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Shrimp & “Grits” A La Nik

Shrimp & Faux Grits
Now for those of you who are new, I’d like to let you in on
an important piece of information (that you probably already know): when I put
the name of food is “quotations,” it means it’s not really that food. So “rice”
is not rice and, in this case, those “grits” are not grits. We all on the same
page now? Lovely!

Over the summer, while the girls live with their dad, my
boyfriend and I are culinary explorers. Here in the city of Baltimore there are
ample opportunities for us to flex our wings, too. We have two events every
year called “Restaurant Week” where fancy shmancy restaurants offer a special
menu for a set price so that us gourmet-deprived masses may taste fine dining
at least once in our lives (#sarcasm).

This year I really could only afford to do one restaurant
during the week (which was the first week of August) and so I perused the
Restaurant Week website to see what different places had on the menu and noticed
a trend: grits are all the rage right now.

Now if you’ll indulge me a food memory, grits were a big
part of my upbringing. We had them for breakfast countless times. My mom liked
to crumble bacon over them and put the perfect amount of butter, salt and
pepper. As an obese person, I added my own touch: a tablespoon of bacon
drippings (along with the butter) and two fried eggs.

Nowadays I do eat grits sometimes but not in the quantity or
the preparation that I used to. But still, it tickled me to see restaurants
reimagining what amounts to the U.S. version of “peasant food.” (Meaning that
it’s what most of us eat and not what most gourmets have traditionally cooked,
NOT that we are all peasants!)

Fast forward to last night, when I needed a quick and tasty
dinner. It was the divas first day of school and I’d worked all day. Generally
I cook ahead but in prepping for school I didn’t get a chance to. This is when
I start to look to my arsenal of 30-minute meal ideas. And I came back to that
idea of dinner grits!

I’m going to give you two ways to do this. For those of you
who eat grits in moderation, I will give you that method. For those who’d
rather skip the grits (for whatever reason), I’ll give you “grits.” (See what I
did there?)

Shrimp & Grits a la Nik
(Makes enough for three non-ops, one post-op with a post-op
lunch portion left over!)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 non-green (yellow, red, orange – your choice!) pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ lb. shrimp, tails removed (I used frozen cooked ones but rinsed them to get them thawed enough to remove the tails)
  • 1 tomato (variety of your choice), diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste (or less if you want a more liquidy sauce)
  • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning blend
  • 3 cups of spinach (or more, because I felt like it wasn’t enough)
  • A package of grits (quick or traditional, your choice – I’ll tell you what to do with it in the instructions)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Spray a
large skillet generously with non-stick cooking spray and set it over medium
heat. Allow it to get HOT. Add onion and peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes,
until slightly softened. Add garlic and stir.

Add shrimp
and tomato and stir again. If shrimp are frozen, semi-frozen or cold, sprinkle
some salt over the entire thing (not a bunch, it’s mostly to draw the water out
of the veggies) and cover the pan and allow the shrimp to cook about 5 minutes
or so. If shrimp are already fully cooked/room temperature, proceed to the next

Add tomato
paste and seasoning and stir through. Add the spinach to the top of the
mixture, cover and drop the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer about 10
minutes or so. Uncover and mix the cooked spinach into the rest of the sauce.

While the
sauce is simmering, cook the appropriate portion of grits, according to the
amounts on the package directions EXCEPT instead of water, use milk (the fat
percentage is up to you. I don’t give the family grits often so I just use
whole milk when I do) and add a bit of salt and pepper to the milk as it is
simmering. Once the grits have thickened, add 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan
cheese for each intended serving of grits (so if you’re making 4 servings, use
4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese).

Now if you’re not into the idea of eating regular grits, this would be delicious atop my Four Cheese Mashed Cauliflower or…you can
make “grits.”

Nik’s “Grits”

(Makes 2 -3
servings, depending on your eating capacity and who else you are feeding)

  • 2 c. water
  • 3 c. of cauliflower florets
  • ¼ – 1/3 c. low-fat cream soup of your choice (nearly any flavor works. I used cream of mushroom)
  • ¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp. milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a pot,
bring water to a boil and add cauliflower florets. Cook until very, very soft
(about 10-12 minutes).

Drain and
then mash (in whatever manner you see fit – I use a good old potato masher).
You should mash it so that the cauliflower no longer looks like florets. If you
still see florets, keep mashing! TIP: Drain the cauliflower into a colander and
then mash in the colander in the sink. It helps to remove more of the water.

Mix in cream
soup, cheese and milk. For thinner “grits” use more soup and milk. For thicker “grits”
use less cream soup/milk. Mix thoroughly. 

Now just
because I am a visual eater, I went at them with my immersion blender. But you
certainly don’t have to do that. If you let them sit a moment, they thicken up
and are very tasty. I will say though that they DO NOT feel like regular grits
in your mouth. This is an alternative, not a replacement! J

And of
course here are an outtake of this meal (photo I did not choose for the
cover shot)

Shrimp & Faux Grits
…and the
boyfriend’s portion with regular grits

Shrimp & "Grits" A La Nik
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