*PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SKIP MY MUSINGS AND GO DIRECTLY TO THE RECIPE.
Hope you are having a beautiful spring or whichever season you are currently in. It is springtime in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cherry blossoms bloomed and faded, and the flowers are slowly poking their heads from their sleep in winter. My little garden that I cultivated during the lockdown of 2020 is starting to fill up with jasmine and flowering bulbs that lay dormant in the cold. I am really looking forward to gorgeous flower-filled days this spring.
As much as I am excited to welcome a change in weather and season, I am also feeling a little sad that life is slowly going back to what we knew as normal before the pandemic .At least in the Bay Area, life is once again bustling with crowds and celebrations. The trains are now crowded with standing-only rooms during commute hours. Our fridge at work is once again filled with work lunches. (As much as I miss the days when I had the work fridge all to myself while my co-workers were working remotely, I am very happy to see everyone at work again!) Events and celebrations such as Art Walk in our neighborhood, concerts, sports, St Patrick’s Day, etc are back. People are now filling up the restaurants for indoor dining as well as the parklets for outdoor dining.
Mr Sweetie and I have attended family parties although it still makes me feel uncomfortable around other people who are not my family. I started meeting friends for outdoor lunches. I have taken my parents to Sunday lunches at restaurants that were practically empty. I attended three work meals, one for my surprise birthday party hosted by my co-workers. These were all very nice and heart-warming although there is still this little thing within me that makes me a tad nervous. Mr Sweetie and I started asking ourselves if we should join the crowd (pun intended) and start living with Covid instead of continuing to get our meals delivered and not going on vacations. At this point, I am still not so sure. All I know is that I long for slow living during the early days of the pandemic as scary and crazy as those days were.
There are just so many things that I wish I have the time to do again like in 2020. Back then I had all the time in the world to cook, bake, take food photos, blog more often (in fact almost everyday!), wake up and read in the middle of the night to fall asleep again then wake up when my body told me to. I miss gardening and having my little postage stamp of a backyard as my view while I was working from home. Back then I was able to do yoga in between meetings, and spend time exchanging messages with my aunts and cousins in the Philippines and Japan…. Those were blissful unhurried days that living through the pandemic has afforded me.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. All I really wanted to say in this post is that now that the slow days are over, I can still re-create them. If there was one thing that I have learned during those times is to take time off and make time for myself and the things that I love to do. I am happy to say that I have been pretty good. I have been taking what I call “repair days” where I take a vacation or floating holiday to stay home and enjoy some of the things that I mentioned above. And if I could not take a full day, I take an afternoon off instead.
A couple of weeks ago, I scheduled to leave work one Monday afternoon at past 1 pm. It was a gorgeous day. I drove around in my neighborhood which I never get a chance to do and was able to look at the beautiful gardens. Then I went to the new grocery store up the street from my house that I have been wanting to visit and got the sweetest cherry tomatoes. I went home and cooked Shrimp with Cheesy Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes using the fresh shrimps that my mom gave me. It turned out to be such a delicious comfort food, easy to make and a perfect solo dinner. I cooked, took pictures of my food, ate, read, enjoyed some quiet moments at home hanging out with my cat while Mr Sweetie was away on a business trip for a day. I went to bed rested. It was short, sweet but still a perfect afternoon.
Shrimp with Cheesy Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes
- First step: Cook shrimp.
- Second step: Roast tomatoes.
- Third step: Cook Polenta.
- Final step: Top Polenta with shrimp and roasted tomatoes.
- 1 lb shrimp (head and tail removed)
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- A combination of these spices:
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a cast iron skillet (or pan), heat EVOO in medium heat.
- Add shrimp and add a combination of the spices above (See my notes below).
- Saute until shrimps are cooked, no longer pink and crusted with the spices.
- Remove from the skillet and transfer in a plate.
- (Leave oil in the skillet.)
- Using the same skillet, roast the cherry tomatoes.
Roasted cherry tomatoes
- A handful of sweet cherry tomatoes ( 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon EVOO (optional)
- Turn heat down to low.
- Using the same skillet, add cherry tomatoes and allow them to simmer in the oil and spices used in cooking the shrimps.
- If needed, add another tablespoon of EVOO. (This is optional if there is still enough oil in the skillet.)
- Roast the tomatoes in low heat for about 30 minutes until they are soft and blistered.
- Start cooking the polenta at this point while the tomatoes are slowly roasting.
BASIC cheesy polenta
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a pot, gradually add polenta to boiling, salted water, stirring constantly until thickened for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat then blend in butter. Add cheese. Polenta should be soft and creamy. If it becomes too thick, add about 1/2 cup of water then stir.
- I did not measure the spices. I add the spice by feel. Since I love garlic powder, I made sure to use plenty. Since I want my dish to be spicy, I also added a good amount of cayenne pepper for heat and paprika for smokiness. I only want a hint of cumin so I only put a pinch, etc. Feel free to create your own combination.
- It is better to use more EVOO in the tomatoes. The spice-infused olive oil is so good drizzled on the polenta as a topping.
- To devein or not to devein?: I grew up in the Philippines eating mostly not deveined shrimp. I grew up eating very fresh seafood, some out of the water just that morning, and have really never eaten frozen shrimp which were already deveined until I came to the US. My mom or cooks in the family never deveined shrimps. They would wash them then add whole to a dish (head and all) or remove the head and shell depending on the dish. Shrimps that are not deveined will not harm you unless they make your lose your appetite like one person I knew who was repulsed even by the thought of eating non-deveined shrimps.
Did you make SPICY SHRIMP WITH CHEESY POLENTA AND ROASTED TOMATOES? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.