CAROLINA FOODIE GOES SAILING and so do NC foods!
Springtime beckons even the grouchiest of us to get outside and play. Tent camping, backpacking, biking and picnics at the park are among my favorite activities. And last weekend, sailing on the Chesapeake was an offer we couldn't refuse, since we don't have a sailboat ourselves. But we're both willing and not entirely clueless crew.
And I enjoy the challenge of packing portable feasts. So from my freezer I pulled frozen peaches from the NC State Farmers Market, Dan Finch's blueberries, and the homemade granola I've shared with you. That was a terrific breakfast, along with coffee, overlooking a gunkhole in the West River below Annapolis.
For one dinner, I packed two pounds of NC green-tailed shrimp from my freezer. Before leaving home, I made the cheese grits cakes and pre-cooked the asparagus and red pepper. That makes on-board cooking - or at camp or picnic table grill - a lot easier and less messy. About half an hour before grilling, I added the pre-made Margarita marinade to the zippered bag. We heated up the grits, asparagus and peppers in foil packets on the grill, then wrapped them in some kitchen towels to keep them warm, and then grilled the shrimp.
All that was left was to open a bottle - or two - of a very nice pinot noir. We weren't driving, or dragging anchor, for that matter!
RECIPE - MARGARITA GRILLED SHRIMP with ASPARAGUS and RED PEPPERS on CHEESE GRITS CAKES
FOR THE SHRIMP:
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup tequila
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
zest of one lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Mix all ingredients together in a small jar. Shake. Refrigerate if not using right away.
FOR THE ASPARAGUS:
Place about 1 pound asparagus in a saute pan. Cover with cold water. Place over medium high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, drain the asparagus, and plunge into a ice water bath to stop the cooking and seal the bright, green color. When cool, drain and pat dry.
FOR THE RED PEPPERS:
Place 1 or 2 red bell peppers on a baking sheet covered with foil. Put under a pre-heated broiler, turning until all sides are blackened. Remove from oven, and gather the foil up to cover the peppers. Allow to cool. Peel blackened skin away, and remove stem and seeds. Slice into thin slivers.
ADDITIONAL ACCOMPANIMENT: 2 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese
CHEESE GRITS CAKES:
2 cups water
1 cup milk (or you may skip milk and use a total of 3 cups water)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup stone-ground grits (yellow or white)
1 cup grated cheese (Parmesan or Asiago or combo)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a shallow 10 x 15 in. baking pan with foil, then lightly spray with oil/nonstick spray.
Bring water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Toss in the salt. While stirring constantly, whisk in the grits, slowly, in a steady stream. Lower heat to a simmer and stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat eggs, then add cheese and cayenne pepper.
When grits are thick and most of the water absorbed (about 10 to 15 minutes), add a spoonful or two of grits to egg mixture and stir. Then add egg mixture to the grits in the pan, and stir until cheese is melted.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, and spread to about an inch thickness.
Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until semi-firm to the touch.
Cool, then refrigerate for at least one hour. You may cut out rounds, or other shapes.
TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:
Place the marinated shrimp on skewers. Heat all ingredients, and grill the shrimp for about five minutes, or until pink and firm.
Use the grits cake as the bottom layer. Arrange asparagus over the grits cake, then red pepper slices. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Place shrimp skewers over top. Enjoy!
Recipes adapted from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2008. Available at major bookstores and online.