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Originally published Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6:02 AM

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Recipe: Southwestern Grits With Queso Fresco, Cilantro and Lime

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Serves four

1 cup polenta (coarse yellow grits)

5 cups just-boiled water

1 teaspoon salt

1 pint grape tomatoes

8 ounces ground white-meat chicken (optional)

1½ teaspoons smoked paprika (pimenton; optional)

½ medium white onion

½ cup pitted black olives

½ cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems

½ firm but ripe avocado

2 limes

½ cup queso fresco

1. Heat the polenta in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 30 seconds or until it becomes slightly toasted, watching carefully so it does not burn. Gradually add the water (avoiding a face full of steam as you do); stir as the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and stir in the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, while you prep the remaining ingredients. The polenta should be creamy and thick; reduce the heat as needed to keep it from scorching on the bottom.

2. Cut each tomato in half and place in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring a few times, while you prep the remaining ingredients or just until some of the tomato halves deflate. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Optional: Grease the same skillet with cooking oil spray and return to medium heat. Add the ground chicken and smoked paprika, using a spatula to break up any clumps. Cook through, making sure to distribute the seasoning; this will take about six minutes. Remove from the heat.

4. Meanwhile, or next, cut the white onion into small dice. Cut the olives into thin slices or coarsely chop them. Coarsely chop the cilantro. Cut the flesh of the avocado into small chunks. Cut each lime into quarters; squeeze one wedge over the avocado chunks.

5. Divide the polenta among individual wide, shallow bowls. Spoon in the tomatoes, seasoned ground chicken, if using, onion, olives, cilantro and avocado. Crumble the queso fresco on top, then squeeze three of the remaining lime wedges to distribute juice evenly over the four bowls. Pass the remaining wedges at the table. Serve hot.

Nutritional information per serving: 280 calories, 8 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 920 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

“Cooking With Herbs: 50 Simple Recipes for Fresh Flavor,” by Lynn Alley (Andrews McMeel, 2013).

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