Sundays nights in Florida aren’t typically nights you can enjoy long walks, holding hands with your partner, thinking about the week to come… It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s a problem. Sometimes though, we get a break from all that and even better still, it lasts for weeks. Just long enough to forget about running away to a more nurturing climate. The night I made this dish was one of those nights and I knew, I could be a little more decadent in my meal planning as a nice walk was still to come.
Shrimp is such a versatile protein. I have really taken an effort finding the perfect seasonings that work without fail, every single time. I think polenta is underutilized as a side dish. Most people who eat polenta get the boxed kind you need to add water to and stir and stir when it comes to a boil. I have no issues with that at all however, it’s not part of my Sunday evening; standing in-front of a stove, stirring a pot when I have wine and a walk waiting. My husband and I love salmon and he introduced me to the only salmon I will now eat: Wild Caught. Specifically, Sockeye. I usually steam it, sometimes I boil it (more on that later), sometimes it’s wrapped in puff pastry like a present and other times it’s sautéed. I don’t usually grill it, and this recipe is no exception.
You will need:
- Deveined and peeled shrimp, frozen or fresh (any size you’d like – we get the largest we can)
- Spinach (bagged, already rinsed: do yourself a favor)
- Tarragon (dried herb, it is a staple in our home)
- Minced garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cashews (lightly salted is fine)
- Basil (dried or fresh)
- Dill (fresh if you can find it at your store)
- Lemon Juice (I get fresh lemons because I like to use the zest but if you like, just get the container of lemon juice)
- Polenta “log” (any flavor you’d like: I enjoy their tomato basil the best)
- Brussel sprouts (frozen or fresh)
- Smoked sea salt (yes, smoked – try it if you can find it! Walmart online has them in orders of 3, really changes the food in a surprising way)
- Black Pepper
- Your favorite white wine (we had a nice Riesling with this; the Relax Riesling from Germany is our favorite)
You’ll want to get some of the items ready so that when the shrimp, which takes no time at all to cook is done, you can take them out and use the pan to cook the polenta and the Brussel sprouts. In regards to your polenta “log”, it will be filled with a liquid you may not easily see from the outside. Just have a plate underneath when you first cut into it to open the bag, as you’ll want to catch that bit of fluid which will come bursting (a bit) out. Slice the log into pieces, you can do disks or bite sized pieces. I usually do disks however, I wanted them to be about the same size as the Brussel sprouts on the plate.
If you purchased frozen Brussel sprouts, make sure you stick them in a colander and over a bowl or plate to catch any of the water as they defrost. Otherwise, start cutting those as well. You’ll want to always cut off the brown hard ends of fresh sprouts; they’re unappetizing. Then, depending on the size, you’ll want to cut the large ones in quarters, the smaller in halves.
The prep work is done!
Since you took the time to find already peeled and deveined (remove the tails if they have them) shrimp, just set them aside if frozen in a bowl of lukewarm water to defrost. When defrosted, or already fresh, put some minced garlic in a sauté pan, medium heat. I like using minced garlic; I like the way it cooks, I like that it has oil with it already that has been marinating in the garlic. I like that I don’t have to peel any garlic! Once the pan has gotten hot put your shrimp in and season them first with some lemon juice and then with the tarragon, salt and pepper. Give them a few minutes and flip them. I don’t usually use lemon but I think it works really well with the pesto you’re going to put them over. It really brightens the dish.
Polenta with Brussel Sprouts:
When the shrimp have cooked, set them aside. Throw some olive oil in the pan and put in your polenta and Brussel sprouts. Medium low or Medium is fine, just note that polenta likes to stick just a bit to pans so you’ll want to take the time to move things around every once and a while. Add some basil and tarragon (if you like cheese and have cheese on hand, it would wonderful with this dish at this point to add). When you can pierce the sprouts and they are soft, they are done. Put it on low to keep it warm, add the shrimp to the side somewhere in the pan to keep them warm as well.
In a blender, put your basil (a handful or a couple good shakes of the dried herb), spinach (two large handfuls), cashews (the same amount), and olive oil (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup depending on how many people you are feeding). Olive oil is necessary so, if you see the blender struggling, please add more oil. Blend it till smooth and taste. See what you think? You may decide it needs salt and pepper, I did not.
Here’s where you can decide your favorite way to prepare this protein. I already mentioned our favorites above and I don’t want to direct traffic here; I want to just inspire with the way I plate the food, and the seasonings / food pairings. Please just make me a promise you will not eat anything farm-raised! If you decide to do what I did, I steamed the salmon. We typically get our Sockeye salmon from Trader Joe’s, we find it the easiest and most cost efficient. It also comes in packages of two and there’s just two of us. I let the salmon defrost or I leave it as-is and just steam it longer. Always skin side UP so you can remove it (unless you like eating fish skin, in which case we need to talk).
I like to let it steam quite a bit before adding any seasonings. Just before it’s done, I will add some lemon juice, smoked sea salt and black pepper. Mimicking the herbs from the shrimp is nice to do as well so, I will use some dill before plating. When plating, put some of the lemon zest you have if you did take the time to purchase fresh lemons and zest them. It really changes the flavor profile of the fish.
I used my Waterford dishes here, putting some tablespoons of the pesto in first, then layering with some shrimp and finally little springs of the dill. We had our soft white wine which worked really well with the nutty flavor of the pesto and the fresh lemon in the shrimp. The second course was the salmon with polenta and sprouts. I plated it simply, it was Sunday after all. I put a bit more olive oil on the food (my husband calls this “finishing oil”) and topped the salmon with the zest.
All in all it ended up a very relaxing evening; healthy food that you took control of, making sure everything was as “whole food” as you could buy it. The cleanup was incredibly easy, using just one sauté pan, a small 4 cup blender and a little steamer.
No one needs a partner to enjoy a meal like this or to take an evening stroll for that matter. Whether you have someone to share this with or you are your love (and that’s wonderful as well), I adore the idea of eating something you feel good about and then doing something you feel good about. If you can take an evening walk where you live, please try to. If not for you, for us Floridians.
Below, you will also find the table setting for this meal. Crystal bowls from Waterford. Wine glasses from Crate and Barrel. Bone china plates from Lennox. Silverware is Napoleon Bee. Napkins from Wayfair.