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Weekday dinner inspirations: Southern Shrimp and Grits and more

Mon | Fig-tastic

Fresh figs are in high season now and at my market they are on sale. I love sliced figs on a baguette with Brie cheese, peppery arugula and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They can also be cut in half and skewered with pork chunks and grilled. Another idea is to stuff them with a teaspoon of goat cheese, wrap in prosciutto (or thinly sliced tavern ham) and bake at 350 degrees until crisp. For more recipe ideas, go to www.calfreshfigs.com.

Tues | Down-home Southern

Spice up the night with a version of Shrimp and Grits (recipe below) that might be considered healthy in some circles. No cream here, just chicken broth to add flavor. Put the Tabasco on the table for those who want even more kick.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Some nights, simple is the way to go. Carve up a couple of birds and serve with corn on the cob, which seems to be overflowing the bins at the grocery store these days. Boil the ears or dot with butter, sprinkle with chili powder then wrap in foil and grill. An easy salad of creamy avocado and tomato dressed with balsamic vinaigrette rounds out the meal.

Thurs | Give pita a chance

Go light with a veggie-ful green salad that's studded with baked pita pieces. Brush pita bread with olive oil, cut in bite-sized pieces and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Scatter over the salad after it's been dressed, just as you would with croutons. Add sauteed shrimp or scallops, canned tuna, kidney or garbanzo beans, hard-boiled eggs or sliced cold cuts for protein.

Fri | Our frozen friends

Use frozen fish sticks, popcorn shrimp or grilled fillets as the basis for Seafood Tacos. Gorton's has a wide selection to get you started. Prepare the one you like according to the package directions. Serve the seafood in heated corn tortillas with crunchy coleslaw, lime wedges and a few sprigs of cilantro. (You know my trick with store-bought coleslaw: I always add fresh, shredded cabbage to dilute the dressing.) Serve fruit on the side.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com.

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Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

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Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

>>MODERATE

Southern Shrimp and Grits

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco)

2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp

3 bacon slices, chopped

1 cup onions, diced

1/4 cup green pepper, diced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup scallions, sliced and divided

5 cups water

1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine lemon juice, hot sauce and shrimp and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. (While bacon is cooking, bring 5 cups of water to boil in a separate saucepan for grits.) Add onion, bell pepper and garlic to drippings and bacon pieces in skillet; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in shrimp mixture, broth and 1/4 cup scallions. Cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently.

While shrimp are cooking, add quick-cooking grits to boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter, salt and 3/4 cup of the cheese.

To serve, pour grits in a shallow bowl, heap shrimp on top and scatter with remaining cheese and scallions.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook (Oxmoor, 2008)

Weekday dinner inspirations: Southern Shrimp and Grits and more 09/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 4:30am]
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