Hello, WordPress! How have you all been? Well, I hope. I certainly haven’t intentionally ignored my blog and all of the great blogs I follow for the past two months (more like several months), but I’ve been rather busy. My summer was full of anniversaries, reunions, vacations, weddings, parties, barbeques, volunteering, and working. It seems like just last week I couldn’t decide how to spend my 4th of July so it’s a bit hard to believe that Halloween is in two days! Where has the time gone? Summer is practically just a memory.
With weather that’s more and more rainy and cloudy it’s nice to think back on the warm days of summer and all of the exceptional, seasonal fruit and veggies that were practically spilling out of my refrigerator. While it would be almost impossible to choose a favorite summertime vegetable, corn is definitely at the top of my list. While corn on the cobb, lightly boiled, with the tiniest bit of butter and salt is delicious, every now and then corn just begs to be added to entrees. In particular, I found the bright, fresh flavor of corn to be a fantastic addition to rich, thick, hearty grits.
(Good) fresh corn may be a bit hard to come by this time of year, but thinking of this dish makes me nostalgic for summer and I look forward to 8 or 9 months from now when fresh corn is in abundance. If you happen to have the hookup on fresh corn on the cobb, definitely consider this recipe. Otherwise you just might have to wait until next summer. But trust me, the wait will be worth it.
Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 3 ears of corn, husked
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¾ cup grits (not instant)
- 1 cup shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons minced, fresh oregano
- ½ teaspoon paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1½ pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
- Chopped fresh chives (for garnish)
Grate 2 ears of corn on the large holes of a box grater over a medium bowl, catching as much juice as possible; set aside. Cut kernels from remaining ear of corn into another medium bowl; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring broth, milk, and 1½ cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and gradually add the grits (whisk constantly as you add the grits). Cook for 20-25 minutes uncovered, stirring often (every few minutes). Mix in cheese, butter, and grated corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil has heated, add garlic, paprika, and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add fresh oregano and cook and additional 30 seconds. Add whole corn kernels and cook for 2 minutes before adding shrimp and cooking an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve shrimp and corn over grits, topping with chives.
While I like to think of myself as a fairly adventurous person, in reality I can sometimes be rather predictable. I definitely will order something crazy like fried grasshoppers if I happen to see them on the menu at a restaurant, but more often than not I’ll chose one of my favorites, like pork belly, mussels, scallops, or some sort of slowly braised meat.
Why do I tend to order those four things so frequently? They’re all delicious and all things I decided were too difficult to make at home. Pork belly: I haven’t actually tried this but it sounds like it would be tedious. Braised meats are far from difficult, but they require hours and hours of cooking time… something far too cumbersome for an average weeknight dinner. Scallops kind of scare me… I don’t want to drop that kind of money and accidentally overcook them, which is why I leave it up to the professionals. And mussels? Somehow, for a reason now unknown to me, I decided cooking mussels was too arduous of a task to do at home.
Once I actually decided to take a stab at cooking mussels—and realized how straight forward and simple it was—I kicked myself for not doing so sooner. The process of cooking mussels only involves (1) soaking them, (2) a bit of cleaning, and (3) steaming. The best part about steaming is that you can cook the mussels in almost anything you want. Wine, broth, beer, juice, or any flavorful liquids of your choosing could be used and feel free to add anything from a classic mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) to chorizo to tomatoes. When cooking mussels you can use almost anything you have on hand, as the mussels hold up well to strong flavors and work with a wide array of flavor profiles.
While I love mussels steamed with white wine, shallot, and lemon, I knew I wanted to go a different route, and use beer. Since I think beer pairs so well with spicy food I decided to punch up the flavor by adding some harissa (chili paste). I had some lemon, onion, garlic, and parsley on hand and decided those ingredients would be more than enough for a simple but delicious dinner. Served with some crusty bread, salad, and a cold beer and I was one happy camper.
- I would imagine most lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, and mildly hoppy beers would work (I used a locally made Kolsch) but I would not recommend a stout or porter.
- When buying mussels you want to make sure you buy ones that are still tightly closed.
- I’ve found harissa spiciness can vary a fair amount from brand to brand so be sure to try yours first before deciding how much to add
Beer and Harissa Steamed Mussels
Serves 2-4, depending on appetite
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 lbs mussels
- 1 12oz beer (see above notes)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-4 tablespoons harissa (see above note)
- Juice of half a lemon
- Chopped, fresh parsley (optional)
Place 1/4 cup flour into a large bowl. Fill with water, and lightly mix in flour so it’s somewhat dissolved. Add in mussels and let sit for half an hour. This process allows the mussels to expel the sand within. After half an hour gently pull mussels out of water, being careful not to disturb the sand that has settled at the bottom of the bowl.
Scrub mussels of any grit stuck to the shell and remove the beard, which is a “tail” like thingy. I was able to just yank the beard off.
In a large, coverable pot (such as a stock pot or a dutch oven), heat butter over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes until garlic is aromatic, but not too browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add beer, harissa, and lemon and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 5-6 minutes over medium-high heat (discard any mussels that haven’t opened). Top with parsley, if desired and serve with plenty of crusty bread.
I remember the first time I made scallops. I went to Whole Paycheck… err, I mean Whole Foods, and picked out some huge, plump scallops that were impossibly fresh. The side dishes were coming together perfectly, I had made a delicate, lemony, wine sauce and things seemed to go flawlessly as I cooked the scallops. They had that crispy, golden brown crust that comes from searing scallops in copious amounts of butter and oil. Based on the appearance, I had made some winning scallops.
As I sat down to taste them I couldn’t help but be pleased with myself. I hardly ever cook seafood since I have this overwhelming fear that I’ll ruin it somehow. After all, fish can be rather finicky.
One bite into the dish and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion by what I had made.
…. Overwhelmed in a bad way. They were awful.
I’m not entirely sure what happened to the scallops but after spending a bit too much money on fish that turned out rubbery I decided I should try and work with cheaper proteins and master them first.
While tilapia is nowhere near the top of the list of my favorite fish, I’ve recently come to appreciate how reasonably priced it is and how easy it is to cook. Simply drizzling some olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and throwing under the broiler results in an incredibly tender, flaky, moist fish. Add in a side of incredibly simple chive and mustard sauce and you have an entrée in less than 15 minutes.
Broiled Tilapia with Mustard-Herb Sauce
From Giada de Laurentiis
- 4 (5 to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (plus a bit more for garnish, optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the fish: Preheat a broiler. Line a medium sized baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
Drizzle the tilapia fillets on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and broil until cooked through and the flesh flakes easily with a fork, about 6 to 8 minutes.
For the sauce (this can be done while the fish is broiling): In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, agave nectar, and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Transfer the tilapia to a serving platter, garnish with additional chives, and serve sauce on the side.