The other day I was FINALLY able to go to Trader Joe’s after years of not stepping inside of one. *cue applause* Okay, maybe it was more like months, but it certainly felt like years and I like to round up. Because I had only allotted myself a very strict amount of money to spend I couldn’t go too crazy, which was a great way to keep my euphoria in check. I stocked up on a few staples that I find to be far more affordably priced than if I were to buy them at other stores (extra virgin olive oil, $3.99/17 oz.; sea salt, $1.99/1lb 10.5 oz.), and on things like large amounts of organic, reasonably priced baby spinach, and my shrimp, something I haven’t had in simply ages ($5.99 for the 70-90 count). I made an impulse buy of their delicious organic polenta ($1.89/18 oz., not bad considering they’ve done all the work for you) and knew I had some almost immediately, such was the craving to have something different.
Polenta is one of those amazing things that you can turn into almost anything you want it to be: creamy or crispy; breakfast or dinner; healthy or sinfully rich. You can top it with just about anything, making the meal possibilities almost endless. And because polenta basically amounts to really good cornmeal, milk, some spices, and a lot of elbow grease, it’s something truly affordable that should be a staple in everyone’s kitchen. I really should quit being so lazy and just make my own because it’s way less expensive, but this TJs organic version is not a bad deal at all for something so convenient. It’s pre-cooked so all you have to do is cut it into thick rounds and do with it what you wish (of course, this won’t really work as well for creamy polenta, in which case you should make it from scratch). With some diced tomatoes, spinach, a few shrimp and plenty of spices, this becomes a wonderful entrée that costs way less than you’d pay for something similar at a restaurant. The shrimp mixture is very close in flavor to the Shrimp in Smoked Paprika-Tomato Sauce that I posted last November, only with a spicier, sweeter touch and some healthy spinach for added color & vitamins. Pairing this with a nice wine makes for a lovely weekend dinner when you want to indulge without emptying your wallet entirely. And now for the recipe!
Polenta with Shrimp, Spinach, and Tomatoes (serves 3-4; total cost per serving: $~3.75)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
20-30 medium cooked shrimp
1/2 c baby spinach
1/4 c chopped yellow onion
3 T olive oil, divided
1/4 t salt
1/4 t paprika
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T brown sugar
3 T dry red wine
Slice the polenta into 1/2″ thick rounds, triangles, or squares. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet and add the polenta pieces. Cook over medium heat until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
Combine the diced tomatoes, salt, garlic, wine, brown sugar and both kinds of pepper in a medium bowl, and mix together thoroughly. In a large skillet heat the remaining half of the olive oil and add the tomato mixture. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat and add the shrimp. Cook for about 2 more minutes and add the baby spinach. Cover and remove from heat to allow the spinach to wilt without turning bitter.
To serve, place 3-4 slices of polenta on a plate, spoon a generous amount of the shrimp, spinach, and tomatoes on top and enjoy!