If you’ve struggled with making grits and what to serve with them, stick around and I’ll gladly solve your dilemma. This will be the creamiest grits you will ever make.
Now, I’ve been cooking for a good minute now, however I’ve come in contact with some awesome people who have taught me some life changing cooking techniques and just things about life in general. As I think about those things, I can say I’m truly a blessed woman. We have our love affairs with food and of course grits fall into that love/hate category for some people. They either like cream of wheat or porridge or oatmeal, and maybe none of it at all. Maybe it’s a look that these foods have or it’s the texture. Some try to bear with the taste by adding sugar, and fruit with loads of butter or simply, salt and pepper. I remember eating my grits with a lot of butter and, crumbled bacon. It made my tummy dance and my heart smile. I have always loved grits.
Years later, I was introduced to fish and grits and shrimp and grits and thought it to be a little odd. As so many have said, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Well, I had to retract my sentiments after my sampling of the previous and have been a fan ever since. As the former Culinary Director at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, we catered a lot of events to include breakfasts and brunches. You couldn’t have either without grits. They would’ve sacrificed MANY other breakfast items, just to have grits. I can’t take credit for making them but I give all the credit to Ms. Green. Her grits are legendary! Like I said, I’ve made grits before, many times before I even met Ms. Green, but she has this skill on lock, along with her salmon croquettes, fried chicken, cabbage, cornbread, pound cake, chicken salad and turnip greens. Of course that’s not an exhaustive list of her skills. What made her grits so special? We used Quaker Quick Grits, butter, milk and salt. Her grits were creamy and consistent, so I watched her, when I could. Number 1, Ms.Green would arrive to the kitchen before anyone else, to start her grits and I think she did that on purpose, so we couldn’t see her secret ingredients or her cooking method! LOL. There had to be a secret ingredient, right? Even though we used quick grits, Ms. Green likes to cook them low and slow. So, today and always Ms. Green, I salute you and thank you for being apart of this journey AND for making the best grits on this side of heaven.
My first experience making ratatouille was years ago in culinary school. I loved the mixture of vegetables and fresh basil in a luxurious, garlicky- tomato sauce. But, I never thought about pairing ratatouille with grits until I had my son, Canaan. We were watching one of his favorite movies, Ratatouille, for the gabillionth (I know it’s not a real word, but it is today, so just bear with me) time and the rat made it, so I wanted to make it too. It was that simple. This dish originated from the French region of Provence that combines bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, garlic and herbs. You can make the dish your own and add other vegetables, fresh herbs and seasonings.
There are hundreds of recipes for shrimp and grits. They typically involve harmonious, culinary combinations of seafood, smoked andouille sausages and of course stone-ground grits. Cheese, bell peppers, onions, garlic, Tasso ham, hot sauce and tomatoes. For this recipe, I used quick grits, however you can absolutely use stone-ground. I have plenty of space and opportunity to create more recipe variations for shrimp and grits. Shrimp seared and tossed in pesto gives this dish an unexpected twist that is balanced well with the creaminess of the grits and the spiciness of the ratatouille. Pesto is easy to make and can be used in many applications. You can add it to pasta, chicken, butter and seafood. It is an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil in a food processor or blender. If you have the guts and the time, you can use a mortar and pestle. You can make kale, sundried tomato, cilantro or mint pesto. Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts, however you can omit them and the flavor is still stellar.
Pesto Shrimp and grits with ratatouille
- 2 cups Water
- 2 cups Half & Half or Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1/2 stick Unsalted Butter
- 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt Add more if needed
- 12 ounces Olive oil
- 3 ounces Pine nuts If using
- 6 ounces Fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp Garlic chopped
- 8 ounces Parmesan grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces Onions Sliced or medium dice
- 1 tbsp Garlic chopped
- 2 ounces Olive oil
- 2 ounces Yellow bell pepper medium dice
- 2 ounces Red bell pepper Medium dice
- 3 ounces Eggplant Medium dice
- 2 ounces Zucchini Medium dice
- 2 ounces Yellow squash Medium dice
- 1 small Tomato Chopped
- 1 ounce Fresh basil leaves Cut into strips
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 pound Shrimp Peeled and deveined
- 2 ounces Olive oil
- 1 tbsp Unsalted butter
Bring water, cream, butter and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low, uncovered, stirring often. You may need to add hot water or more cream to adjust the consistency of your grits. Adjust salt if necessary.
Add 1/3 of the oil and all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth. Add the remaining oil and blend until incorporated. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Makes 1 1/2 pints.
Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini and squash and sauté about 10 minutes, adding more oil if necessary.
Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add basil and sauté for 5 minutes.
Heat large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the shrimp (do not overcrowd pan. You may have to cook shrimp in batches) about 1 minute per side until fully cooked. Add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to the pan and heat.