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Italian-style Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwiches

July 11, 2014 Entrees, Menu No Comments

I was inspired to put this dish together a few weeks back when I saw Rick Moonen’s Catfish Sloppy Joe sandwich featured on The Food Network. I put a different spin on it by using my own Sloppy Joe recipe (found here), replacing the ground meat with shrimp. I also added zucchini and Old Bay to the mix for additional taste. I like to think of this sandwich as a cross between a Sloppy Joe and a Shrimp Po’Boy…a Sloppy Po’Boy, if you will. Unlike a true Po’Boy, these shrimp are not battered and fried. I also used a crusty Italian roll instead of a baguette…as long as the bread is good, there’s no need to be picky as far as I’m concerned. Whatever you prefer to call it, this is definitely a hearty and tasty sandwich, easy to make, and perfect for the summer season.

 

 

 

Italian-style Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwiches

Makes four sandwiches

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped onion
1 zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 lb medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, each piece cut into thirds
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
salt & pepper
Old Bay seasoning

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the zucchini, stir together and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the shrimp, stir together. Cook until all shrimp are pink.

Add the can of tomato sauce, season with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning  to taste.

Stir together, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens up.

Serve in a crusty roll.

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Baked Polenta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Peppers

January 19, 2014 Entrees, Menu No Comments

I’ve been planning to put together a recipe that incorporates polenta for a while now. If you check back again in another month or so, I’m hoping to have a breakfast polenta dish to share. But for today, I’m talking about a baked polenta dish mixed with shrimp, asparagus and red bell pepper. It’s like an Italian version of shrimp and grits. Grits and polenta are both, after all, very similar porridge style dishes – grits being made from stone ground white corn and polenta from yellow corn. The preparation, for the most part, is fairly easy. Sauté the shrimp, asparagus and peppers in garlic, olive oil and the zest and juice of one lemon, then fold into prepared polenta and bake. But it’s the type of polenta that you use that will determine if this dish is just good or out of this world.

Which polenta to use?
There are two common forms of polenta. There’s the pre-made tubes, which I like to use sliced thin for grilling or baking, topped with sautéed veggies or maybe a nice slice of cheese and some tomatoes. Then there’s the traditional version made from boiled cornmeal, often mixed with a little butter and maybe some parmesan cheese to form a creamy porridge-like dish. Because I wanted to mix in some other ingredients, then bake it in a casserole dish, the traditional method was what I needed to make. If you’ve never made traditional polenta, it involves about 20-30 minutes of cooking and a lot of stirring. A LOT of stirring. Similar to risotto (the other Italian dish that requires dedicated stirring), the trick is to keep a constant stir going to maintain a nice, creamy consistency. At first, it seems like a lot of work. But as you get into it and develop a nice rhythm, it almost becomes like a well-calculated dance. You allow it to get away from you just enough, then you bring it back together and gently keep it moving, and then you repeat this form until the dance is done. The end result is always worth the effort.

While doing my research for this recipe, I found yet a third option for making polenta…instant polenta. The cooking method and preparation are very similar to the traditional style. You add the cornmeal mixture to boiling water, and you stir. Only it’s done in literally under 5 minutes. Now I’m not exactly sure what is done to the cornmeal to make it instant, but there were enough recipes available online from reputable chefs that used instant polenta. It’s gotta be good then, right?

Wrong. Gotta say, I was not happy with the instant stuff. Yes, it did take under 5 minutes to prepare. But you go from start to finish in such a quick time, that you really have no control over the polenta. There is no careful stirring, no playing, no dance. It goes from liquid to solid so quickly that I felt that it just got away from me. I didn’t even have time to properly season it as I normally would. I did make sure to add some extra seasoning when folding in the shrimp, asparagus and peppers, but would have preferred to add a little butter while cooking the polenta. And I saw no chance of doing that while using the instant, which left it very bland and dry on its own.

To help add a little extra flavor, I put together a quick lemon greek yogurt sauce to use as a topping. This gave it a well needed, flavorful punch (see recipe below).

The bottom line here is use the traditional method for a dish like this. It’s worth the time and effort, and you will be very happy with the end result!

Baked Polenta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Peppers

Ingredients:
12-15 raw jumbo shrimp, cleaned, shelled and devenined
1 small bundle (12-15 pieces) of asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into small pieces
2 tbspn olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice plus zest of one lemon

Basic Polenta recipe
(courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:
In a large pan, heat oil and garlic over medium heat. Add asparagus and peppers, stir and cook until veggies are tender. Add the shrimp, continue to stir until all shrimp are pink. Add the lemon juice and zest, mix well. Remove from heat, cover to keep warm. Set aside.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Fold in the shrimp, asparagus and peppers. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish. Place the baking dish into a 350˚ oven, bake for 15-20 minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Lemon Greek Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice plus zest of 1 lemon
2 tbspn olive oil
1/4 tspn salt

Optional:
1/4 tspn chopped parsley
2 tbspn crumbled feta

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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Summer Seafood Giambotta

May 24, 2013 Entrees, Menu, Soup No Comments

When I started planning to make this dish earlier this week, my original intentions were to simply sauté some vegetables and serve them over sliced polenta. Apparently my creative juices were in high gear that day. I found myself inspired and started reaching for additional complimentary ingredients. Before I knew it, I had a beautiful pan of giambotta (the classic stewed vegetable dish) simmering away on our new stovetop.Within a half an hour, my wife and I were enjoying a fresh, hearty and flavorful meal!

