I’m in a rut! It’s a BAAAD one! I can easily say that last year, from Sept, 2010 – Jan 1st 2011 I prepared a healthy, well thought out meal that didn’t include any packaged food items oh maybe…. once! I left the cooking up to my husband. I just had NO desire to be in the kitchen, I was sick of the items in our pantry and sick of our usual line up of meals, so I just stepped away. It didn’t help that I was taking 3 classes, and working nearly full-time either… but still. Don’t get me wrong, there were other nights that I “cooked” dinner but it usually consisted of something frozen and had dipping sauce…. (read: chicken fingers.) Not my finest moment guys!
BUT! I am starting to see the light! I’m coming out of my Dark-ages of Cooking and can finally grab my tongs again as I used to! (insert Chris jumping for joy here!)
One site where I found some MAJOR inspiration is Sprout. I found this little blog by doing quick google search. Chris pointed out that we had shrimp. I said “meh” (see? rut I tell you! Who turns down shrimp?) But I searched anyways. We were also out of ANYTHING fresh in the veggie dept and he suggested we use a can of greens… again… “meh…” I searched shrimp and greens on a whim. AND up popped this YUMMY recipe featuring Shrimp, Greens and Polenta! I EVEN had some cream of wheat on hand for a quick creamy polenta! Score!
I channeled my inner Italian grandfather and ordered Chris to make the creamy polenta! LOL (this recipe requires a few extra sets of hands unless you’re good at multi-tasking in the kitchen… I can do it but I get stressed so I delegated and he was happy to help.) Heck if all he had to do was boil some stock and whisk he was all about it if it meant I was the one in charge of the whole meal! I took on the task of cooking the shrimp, sauce and greens and off we went.
This entire meal took about 20 minutes to make and it turned out AWESOME! Like, soooo AWESOME that I would consider it guest worthy! Really, it’s THAT good and That pretty! Presentation is a big deal to me when entertaining. I loved it so much that I wanted to share it on my blog so I emailed the owner of Sprout and asked if I could share the recipe on my own blog. She was happy to share!
The ONLY changes I made was the use of canned greens instead of fresh. Honestly, once you cook them in a skillet with a little oil, salt and pepper then sprinkle a little lemon juice on them, the lemon juice brightens them up quite a bit and whey will do in a pinch! One can is plenty. She suggests turnip greens, honestly any leafy green would work here. I also used canned green chillies in place of the jalepeno peppers and dried parsley in place of the fresh. We always have a bag of raw, tail on shrimp in the freezer so my shrimp were not fresh either but if you’re careful to not overcook, frozen shrimp will be just fine (never buy the cooked variety unless you’re planning to have a simple shrimp cocktail). One last little item I added was a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top of the polenta before topping it with greens and the shrimp.
Here is her recipe word-for-word:
Spicy Shrimp and Collard Greens over Creamy Polenta
1 cup polenta
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb medium/large wild shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on (why? it’s prettier)
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cayenne or jalepeno peppers, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 TB butter*
handful chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
4 cups chopped fresh collard greens or spinach
Sea salt and pepper
In a saucepan, bring vegetable broth to boil. Slowly whisk in polenta (whisking prevents clumping), add bay leaf, and a couple pinches of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over med heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and chiles, saute for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, add wine and tomato paste, whisk, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Add shrimp, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. This step is important. Overcooking shrimp is a very common mistake, and can make the difference between juicy and fishy.
While the shrimp is cooking, heat up a small amount of oil in a deep skillet, and add turnip greens and a pinch of salt. Cook them for a minute or two, adding a little water as needed to steam. They should only need a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a mesh strainer to drain the water. Try not to squeeze them too hard, or they will loose their form and look like a mess.
Ok, back to the shrimp – When the shrimp is almost opaque, it is time to add the next ingredients. Add lemon juice**, butter, and parsley, and remove from heat immediately.
Test polenta, and add salt if needed. If it is too thick, whisk in more broth or water to desired consistency. Add 1-2 TB of butter for extra goodness.
In a shallow bowl, spoon polenta in the bottom, Place a mound of greens on top, and, then pour shrimp and pan sauce over top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.
Voila! A delicious dish that is both simple and impressive. This recipe can be little tricky on timing, because there are a number of things that need to happen at once. Don’t get overwhelmed by it – just try it a couple times to get your rhythm.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and as Julia would say, “Bon Appetit!”
*For butter, I use Earth Balance, a vegan butter alternative. I am not vegan (hence the shrimp recipe), but I find it yummy and it is made from mostly expeller-pressed oil, so I feel it is healthy. However, if you would like to use real butter, I suggest getting some farm fresh butter from a farmer’s market in your area, preferably from a grass-fed cow farmer. The taste difference will blow you away.
**If you don’t have a juicer (like me), squeeze your lemons over a mesh strainer to eliminate seeds.
Sprout offers quite a few exciting and HEALTHY recipes. She suggested I try the Zucchini Salad as it apparently is a MUST TRY! It’s on my list to make this summer with our fresh from the garden zucchini! There are quite a few others that I’ll be trying too!
After making this meal early last week, I will tell you I went on to cook THREE more meals that week! I’ve broken my streak and I’m on my way out of my cooking rut! Another site I wanted to share is readyseteat.com. This site is fairly new but has some GREAT inspiration for in the kitchen! One feature I love is that it tells you want items in the recipe are currently on sale at your local grocery! Thought that was pretty helpful! This site is operated by ConAgra Foods and features many of their products but as far as inspiration goes, it’s pretty great! (btw, this is not a featured product review, I just came across this site and liked it so I’m sharing!)
If you end up making anything from the Sprout site, please let me know and surely let Ashley at Sprout know too!