ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to...po-tay-to, po-tah-to...polenta, grits...

This is Bassano- I just had to put this picture in because I love it and I miss it
Happy Sunday!

Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to...po-tay-to, po-tah-to...polenta, grits...

A rose by any other still DELICIOUS!

When we moved to "THE South" from NY, we expected that we'd feel a bit out of place, a bit disconnected, and a bit lost. I can honestly say that those feelings lasted about 6 hours. That's about the time it took for our new southern neighbors to show up at the door bearing gifts of food and words of welcome

I thought they were all Italians in disguise!

This is where we came from

Our small town downtown

In the beautiful NY Hudson Valley

just 55 minutes from "The City"

This is where we are now son picked that one- it's his favorite place in the world

This is home now

I got this off the internet- I couldn't say it better myself!:

Chapel Hill NC was named for the New Hope Chapel, which stood upon a hill in what is now the center of the 21 square miles of Chapel Hill NC real estate. Town lots were auctioned in 1793 when work began on the first building of the university. Many of those original lots are now in the Chapel Hill Historic District.
Today, Chapel Hill is anything but a typical southern town. In fact, some say it's really not southern at all, with so many residents coming from other parts of the country and around the world. The population of just over 50,000 is diverse, consisting of professors, students, business people and retirees from all over the world. Some describe Chapel Hill as having the best of small town living in a unique cosmopolitan environment. 

       Okay, so I wouldn't exactly call it cosmopolitan, but it's a wonderful, vibrant, diverse town where you'll meet people from all over the country and the world due to the magnet of having 2 major Universities and teaching hospitals (UNC and Duke) in such close proximity
       The people here are warm and friendly, kind and gracious, and unfailingly polite.

       Honestly, I about fell over the first time a checker in the supermarket asked if I had found everything I needed and did I need help to my car- looking at the bag of chips and six pack of beer that I had run in to buy for Ray and the the movers (the beer was for the movers- they deserved it after dealing with my neuroticism), I couldn't decide if I was dreaming or if she was insulting me by insinuating I was too old to handle it!

      Four years later I'm still looking for a tutorial on how to raise your boys to say yes, ma'am and no sir. Mine just collapse in giggles every time I even suggest it.

Now when it comes to food- let me tell you! These Southern cooks are a force to be reckoned with. They're also a force that your thighs will have to reckon with, but since I'm a trainer I'll just look at it as job security.

The first time we saw grits on a menu my kids thought it was hilarious. All they ever knew of grits was hearing the word on TV and they had no idea that it was an actual food.  Well, surprise surprise! Being the adventurous one in the family, I ordered cheese grits. 

Then I died and went to heaven! Mmmm, it's polenta!

 Who knew?

So, by request of the dozen of you who emailed me after our last Foodie Friday post, I'm giving you several versions of Shrimp and Grits as done by yours truly. 

This first one is unconventional, to say the least and any true Southerner who sees this recipe will probably want to run me out of town.

As we all know, I'M unconventional, so there!

This breaks all the rules you've ever heard about not mixing seafood with cheese. 
I'm a rule- breaker. What can I tell you. 
Not only is there cheese, but there are THREE cheeses- and not one of them is vaguely reminiscent of southern cooking and only one is Italian. All I can say is try it. 
This is  my version of my friend Kim's version, of the 1993 Come On In! Recipes from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi version of Shrimp and Feta. The original recipe called for 1/2 pound of spaghetti, but mine uses grits. I've served this for several brunches and ALWAYS get asked for the recipe. A friend who owned a local B & B served it and pronounced it a guest favorite. 
The Junior League of Jackson would be pleased (I hope) to know that we've turned this into a multi-national dish: Greek feta, Swiss cheese, Italian mozzarella, Southern grits, and Mexican salsa- what more could you ask for?!

