Dear Virginia. Why are you trying to kill us? It’s been over 100 degrees for 4 days now. Not that it was much cooler before it hit the 100 mark and we won’t even mention the dreaded heat index. 110, did they say? Not helpful, Mr. Weatherman.
Is it because we’ve criticized your food? Is it because we’ve yearned for real pizza, good cold cuts, real bread: rye, Italian, French, hard rolls topped with poppyseeds or plain? Anything not breaded and fried, or cooked in bacon fat for hours on end until the color might still be green but the nutrients have run screaming from the pan? Is it because we’re puzzled by the moaning of native Virginians through mild winters only to find that the minute it gets warm, they shut their windows, turn on the a/c and move from their air conditioned houses, to their air conditioned cars, to their air conditioned place of work? Shut windows are shut windows. There might as well be snow on the ground if you don’t have your windows open. You can always do something to get warm; put on another layer. There are only so many layers you can take off to get cool before the police are involved and young people are scarred for life. Our rule of thumb is that the a/c doesn’t go on until the butter in the butter dish is liquid. Has our grousing pushed you to the point that you decided you’d show us? Nice play. We surrender.
Maybe if we tell you what we like, you’ll give us a break. We like your beaches. They’re pristine once you’re away from the boardwalk, wide and white. We love that we can sit on those beaches and watch a pod of dolphin, barely off shore, surfing the break toward the beach, tail slapping and leaping clear out of the water. We can watch the workings of the pod: the infants protected by their mothers, the juveniles playing and learning how to assume their role in the pod and the enormous males forming a protective perimeter when it’s time to move further down the beach. They are magnificent, breathtaking and joyous animals. And that joy is contagious. Perfect strangers calling to each other: “Did you see that?”, clapping their hands in pure glee.
We like your coleslaw and your cornbread. It is hands down, the best. We like your fried chicken and one of us likes your pulled pork barbecue.
We love you in October and November. You’re perfect then. Days in the 70’s and low 80’s and nights in the 50’s and 60’s. No humidity, blue skies that can make any trouble melt away.
So today we cook a meal in your honor. An offering perhaps to ask your forgiveness and to beg you to let that cold front through. It’s a Virginia meal, although we’re cheating on the slaw. The thought of mayonnaise when its 94 at 8 AM is too much. We hope you’ll allow us that.
MENU: SHRIMP AND GRITS, BRUSSEL SPROUT SLAW, SUMMER BERRY CRISP
SHRIMP AND GRITS
- 4 cups water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup stoned-ground grits (we used Trader Joe’s)
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 lb. shrimp peeled
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 4 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. chopped parsley (from the garden)
- 1 large shallot diced
- 1 large clove garlic minced
Bring water to a boil, add salt and pepper, add grits to water until absorbed 20-25 minutes. (It took us about 30 minutes.) We made sure it stayed on the spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and cheese until cheese is melted. Fry bacon in large skillet until browned. Drain well and chop. Add shrimp to pan that bacon was cooked. Cook until shrimp turn pink, add lemon juice, bacon, parsley, shallots and garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Spoon grits in to serving bowl, add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.
We have never been grits fans and were reluctant to try this recipe. We are both so delighted with the taste and put this with the company’s coming recipes. It was delicious!!! We feel a little sheepish, the Virginians sure has this one right.
SUMMER BERRY CRISP (from Epicurious)
- 2 cups blueberries (we picked)
- 2 cups blackberries (we picked)
- 2 cups raspberries (we didn’t pick)
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9″ glass pie plate. Gently combine the berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in prepared pie plate.
For the topping: combine the oats, flour, both sugars and salt in a bowl. Use a pastry blender or two knives to work in the butter until topping resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.
Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove the crisp to a rack to cool slightly. Serve in dessert bowls with whipped cream or ice cream. This is so amazing, we serve it without either so we can get the full flavor of the berries.