Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pitas Inside and Out

A quick trip to the grocery story with no real plan in mind for dinner and I find myself aimlessly wandering the aisles. Man I was supposed to have a plan here. What happened? I set out the early morning hours with a cup of coffee in hand reading some of my favorite food blogs thinking "I really need come up with an idea for dinner. These recipes look great" and yet here I am desperately trying to formulate a plan on the fly when I spot the pita bread. Hmm, maybe something light like a vegetable stuffed pita. Oh and those Brussels sprouts I passed earlier looked good for a side...
Wait that rotisserie chicken might be good in the pitas. So much for the vegetarian idea.
What I decided on was pitas with rotisserie chicken, fresh tomatoes lightly marinated in Italian dressing, red onions with a light olive oil and balsamic marinade, goat cheese and fresh spinach and an artichoke bruschetta.
By the time I got started making these pitas I had decided to not only stuff them but to make pita pizzas out of them. Sometimes not having a plan works out okay.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tomato Pie

No it's not a pizza pie. It's a southern thing. A trip to the farmers market yields a bunch of large beautiful ripe tomatoes and with that comes a need for recipes. I can eat a thick slice of tomato with mayo on wheat bread and make fresh tomato sauce but I'm always looking for ways to use fresh tomatoes in the spring and summer. I used this recipe as a starting point but made some minor changes to suit my tastes. First off, the method I use to peel the tomatoes is slightly different. I do cross slice the tomatoes on the bottom as she does but I dip mine one at a time for 10 seconds in low boiling water for 10 seconds then into a colander and spray with cool water.
Second, I don't think she seeded them enough. After I peel the tomatoes, I slice them in half then squeeze them to work out the seeds, After that I do the coarse chop and place them in a colander with a liberal sprinkling of salt and let them drain for at least 30 minutes, shaking occasionally. Too much moisture and seeds are the enemy of a good tomato pie!
I don't have a secret ingredient (yet). I just use dried basil, garlic powder, a sprinkle of sugar to counteract the acidity and cracked pepper. There is no need for more salt during the pie assembly as the salt used during the draining process is more than adequate.
The only other thing that I did differently was to use half mozzarella and half cheddar. Also 1/2 cup mayo per 2 cups of cheese is really quite enough Paula Dean.
I really recommend using the coarse chop on the tomatoes rather than tomato slices because it is easier to eat as you won't pull a whole slice of tomato out when you take a fork full!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits are a Charleston South Carolina classic. Traditionally a breakfast dish due to the plentiful fresh shrimp and Shrimpers in the area, it was later refined and served in fine restaurants. Here's my take on this southern classic.
First use stone ground yellow grits, no white grits or quick grits allowed. Second use stone ground yellow grits.

If you want to start out easy and get the feel for cooking the grits, just try some plain shrimp and grits or maybe some cheese grits. Once you have that down then you can start sauteing some peppers and onions and adding a sauce.

If you want to try the shrimp and grits pictured above there are five steps involved. Cook the grits, make the sauce, saute the vegetables, add the shrimp and sauce to the vegetables and simmer to cook the shrimp and meld the flavors then spoon the shrimp and sauce mixture over the grits and serve. Oh I almost forgot the sixth step! Eat and enjoy.

To cook the grits bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil and slowly stream in one cup of grits whisking with a wire whisk. Return to a boil then reduce heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Now stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup heavy cream and cook for another 8-10 minutes over low. I also add 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan but that's optional. Thin with more chicken stock as needed to keep the grits creamy smooth.
For the sauce add 1 tsp oil, 1 Tbs minced shallot and minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes then add 1 cup white wine and the juice of 1 lemon and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Whisk and add 1 cup heavy cream and reduce by one half. Add 4 oz soft butter a whisk until butter is melted. Keep warm.
For the vegetables add 1 tbs oil to your hot iron skillet then add the red onion, red pepper and green pepper and cook over medium to medium low heat for 5-6 minutes until the peppers have softened a bit.
To finish the shrimp aspect, add the shrimp, sauce and chopped cooked bacon to the pepper and onion mixture and simmer for 5-7 minutes until the shrimp are done. Salt and pepper to taste.
Assembly. Plate the creamy smooth cheese grits and spoon over the shrimp mixture. Enjoy!

Shrimp and Cheese Grits drizzled with a wine and balsamic sauce.

Shrimp sauteed in an iron skillet for the above simple Shrimp and Grits

What you will need.
For the grits
1 cup stone ground yellow grits
4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
For the Sauce
1 tsp oil
1 Tbs minced shallot
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
The juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
The rest of the story
About 1 pound of shrimp peeled and deveined
1/4 cup red onion diced
1/4 cup red pepper diced
1/4 cup green onion diced
3-4 slices of thick cut cooked bacon chopped
Salt and pepper to taste