Pattie's Multi-National Shrimp and Grits Casserole
based on a recipe from the 1993 Come On In! Recipes from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi

2 large eggs
1 cup evaporatd milk
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 oz. of crumbled Feta cheese
about 6 oz. of grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped fine
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic, put through a press and minced finely

2 1/2 cups quick (NOT instant) grits, cooked as directed with 4 cups of water and 4 cups vegetable broth- don't forget to season with salt- stir in 4 tablespoons butter when done
16-20 oz. of medium or mild (your preference) chunky salsa. Drain in a fine sieve colander well first! You don't want it watery.
24 oz. medium, uncooked, peeled shrimp
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large  casserole dish with PAM.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with milk, yogurt, Feta, Gruyere, parsley, basil, and garlic. Spread half of grits in casserole and top with salsa (enough to cover-remember, it should be drained). Top with half of shrimp. Spread remaining grits over shrimp and pour on egg mixture, evenly distributing the cheeses. Top with remaining shrimp and cover with the mozzarella (you might use a little less mozzarella) Depending on your oven, bake for 30-40 minutes till just starting to brown a bit and seems to be fully set. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

I will follow up with a more traditional Southern Shrimp and Grits, along with some other new southern favorites. Carolina Barbecue! Mmmm, MMM!

Also, as many of you know, I hold several different jobs. I am a trainer/nutritionist part of the time, a wife and mom all of the time, and a decorator/ stager part of the time. Where does all this time come from?!! Okay, that's another post. 

You'll be seeing some other projects in the near future, including a minor redo of a certain 16 year old's room (NO, Allie- we are NOT painting it dark purple OR royal blue!), the planting of a small vegetable garden, and some other minor tweaks to our home. Also, with Spring approaching, we'll be bringing the camera along as we trek to the local Farmer's Markets, Raleigh Flea Market (LOVE that place!) and other local places of interest.
That would be places that interest ME of course :)
       Of course you're still going to get tons of traditional- and maybe not so traditional- Italian cooking. Because that's who I AM. Please let us know what YOU would like to see.

As Always,

Buon Alimento, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie


  1. wow that looks so good! 6 hours was all it took to meet the neighbours on ur front door?! wow VERY friendly.

    from where you came from it looks beautiful...but home is where the heart and family is and you seem to be blessed with a lovely warm family around you. ^^

  2. I didn't know that grits were polenta either. What a cute and interesting post! We have friends from the Milwaukee area that retired to Georgia whom we've visited a few times. I have experienced that southern charm and politeness also. Even an insult is polite.."Bless her heart" - LOL.

    Yummy-looking shrimp and grits!

  3. I love North Carolina and had the pleasure of visiting the Biltmore last year. You are so right about Southern people, they are truly polite and friendly, it was such a nice experience and can not wait to go back. Lucky you to be living there. You are an amazing cook and this looks so delicious. Kathysue

  4. Wonderful post and shrimp and grits sounds heavenly.


  5. magnifique photos et une bonne recette
    bonne soirée et à bientôt

  6. Pattie- Love this post! Shrimp and grits are practically a staple at our house. We even have 2 entire shrimp-and-grits cookbooks! We probably never make it exactly the same way twice. Of course, it's always best with shrimp that my husband has just netted himself at our beach house! I'm so glad to know that we native Southerners have made you feel so at home here in the "promised land"! I know the Hudson Valley is gorgeous too, though.

  7. wow che meraviglia!!! complimenti!

  8. Happy Sunday to you! Great post.

  9. Oh I grew up in the south and all those southern customs are always a part of you. No matter where you live it is just habit. Isn't it wonderful to have friendly polite people around you? Your casserole sounds delicious. I will definitely give it a try. Thanks also for stopping by and always leaving such gracius comments. Hugs, Marty

  10. This looks so yummy and delicious! My father in law (100% irish) was here when I was reading your post and wanted me to tell you that you have a beautiful family! He also said that you can cook for him anytime!! That is a compliment since non of the daughter-in-laws cook good enough for him :)

  11. Pattie and Allie! I'm glad you found me and now that I've found you. Shrimp and grits couldn't be more timely for us. We are headed to Charleston SC (where I used to live for a short period of time in the late 80s) and my husband is debating which of the two hot spots he wants to hit for this meal -- one of his faves. I have a good recipe I found online, but can't wait to try yours. I'll be following as well! Nice to "meet" you both!!

  12. Hello Pattie,
    Thank you for stopping by my blog. You are so right about N.C. I so love that state and weather..My mother in law lived in greensboro and my Son is coming to Chapel Hill over spring break with his friend and family..I look forward to reading your blog. Have a wonderful week.

  13. Nc is such a diversified state, so thank you for posting about it and your shrimp n grits recipes. I need to remember to take my camera the next time I go up to Mt. Airy and show folks all about the REAL place they think of as Mayberry:-)
    its always a joy to visit you..

