebration, complete with their ring bearer pup and a rainbow gracing cocktail hour (that part was unplanned). Meg’s Gypsy Kings dance with her dad brought me to giddy tears. We all fell down attempting the lift in the Dirty Dancing song. We enjoyed the effects of open bar + altitude (well, until morning appeared, rudely and painfully). Daniel and I were so glad to bear witness to it all, and also happy we got to sneak in two hikes, some drone activity, an absolutely amazing lunch in town, a brewery visit, and a catch up with an (unrelated) friend while we were out there. Three days well spent. But I could’ve used an extra one or two before returning. It was too brief a flirtation to make me miss home.

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Meg made Daniel and me her version of shrimp and grits forever ago, when we all lived in New York. I remember loving them and being really impressed I didn’t get a stomach ache afterwards. Because usually shrimp and grits are a cream and butter bomb. But not Meg’s version! Hers is full of veggies, lemon juice, and garlic. There’s a little butter and a good handful of parm, which both go a long way, but won’t weigh you down for the rest of the night. And it’s so good, and so quick. I’m in love with this recipe. Apparently Meg’s family adapted it from their local favorite restaurant, Palm Valley Fish Camp, in Jacksonville, Florida. Thank you, Meg and family, for this gift! And for bringing us to the mountains for this joyful weekend. Happy, happy wedded life! 

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four years ago: kale caesar salad – one of my fav salads, which I crave about once a week. And it’s perfect for CSA season!
five years ago (squee! 5! I never even updated that silly background picture that was supposed to be a placeholder!): rhubarb, chickpea, and spinach stew with lemony yogurt sauce

Shrimp and Grits

From Meg, via her family, via Palm Valley Fish Camp

Serves at least 3

1 cup grits (the quick cooking kind)
2-3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup red onion, very finely diced (about half an onion)
⅓ cup red bell pepper, very finely diced (about half a pepper)
1 stalk celery, very finely diced
3 cloves garlic, very finely diced
1ish pound of jumbo shrimp, cleansed and shells removed (about 2 cups)
1 big tomato, seeded and very finely diced
2-3 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley + extra to garnish
Juice from 1 lemon
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and white pepper (Meg’s recipe called for Penzey’s White Sarawak Pepper, but I used the grocery store brand I had around, and use black pepper if that’s what you’ve got)
Hot sauce

Cook grits according to package directions. This should entail something like — bring a bunch of water to a boil. Add grits and a bit of salt, turn heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed and grits are creamy, about 5 minutes. Add a tablespoonish of butter and cover. (Meg’s recipe said to use smart balance, but I didn’t want to buy it for just this. Butter was, as you can guess, delicious.)

In a big pan (we used our Le Creuset braiser), melt 1 tablespoonish of butter with the olive oil. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook for 4-8 minutes, or until veggies have softened. Add shrimp, tomatoes, parsley, and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and cook until shrimp are done, about 4 minutes. Liquid should have evaporated a bit. Stir in lemon juice. Take pan off heat and stir in parmesan. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Spoon grits into a bowl, top with shrimp and sauce, and decorate with extra parsley and hot sauce. What a dinner.

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BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos + Upscale Bar Food Dinner Party

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Imagine: You invite two friends over for dinner. You may have previously bragged a bit about how much you love cooking and recipe planning etc. You chat about blogs, Bon Appetite, restaurants, food trends. You promise to go all out.

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Flash forward to two weeks later, the morning of said pre-planned dinner. You have some frozen corn in the freezer from last week’s CSA. That’s it. You realize that you have roughly nine hours to create a beautiful and memorable meal. You have a minor freak out.

But then coffee was consumed and magazines and blogs were consulted. And so a theme was deliberated over: Bar food? No, Mediterranean. No, fancy bar food. Bourgeois bar food! The barista thinks its a good idea.

Commence brainstorming: some sort of soup, but on toast? something like dip, but in salad form? how much fried stuff is too much? do we need dessert?

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And so, four grocery stores, one bike ride, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, and many hours later, this is what we came up with.

“Spinach Artichoke Dip” Salad

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not pictured: a very healthy dose of parmesan and feta, and lots of lemony vinaigrette

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” 

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Daniel says, “yeah those tasted great but dang were they ugly. I’m not taking no pictures.” And I said “oh okay YOU=CAULIFLOWER.” And its my blog so here’s his picture.

Sesame-Soy (actual) wings

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“Stuffed jalapeno” individual polenta cakes (leftovers amazing with scrambled eggs!)

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a healthy dose of bacon to please the carnivores

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chip nachos, vegetarian and meaty versions

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With beer and whisky. No need for dessert.

We mostly just followed other recipes, tweaking as we went. But, in honor of the blog name, here’s the recipe for those awesome nachos.

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Vegetarian (or not) BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos

adapted from the Food Network

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices with a mandoline
vegetable oil for frying
¼ c salt
⅛ c ground pepper
⅛ c garlic powder
healthy dash cayenne
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, one diced and two cut into thin rounds
1 T tomato paste
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb ground beef, optional
2 cups shredded cheese; we did half smoked gouda and half monterey jack
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped, optional
sour cream to serve, optional

Make sweet potato chips:

First make seasoning mixture by combining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. (Keep in mind this makes a ton! Keep leftovers for future chip batches.) Break out a large heavy pot (5 quart if you have it), fill it up to roughly ⅓ with vegetable oil (I’d say about 4 inches depth. You’re going to use a lot of oil here), and heat it until it reaches about 360º (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer). Place enough sliced sweet potatoes in to create a fairly dense surface layer and start actively patting them down under the oil with a slotted spatula. The temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, but if it stays above 180º you’ll be fine. Keep stirring and turning and drowning for 5 to 7 minutes, and just when you start seeing the hearts of your sweet potato chips going brown, start removing them and place them on a thick bed of paper towels. Sprinkle your seasoning mixture and coat to taste. As soon as the oil temperature reaches 360º, repeat. Once your crispy batch cools enough, toss them into a bowl, but keep the same paper towels on the plate for reuse with all cooked batches. As you repeat this process, more and more of the seasoning will rest on the paper towels, so keep that in mind as you’ll need to coat each new batch a little less. Also, feel free to eat as many of these chips as necessary to “test” that you’re doing it right, as well as to revel in how amazing it is that you’re making chips all by yourself.

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Make BBQ beans/meat:

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and garlic smells wonderful, about 5-6 minutes. Add diced jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the air smells spicy. Add tomato paste, black beans, and s&p. Mix so tomato paste coats everything. Add BBQ sauce and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until mixture thickens and smells amazing. Add extra BBQ sauce if mixture becomes too thick. If you want a non-vegetarian version as well, heat another medium skillet. Add a small splash of oil and add ground beef, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and cooked through. Add half of bean mixture to beef and simmer together for another five minutes or so.

To make nachos:

On a rimmed cookie sheet, or any other large platter, layer sweet potato chips, bean/beef mixture, jalapeno rounds, and cheese. Repeat. Place in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets melty, about 5-7 minutes. Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream and serve while hot!

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