A traditional giambotta would normally include ingredients such as potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. For this version, I used zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, onion, diced tomatoes and spinach. These are all quick-cooking ingredients, which made for the ideal weekday meal. I like to keep a bag of frozen raw shrimp and frozen scallops on hand for impromptu dishes, and this was the perfect opportunity to put them to use. Letting the shrimp and scallops simmer in the sauce during the last few minutes of cooking guaranteed the perfect, tender texture and taste. We did serve this over sliced polenta, which worked perfectly. But next time I make this, I’m going all out and will be serving it up with a nice crusty loaf of Italian bread to scoop up every last drop of sauce!

SUMMER SEAFOOD GIAMBOTTA

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tbspn olive oil
1 medium zucchini, sliced into circles, then circles sliced in half
1 medium yellow squash, sliced into circles, then circles sliced in half
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 dozen raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup raw small sea scallops

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chopped onions, stir, sauté for 30-45 seconds or until translucent.

Add diced zucchini and squash, stir and sauté until zucchini and squash start to soften up. Add diced tomatoes and their juices, lower heat to simmer. Add spinach, stir. Add shrimp and scallops. Stir together, cover with lid and let simmer until shrimp and scallops are done, about 5-7 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper (you can add some crushed red pepper for additional heat). Serve it over sliced polenta or along with crusty Italian bread.

Makes approximately 2-4 servings

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The Mamma Meets the Cucina: COOKING WITH SPIRITS!

So the holidays have come and gone and our liquor cabinets are pretty much cleaned out. But don’t write off those nearly empty bottles yet! With less than a cup of some of the most common spirits, you can have an awesome meal on the table with a huge wow factor. And the Mamma & the Cucina are battling again to show you just how to do it!

Be sure to let us know which spirit YOU prefer to cook with by using our voting poll below. MANGIA!!

FROM THE MAMMA

Sambuca is one of the liquors I remember from my childhood. After dinner my parents and grandparents would have a small glass over ice, or even put some in their coffee. I, personally, never liked the stuff, but I find that the naturally sweet flavor really enhances savory dishes for a sweet & salty effect! Sambuca is often used in cooking with prawns or lamb, but I went with shrimp. So myfood-blogging brain did a little talking with my Italian stomach and I invented the following recipe:

SAMBUCA SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS:
12 shrimp, trimmed & deveined
1 TB olive oil
4 TB butter
3 TB minced shallots
juice of one small lemon
1/4 cup Sambuca
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste

PREPARATION:
Saute the shallots in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter until transparent. (You want to sweat the shallots, meaning you cook them without any color or browning). Add in the shrimp and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and plenty of crushed red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute on each side. Remove the shrimp. Add the sambuca and cook for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.

Then add the lemon juice and the remaining TB of butter and simmer lightly until you get kind of a thin glaze. Then, throw the shrimp back in and toss it all together. Turn the heat off (you do not want to overcook the shrimp,a s the heat alone will finish the cooking process). Serve immediately over rice pilaf, or alongside roasted veggies. I served mine with brown rice since we are trying to keep that New Year’s resolution of eating healthy!

FROM THE CUCINA

Of all the liquors that I keep stored in my house (and aside from a variety of rums, there aren’t many others), tequila seems to be the least used. Just a nice margarita on Cinco de Mayo and maybe a grill-out or two is all the time that I usually have for tequila. Yes…my Cuervo ‘shot’ days are way behind me. So when I started to plan for our Cooking with Spirits post, I figured it would be a good time to dust off the tequila bottle and put it to some good use!

This recipe is very simple and only uses a handful of ingredients. The the tequila lime marinade leaves a refreshing, zesty flavor that, although screams for a summer grill-out, can be enjoyed all year round and makes for a terrific party appetizer.

TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN BITES

INGREDIENTS:
6 uncooked skinless chicken tenders, cut into 2″ pieces
1/3 cup silver/white tequila
juice of 4 limes, plus zest of 1 lime
1 tspn honey
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 tblspn butter

PREPARATION:
Whisk together the tequila, lime juice, lime zest, honey and cilantro. Place the cut chicken pieces into tequila mixture, let sit in fridge for at least two hours (a plastic baggie works well for this).

Remove chicken from marinade, discard marinade. Quarter each piece of the prosciutto (adjust size accordingly to fit around each chicken strip). Wrap each chicken strip with one piece of the prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Place the prosciutto wrapped chicken in pan, cooking the chicken evenly on each side, until chicken is fully browned and prosciutto is slightly crisp.

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