Search results for 'polenta'

The Polenta Space

23 Feb

Perhaps it started months ago, when all of us New Yorkers were, under our breaths, cursing winter… I wanted winter… I craved winter… I wanted thick hearty foods… Gooey, sticky braised meatsGrainsSoupsRoastsPastasBreads.

Rocks

It was during this time, when winter was shyly avoiding our fair coast (and this may seem silly) that we discovered polenta. Yes, that’s where the silly comes in. Discovering polenta? That’s like saying we discovered North America, yet, we (The Boy and I) had missed polenta. We were into grits, and risottos, and pastas cooked like risotto, and grains cooked liked risotto… but polenta had been but a momentary blip on the radar.

When I made the boar, the weirdness of the polenta having arrived in a shrink-wrapped sausage-like packaging totally outweighed my lust for creamy, delicious grains. It’s only been since moving, when I go grocery shopping on my lunch break that I discovered the utter, Nobel-deserving amazingess of 5-minute (and $2.49 a box!) instant polenta.

Seriously.

Radishes, Carrots, Polenta, Mint

5 minutes. Perfect, creamy, tasty polenta.

And last night I did a comparison against pasta. For basically the same size serving, polenta has about half the calories and carbohydrates (if you’re into that kind of thing) and slightly less fat than regular white wheat pasta. This comparison came about  after dinner, The Boy asked me, “So why aren’t we eating polenta two or three-times a week?” I tried to make it about health concerns, and I was sorely beaten into submission.

So, what’s my point? Polenta is an incredibly delicious and elegant blank canvas.

On Sunday, coming back from a shopping mission in the city, The Boy and I got into a discussion on cooked radishes. We conjectured as to whether they’d be any good cooked and decided it might be worth trying. We roasted them with carrots because I thought their sweetness would offset the radish’s bitterness, but it was totally unnecessary.

Roasted Radishes & Carrots

Radishes, when roasted, loose all of their bite. All. None. I found on the Internet those that praise the taming of their bite, but, uh, excuse me, the beauty of radishes is their bite. They were still delicious, but I must admit, I was a wee bit disappointed. I planned the meal around their assumed acerbicness. The carrots for sweetness. The polenta for smoothness. The ricotta for creaminess. All that aside though, it was a nice meal. The mint added that something extra, the perfect interplay with all the earthiness (I promise that’s the last -ness).

Conversely however… Braised escarole and polenta.

Suburban Brooklyn

The escarole had been purchased as supporting character in my Green & Gold soup, but had proved unnecessary. It sat in the crisper all week waiting for its turn as the star in a good after-work dinner. Finally, last night, it happened. The Boy minced garlic and washed and chopped the greens. When I got home all I had to do was brown the garlic in good olive oil, add the escarole and homemade stock and make the polenta.

The result? Something I hope Molly would approve of. She recently discovered escarole as a salad green, which was the only way I knew it until this past Christmas. My mom served it to us braised and I was gobsmacked. For thirty years she had served it to me as only a salad green. She’d been holding out on me.

Sauteed Escarole & Cheesey Polenta

Raw escarole is lovely, somewhere between romaine and radicchio, but the application of heat coaxes out a demure silkiness that I find tantalizing. The greens grasp the garlic and turn limpid in the hot oil yet retain a delightful crunchiness that is just so much more exciting than spinach.

Cooked for 7 minutes and served over creamy polenta with a dusting of pungent Romano cheese, it is the very best sort of weeknight dinner. Fast, healthy, utterly, seductively delicious.

So why haven’t we been eating this dish 2 or 3 times a week for the past 6 months? I don’t know, but it’s something I’m going to work hard at rectifying.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Roasty Toasty Radishes & Braised Escarole.

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Colorful Food

30 Sep

Many of the dinners we’ve eaten this summer have been rather monotone.  There’s been lots of green punctuated by little stripes and dots of red pepper.  It’s been a season devoid of the wild colors of heirloom tomatoes.  But this weekend, when we stayed in the city, we hit the greenmarkets and bought every colorful tomato we came across, and then I took them home and roasted them.

