Why do we cook? Partially because we love to eat, but mostly: we cook because we love people. This recipe was the backdrop for a recent dinner with our friend Leah. She’s a dear, vibrant soul who has known us since before we were a couple — and much, much before we were a couple who cooks together.
Three months before, we had Leah over for a dinner much like this one. We drank wine and giggled and talked about everything under the sun, including how dangerous cars are. Self-driving cars are the future, Alex said. In 50 years, we agreed, cars would be seen as the health crisis of our day, much like we now recognize the dangers of working in coal mines or smoking cigarettes.
The very next day, Leah was in a devastating car crash. Her car flipped, left arm was obliterated, and one finger nearly lost. Miraculously, a nurse was at the scene and gave her a shirt to use as a tourniquet. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and emergency hand surgery saved her finger and arm.
So on this dinner, the one with the shrimp and polenta, Leah was back. This girl has grit, my friends. She was her bubbly, vibrant self, showing us her scars and how she was just now becoming able to grip again with her left hand. There were tears recounting the pain of the fear of the accident, being out of work and hopped up on pain meds, struggling through physical therapy and pecking out emails with one hand. But overwhelmingly, Leah was a picture of thankfulness and grace. She couldn’t stop bubbling over with gratefulness for her surgeons, her community who sent her books and flowers and well wishes, her mother who literally nursed her back to health, and that nurse on the scene who saved her finger. Our dinner was spent alternating between tears and belly laughing, recounting the pains and triumphs, while I sat in awe of Leah and her incredible strength. This woman is a survivor in every sense of the word, inspirational to say the least.
And this is why we cook. To share meals with loved ones, connect over struggles and joys, provide nourishment to our bodies, and just be together.
This is why we cook.
Notes: This roasted tomato shrimp over creamy polenta is one of the simplest, tastiest meals we’ve made in a while. Fire roasted tomatoes make it quick to put together, since their flavor is developed and doesn’t require much time to simmer. The shrimp, tomatoes, garlic and a bit of parsley are spooned over creamy polenta, basically a fancy Italian version of grits. It’s homey, comforting, and perfect with a glass of wine and some crusty bread or a green salad.
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This Roasted Tomato Shrimp Over Creamy Polenta recipe is sponsored by Muir Glen Organic. Product opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors of A Couple Cooks!
- 11/2 cups polenta grits or cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¾ cup milk
- 2¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- Black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 28-ounce can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound shrimp
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- If using frozen shrimp, defrost the shrimp in cold water in a colander.
- In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in 1½ cups cornmeal in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until the polenta begins to thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and reduce the heat so that the polenta bubbles slowly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the cornmeal loses its raw flavor (taste every so often to check). Then turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter, ¾ cup milk, another ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper. Cover to keep warm before serving. If the polenta becomes too thick, stir in a splash of milk or water to loosen it up.
- Meanwhile, finely dice the onion. Mince the garlic. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and saute until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Gently add the tomatoes (taking care as they may spit once they hit the hot oil), oregano, ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ tsp black pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 7 to 8 minutes, until the juices thicken slightly (cover if necessary).
- Remove the tomatoes from the heat and stir in shrimp. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the shrimp are cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the parsley. When the shrimp is done, remove from the oven with an oven mitt (taking care with the hot handle), and stir in the parsley and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. To serve, spoon the polenta into bowls, then top with the shrimp and tomatoes.