I guess I'd call this Southerterranean - a hybrid of Southern and Mediterranean cuisine. If not for the kalamata olives, which it's quickly becoming apparent I'm obsessed with, and the goat cheese, it might be right at home below the Mason-Dixon line.
I wanted to make a variation on a Shrimp and Grits theme, as I was having Sarah over for dinner, and that's her favorite non-sushi food. I'd also been wanting to try making polenta for some time now, but had always been stumped at the grocery store when I could only find pre-made polenta in clear plastic tubes (that's also the only way you can purchase grits here in the Midwest - a travesty). One day it dawned on me that - duuuuh - polenta is nothing more than ground cornmeal, which I keep on hand for pizza-making and the occasional hankering for cornbread. I figured the preparation was exactly like grits - which is simply boiling the cornmeal until it's soft. I was right.
The polenta was so creamy and satisfying (owing to the - ahem - generous amount of goat cheese I stirred into it) that I will definitely be adding it to my list of go-to carbs. There's just something about a cheesy, slightly gritty concoction that makes it the perfect base for spicy, tomato-y broth, and it was a nice complement to the lightly bitter bite of the collards.
On that note, if you haven't tried collards greens (and you most likely haven't unless you're from the south), you should give them a chance. They're extremely nutritious, and with a generous smattering of spices - salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, whatever you have - and a little chicken broth and love, they can be an excellent and hearty side dish. Sometimes I make them my main meal, with nothing more than a chunk of hot, buttered cornbread on the side to soak up their juicy green goodness. Traditionally, they are slow-simmered with a hamhock or thick-cut bacon, but a vegetarian - or semi-vegetarian - version is delicious as well.
SHRIMP & COLLARDS OVER CHEVRE POLENTA
1 and 1/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bunch fresh collards, cut into smallish pieces
1/2 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
1 can diced tomatoes and all the juice
handful kalamata olives, pitted and halved
juice of 1 lemon
1 c. dry white wine
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion, diced
salt and pepper
fresh chopped parsley
1 and 1/2 c. polenta (coursely ground yellow cornmeal
3 - 4 c. water
lots of fresh chevre
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a semi-deep skillet. Saute the onion until translucent, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, cooking until they start to break down a bit, occasionally helping to squash out the seeds and juice with a spoon. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about one more minute.
Add the lemon juice and white wine and simmer a couple minutes. Add the collards, olives, some of the parsley, and diced tomatoes. Season with some more salt and pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Give it a stir, then cover and simmer over medium until the collards have wilted a bit.
Meanwhile, boil 3 cups of water for the polenta. Stir in the cornmeal with a whisk, stirring until there are no lumps. If it's a bit dry (you want it on the more liquidy side), add some more water (or you could use chicken stock). Let it cook over medium heat until the cornmeal is soft but not mushy. Take off the heat and stir in the chevre. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Add the shrimp to the tomato-collard saute and re-cover. Cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Ladle some polenta onto each plate. Spoon the shrimp and vegetables over the polenta. Garnish with some chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Thanks for joining me, Sarah, and thanks for reading! More soon...