For years now I’ve seen recipes for oven-roasted cherry tomatoes on blog-after-blog but I never made them. The cool weather just never seemed to coincide with the end of tomato season.  But in this weird weather year, the conditions I’ve been waiting for have finally occurred and I made up for lost time¹.

We roasted some wickedly sweet little round red tomatoes on Saturday, then drizzled them with good balsamic and ate them with roasted duck breasts and yet another version of that gorgeous squash soup (this time with white beans for creaminess and a purple opal basil yogurt crema).  And then on Sunday I roasted a mix of colors and shapes and served them over smashed red bliss potatoes alongside a pan-roasted fillet of Spanish mackerel and another purple opal basil crema made zippy with one third of a Jawala pepper.

And now, after having had two dinners in a row graced by oven-roasted tomatoes, I can say this to you: Do not make my mistake! Roast when it’s roasting out if you must, but do roast some of your most perfect cherry tomatoes and serve them with whatever you’ve got .  Pasta, duck, fish, salad, beef, pork, chicken, polenta, rice, bread, quinoa, kasha, grits, jerky, tofu, ostrich, cardboard.  Anything.  Just make them.  You can thank me later.

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¹ Set the oven to 325°F.  Wash a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, put them in an roasting dish or dutch oven, coat with a few glugs of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a minced garlic clove or two and place in the oven.  Roast the tomatoes–scoot them about the pan with a toss or a spoon once or twice–for an hour or so until they’ve collapsed in on themselves, taken on a burnished hue and released their juices.  Remove and mix in a handful of torn basil.  Enjoy!

Bounty

20 Aug

So, it turns out that I can grow tomatoes after all.

Just very, very slowly and one at a time. I’m a deliberate ‘mater farmer, obviously!  Little Roaslita has some amigas, but the plant has a touch of something. I’m just hoping that now that the weather is so hot and dry that she can hold the nasties (and the crows) at bay.

And while I’m excited at the promise of some real homegrown tomatoes to snack on, if you can believe it I’m actually sad that I don’t have any more green tomatoes.  Just as I was finishing up a batch of green-tomato ketchup¹ (the final four plants I had in the garden succumbed to the blight), flipping through a cookbook while the cans boiled, I came across a recipe for green tomato pie².

Oddly enough, the recipe sounds a bit like the Shaker Lemon Pie that you were all exclaiming about on my last post.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it at the end of the summer when those farmers that have actually been able to grow tomatoes this year will be off-loading their greenies.

But while this year I’m a minimalist tomato grower, I’m a maximalist with everything else.  We have squash the size of your arm, and some the size of your head.  The eggplants and peppers are so leaden with fruit I’ve had to stake nearly every one of them.  And then there’s the beans.

Drowning in veggies? Head below the break for a few good recipes.

In The Weeds

30 Jul

The road between New York City and Tupper Lake passes through many states.

Heading north, we drive through Grace, Beauty, Longing, Happiness and Anticipation. But the trip home passes through some different places–Nostalgia, Melancholia, Reflection, Dolor and Blah.  Leaving the mountains was especially hard this year.

The weather was damn near perfect up in the Adirondacks, and we took full advantage.  We hiked and paddled (seriously people, if you’ve never tried kayaking, get out on the water stat!), and sat outside marveling at loons, ducks, dogs and bald eagles and went for boat rides and grilled steaks.

And when the weather wasn’t so great, we went inside and sat and read and played with my nephew, little J, who’s at that age where he’s over Thomas and protective of his Legos yet somehow still a blast to be around, and when we were hungry, we cooked.

There were shrimp and controversial grits, (we tried to tell little J that the grits were polenta, something he loves, but his four-year old mind couldn’t get over the fact that they weren’t yellow).  There was also beet pasta with the greens thrown in for good measure, roasted squash and mint salad, braised radicchio, tarragon chicken and sandwiches and salads galore.  We ate and lived well on our short week up north.

And then we came back to reality.

Things are simultaneously grim and amazing up at the old homestead, head below the jump to see what’s going on.

Tarted Up

17 Jul

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but lately, there’s been a lot of talk around here about a lot of things that have had very little to do with food.

