If you've been on the twitterz the last couple of nights and run in the same circles I do, you may have noticed something called #dinnerdare, which is basically people trying to one-up each other with pictures of their dinner. Now, during the week my dinner is usually about 1/3 a head of iceberg lettuce with some cottage cheese and goldfish crackers, but I do like me a good old fashioned twitter challenge. Tonight I threw my hat in the ring, and this was the result.
Normally I hate it when you go to someone's house for dinner and you say This is so good, where'd you get the recipe? and they're all Oh, I just threw together whatever I found in the pantry all fake-modest and whatnot. But the reality is that throwing together what I have in the
pantry cabinet (my entire kitchen is smaller than many people's pantries) is usually how I cook, because I'm not organized enough to plan actual meals when I go to the grocery store, and I sincerely loathe the grocery store near my apartment here in NJC. However, I think that in general, food will taste really good no matter how you end up putting it together, as long as you keep the seasoning simple.
The only protein I had in the kitchen was a bag of frozen EZ-peel shrimp (uncooked), so I decided to use those as a starting point. I put them in a bowl of water to defrost, and dug through the crisper drawer in the fridge for some veggies. A vidalia onion, red bell pepper, and bag of baby spinach called out to me, so I got them out. At this point, I had a couple of choices: I could make a dang quesedilla, or I could do something fun. Fun, obvs!! I switched on the broiler, cut the bell pepper in half the long way, took out all the middle bits, and put it on some foil to roast (skin up).
Next I got out some grits, which were my only starch option besides spaghetti (yawn). I always cook grits in milk instead of water, because they come out so creamy! While the grits were cooking I chopped up about half the vidalia and put it in a pan to semi-caramelize. When the grits were done I spread them out on a plate and stuck that in the freezer to cool. Shrimp with hot creamy grits is fine, but this is a contest, people! We need to get a little fancy.
When the red peppers were done, they looked like this:
Black on the top, still a little red on the sides. I stuck them in the freezer to cool for a bit so they weren't too hot to peel by hand. Once they were cooled and peeled (the skins should come right off), I chopped them up and put them in a bowl with the onions. I added a splash of balsamic and a splash of cream, and went to town with the hand blender to make the coulis. I sauteéd the shrimp and set them aside, then quickly wilted the spinach in the same pan (this literally takes about 60 seconds) and set that aside, too.
When the grits are cool they become somewhat hardened into a rubbery grits disc. Appetizing, right? Right! I cut two beautiful triangles and ate the cutaway bits because I was starving. I dredged the triangles in flour and fried them in some vegetable oil until they were brown and crispy. I patted them down with a paper towel, laid them on top of the spinach, dumped on the shrimp, and artistically spooned on a healthy serving of my coulis, and voilá! An aesthetically and gustatorily pleasing dinner.
Actually, this dish kind of cracks me up because I feel like it's straight out of a 2002 "tapas" menu at some cheesy lounge called Karma or something. But you know what? I don't care, because it's totally delicious, and has a lot of nice textures.