  14. Love your post -- and the tomato, potato -- grits = polenta! How clever! And what a yummy looking recipe.


  15. The shrimp and grits look absolutely delicious! NC sounds like a wonderful place to live!

  16. Hi Patti and Allie, Both of the US places you mentioned I just love. I think the upper state NY is so beautiful and SC has such a fabulous charm! Now if I only could go to Italy and have something to say about that. It is on my travel list. But probably not for a couple of years. EVERYONE I know that travels to Italy falls in love with it.

    Your posts are just delightful to read! So interesting and personal. I always get excited when I see a new one. This recipe for shrimp and grits look fabulous. Just my kind of recipe, full of depth of flavor and some yummy ingredients.

    Blessings to you today!

  17. This is definitely the Holy Grail of international falvours:D Well done.

  18. Your photos today are just wonderful. That casserole looks delicious and won't last long at my table. I hope you are having a wonderful day.

  19. Wow you had a lovely welcome to your new town! Here in NJ, you check to make sure the neighbors who come are not armed....
    only kidding! Pretty much.

    That recipe might even tempt me to try grits, which look rather like wallpaper paste when you see them served in Southern eateries.

    And with the right food and the right people, you can be happy almost anywhere! Chapel Hill sounds great.

  20. Hi Allie & Pattie!

    Whenever we've visited the south I've always been charmed and impressed by the graciousness of the people and the deliciousness of the food :-) I actually think New Orleans should be the food capital of the USA as Cajun and Creole are the most amazing cuisines and they make a shrimp and grits that is out of this world!

    Your version looks absolutely fabulous! It
    s always fun to experiment and try new variations on an old favorite.

    I love your blog no matter what you want to write about's all good to me!

    ♥ Pat

  21. Yum! I love shrimp and grits! And the more cheese, the better! I am laughing at your m'am and sir story! I grew up with it, but I suppose it might sem odd to others.Isn't Chapel Hill wonderful? Love that little town! Happy week!...Debbie

  22. I dearly love Chapel Hill. I always stay at the Carolina Inn and have Eggs Benedict in the dining room--a true splurge!

    By the way, you and Allie won the copper pot! Congratulations! Email your address and shipping instructions and I'll send it to you pronto.

  23. Yum, that's some pretty great looking comfort food if you ask me! And a huge contratulations for winning that gorgeous copper pan at Gollum's. Aren't you the lucky girls!

  24. Shrimp & cheese & grits sounds fabulous. I love the cheese choices you made for this dish. Frankly, I don't know how anyone can go wrong with cheese.

  25. OMG! this looks fantastic! I agree with Kristen above, add cheese and I am there!

    Congrats on winning the copper pan!! (yes, that is a bit of envy in that congrats! LOL)

    You should add this post to Troy's "Tuesday Trivia Tie-in" ( You always have great trivia and information on your collection of recipes!

    Hope you and Allie are having a wonderful day!

  26. Hi Pattie...

    My friend, I just wanted to come by to say thank you for stopping by and taking a peek at my Birds of a Feather tablescape and for leaving me such a sweet note! I have really been enjoying our visits...although, I must say that I'm always hungry after leaving your delightful blog! hehe! Today is no exception...Ohhh my, Shrimp and Grits? It looks absolutely divine! Thank you for sharing your recipe with us! My husband would love this dish...I'll have to give it a try!

    Warmest wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  27. Hi Pattie and Allie,

    Thank You for linking up with Tuesday Trivia Tie-in. When Diann told me about your blog, I agreed at once that it would be a perfict fit for my weekly party.

    This post was a mouthwater array of information and fun!

    I'd love to see you link up each Tuesday with more fun filled facts.


  28. I adore your hummingbird pitcher! I collect them and love the whimsical design of yours!

  29. OH my gosh! I made Shrimp and Grits just last week! It was the first time we'd ever had Shrimp and Grits and it sure will not be the last..DE-licious! And your recipe sounds even better.

    Gorgeous photos!

  30. Stumbled on this blog quite by accident. I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and was googling Bramasole because Under The Tuscan Sun is my fav chick flick and I couldn't remember the translation. Love your blog. Spent an interesting 1 and 3/4 hours dreaming of moving to North Carolina and its late but, I'll be back as they say. Don't want to be anonymous but not sure how this works.


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