This is odd because this is, ostensibly, a cooking blog. I’ve talked about sounds and stillness and summer, about my neighbors and their bad eating habits, I’ve shared my secret place to hide-out from the heat, done some spring cleaning and vented, kvetched and complained. In fact, as far as I can tell, the last time I seriously talked about cooking was way back in the merry month of May.

And I’ve got a little secret about why it’s been this way. I’ve been in a cooking funk. An epic one by all accounts. Obviously I’ve been cooking; but to be perfectly honest, nothing I’ve made in a very long time, probably since that rhubarb bread, has really made me sit up and cheer. But! That has all changed.

South Street Seaport

On Saturday morning Isaac and I took a survey of the kitchen in an attempt to clear out some of the culinary driftwood we’ve accumulated. We settled on two areas in need of attention: beans and phyllo.

Since I learned to stop worrying and love the bean I’ve been hoarding them. I bought Yellow Indian Woman beans in Colorado, unknown yellow beans in California, dried lentils and ceci in Rome and Goat’s Eyes and “Little Horses” in Williamsburg (which sometimes feels like another country). I’ve also somehow accumulated three additional types of dried lentil.

And then there’s the phyllo. It’s been lurking in our freezer since January. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the box weren’t so big. It barely fits, and it’s hogging space that I’d like to have for preserving some of summer’s bounty; like tomatoes, beans, peas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peaches, strawberries, cherries and blueberries, to name a few.

So, it was settled. On Saturday we would cook the yellow mystery beans to ensure they’d be done and cool for a multi-bean salad on Sunday night, and then for Saturday dinner we would have a tomato and caramelized onion tart with phyllo crust and a fennel and olive salad. Or, at least that was the plan.

We went to the greenmarket in search of wax beans and snap peas for the salad to no avail. There was no fennel either. It was very mysterious, like everyone in the city had the same thoughts on the same day. So, we settled for some green beans and radicchio instead.

We got home and I put the mystery beans on the stove to cook, then I pulled the phyllo out of the freezer. It was around 5.30pm. I stood in the kitchen reading the directions: work quickly, keep the phyllo moist, brush the layers with butter, if frozen thaw for five hours before use… Sh*t.

No phyllo crust for us!

But I didn’t panic. Nope. I ran to the internet, to Martha. Martha and the internet always know what to do in situations like these! I looked up tomato tart, and to my great dismay they all called for butter crusts.

This was a problem for three reasons: 1. I had no non-special butter (I’m obsessed with this, but only for eating on bread), 2. I didn’t have time to let a butter crust sit in the fridge and 3. Isaac was on the phone with his mother while snapping beans in the kitchen so I didn’t want to run the food processor.

So I thought and thought and plotted and contemplated and cogitated and ruminated. And then I came up with an idea. Polenta. I ran back into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of instant polenta. When it was done I lined a pie plate with a medium-thick layer of it and popped it into the fridge to set up. Meanwhile I caramelized onions and bacon and glazed it all with balsamic vinegar.

I pulled the polenta out of the fridge, liberally dressed it with a flurry of grated Parmesan, poured on the onions and topped with slices of tomatoes. I looked down at the yellow and red tart and sighed with happiness. It was so pretty. So Martha, even!

As the tart baked it gave off the most delicate perfume of roasted corn, bacon and savory onions. It was torture waiting for it to come out of the oven and cool down enough to eat. But boy was it worth it! This tart might be the most delicious thing I’ve ever made.

The flavors are deep and sexy, yet light and fresh. And, except for the 25 minutes it takes to caramelize onions, it is fast and very, very easy. This tart would be delicious with that lemony fennel and olive salad for a dinner party, or with a radicchio salad, like we had, for a simple dinner or, if you really wanted to gild the lily, with a poached egg on top for a fancy brunch.

So I hope you enjoy this tart. I know I can’t wait to make it again in a few weeks when the summer’s tomatoes are at their peak of deliciousness.  Oh, and about those beans…

They, too, were delicious and maybe someday I’ll find the time to tell you about them, but until then, nothing can compete with this tart!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Off-The-Cuff Tomato Tart

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