Southern Style

I wonder if northerners have warmed up to grits and collard greens yet. I don’t think Southerners are too keen on rhubarb and kale, although I do see them more readily available in stores these days.

Taste changes have a lot to do with chefs moving foods to the forefront in creative ways. Take grits, for example.

The first time I had grits and shrimp was in Charleston, S.C., about 20 years ago. Coming from the Deep South, I grew up on grits – but not with shrimp. We hardly saw a shrimp in Memphis, only on trips to Fort Walton or Biloxi in the summers. My, how we loved them!

But now, that South Carolina dish is all over the menus of restaurants in New Orleans (and everywhere else, I presume).

I absolutely love it, not only for the succulent taste but also for the ease of preparation. As a matter of fact, it has become my favorite entrée for entertaining and hardly takes any time to whip up.

The good news for busy cooks is that frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp of all sizes are available in most grocery stores now. But I live 1 minute from a seafood market where fresh shrimp come in every morning, and I can’t resist buying them there. I don’t mind peeling shrimp anyway, especially when they’re large and easy to handle.

When the weather is hot and you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen, shrimp and grits are as good as it gets. There are other quick fixes, too, especially on the grill.

We love to grill and smoke but summer isn’t the time to spend 12-hours smoking pork shoulders which my husband, Doug, likes to do. Fish, on the other hand, takes more like 12 minutes, which is just right for me. I love to try the “Florida” fish such as amberjack and grouper. I say Florida because that’s where you can usually get them. My seafood store was carrying them but lately offers only catfish and tilapia.

Speaking of something easy to find, tilapia is everywhere, so that’s what I’m using in the following recipe for fish on the grill. But grouper and amberjack could be used just as well.

Now for a simple dessert for summer that only takes minutes of heat to produce. One of Louisiana’s most delicious crops is the peach, grown around Ruston in the northern part of the state. Look for the ripe Ruston peach and you won’t be sorry. Of course, they’re best eaten out-of-hand, but a quick and delicious – and cold – dessert is the poached peach, served with ice cream or whipped cream. Poach them ahead of time so that you have time to chill them before serving.

And let’s forget the collards and kale until fall.

Shrimp and Grits
3    pounds fresh, large, raw
      shrimp in shells (or 2
      pounds frozen large raw
      shrimp) peeled and deveined
3    tablespoons butter
6    green onions, chopped
5    cloves garlic, minced
1    lemon
2    tablespoons Worcestershire
    Several dashes Tabasco®
    Lots of freshly ground
      black pepper
    Salt to taste
    Creole seasoning to taste
1/3    cup white wine
3    tablespoons chopped
      flat-leaf parsley
    Grits, cooked according to
      package directions

If shrimp are fresh, peel and devein them. If frozen, thaw. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet. Over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add shrimp and sauté until pink. Add zest and juice of lemon, Worcestershire, Tabasco®, pepper, salt, Creole seasoning and wine. Stir well and cook for about 5 more minutes or until shrimp are done. Add parsley and serve over grits.

Serves 6.

Note on grits: I like to cut kernels off 2 ears of fresh corn into a medium glass bowl. Sprinkle with water and microwave for 2 minutes. Add to cooked grits, along with butter to taste.

Easy Grilled Fish Dinner
1    tablespoon extra-virgin
      olive oil
1/3    cup white wine
2    tablespoons red wine
1/2    teaspoon each sea salt,
      freshly ground black
      pepper, Creole seasoning
      and garlic powder
8    4-ounce tilapia fillets
1    each green, red and yellow           bell peppers
2    banana peppers
1    poblano pepper
1    large or 2 small zucchinis
4    thin (finger-width sized)
      Japanese eggplants
4    ears corn

In an 8-by-5-inch dish, mix olive oil, wine, vinegar and seasonings. About 1 hour before cooking, marinate tilapia fillets in the mixture.

Cut peppers, zucchini and eggplant into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Place in bowl and sprinkle with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Toss well. Slather corn with pieces of cold butter, working it into the spaces between kernels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a gas grill to hot. When ready to cook, spray metal grill baskets with cooking spray. Place vegetables in baskets. (Fish and corn can be done on a basket or directly on the grill.) Place vegetables over flames and close top to grill. Check and stir every 5 minutes. Vegetables should be cooked about 15 minutes. Fish will take less time and can be put on grill accordingly. Cook fish over high heat about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Check thickest part with a fork to make sure it’s done.

Serves 4.

Poached Peaches
4    ripe peaches
1    cup water
1/2    cup sugar
1/2    teaspoon vanilla extract
1    teaspoon lemon juice
1/2    cup white wine

Peel peaches, cut into halves and remove pits.

In a small pot, combine water, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and wine. Add peaches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until a knife tip goes easily through the peaches, about 7 minutes. Remove peaches into a refrigerator container. Reduce juices over high heat for about 5 minutes. When cooled, pour over peaches, cover and refrigerate until time to serve.

To serve, place 2 peach halves on each dessert plate with small scoops of vanilla ice cream in each half. Drizzle peach syrup over.

Serves 4.

Southern Style

Peachy History

Peach Melba is a dessert made famous in 1892 by the famous French chef Escoffier for Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. He was the chef at the Savoy in London, and she was starring in the opera Lohengrin. It was first served at a dinner given by the Duke of Orléans to celebrate her triumph. It is made with peach halves, poached in sauce, chilled and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, usually topped with raspberry sauce and sometimes whipped cream and sliced almonds.

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