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Entries in polenta (3)

Thursday
Aug212014

put an egg on it : polenta edition

I have a home studio (ok, well, I call it a studio, but it's really a bedroom upstairs in our house. I figure, because there's no bed in it, it's technically NOT a bedroom and therefore I can call it whatever I damn well please).

The thing I love most about my studio?

IT'S. ALL. MINE.

It's a space that belongs to me - no one else ever comes in (well, sometimes Sean, but usually it's just to say hi because I've been in front of my computer for hours and he misses me). A space where I have my computer, my photography gear, my food styling props, surfaces and linens and some artwork that I love. It's a space where I brainstorm - a space where I create. Sometimes though, I need a change of view, and that's usually when I head downstairs and take over the kitchen table.

I spread out my scraps of handwritten inspiration/ideas, my laptop, pens, notebook and iPhone and I start to work for the day - catching up on emails, Facebook, Twitter, editing pictures. I make one cup of coffee, then another, and before I know it, it's late morning and I'm SO HUNGRY.

You would think that, because of what I do, I would eat an incredible breakfast every morning. But I don't. I get so wrapped up in work that I often forget to eat. It's only when I notice the gnawing and growling of my stomach that I stop and get up from what I'm doing.

When those hollow 'I've had too much coffee and now my belly is angry' feelings set in, I need something comforting, something warm to make it shut the hell up. I could easily have a bowl of cereal, maybe scramble a couple of eggs, but what I really love for breakfast is polenta.

To me, polenta is like the lovechild of mashed potatoes and cornbread (now TELL me that doesn't sound good to you). It's thick, creamy, buttery, cheesy comfort food that sticks to your insides and subsides the screeching hunger pangs. It's fast and easy to make (if you do it my way - which - let's get real, any Italian would laugh/curse at me for even suggesting), you can really add anything you want to flavour it, and then you top it off with a perfectly fried egg like a little golden crown jewel. Best part? You can eat polenta for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Polenta's pretty flexible you see.

Seriously.

You should try it.

Polenta with Fresh Sage and a Fried Egg (serves one person)

1/2 C water

1/3 C milk

1/4 C polenta (you can look for Italian polenta or you can just use regular cornmeal)

1/4 small onion, chopped (I like onion in my polenta)

1/4 tsp salt

dollop of butter + more to fry your egg in

small handful of grated Parmigiano (aka Parmesan but you can use any cheese you want. Brie or goat cheese are both really good)

3-4 fresh sage leaves, torn (use any herbs or spices you like - sometimes I like to add a bit of smoked paprika)

1 egg

- in a microwave safe dish, stir together water, milk, polenta and onion (it's here that you can either add your herbs/spices OR you can do what I've done in the picture above and sprinkle your herbs on at the end). In one minute intervals, microwave polenta until thick and creamy, stirring well after each minute (mine takes 3 minutes total) - add butter and 3/4 of cheese to polenta and mix well to combine - spoon polenta out onto a plate or into a bowl

- fry an egg in butter to your liking - place egg on top of polenta - sprinkle with torn herbs and remaining cheese

- eat

Friday
Feb072014

Polenta 'Cake' with Black Olive Pesto Filling and 'Nduja Ricotta 'Frosting'

When Joana from Yummy Food Blog emailed me and asked me if I'd like to enter her Mediterranean-inspired recipe contest I was excited, however, as you may know, I don't usually do things the 'traditional' way. 

From Joana - 'I’m asking a small set of bloggers including yourself to write a blog post or recipe all about your favourite dish that’s inspired by Mediterranean style cooking. For example, I’m originally from Portugal and love seafood and veggie dishes that are packed full of fresh herbs and spices such as Chorizo & Pancetta Bake and Bacalhau Com Natas. The most creative and imaginative post will receive a Kindle Fire HD, there is also a second prize of a £25/$40 Amazon Gift Voucher.'

The recipe contest is sponsored by Spanish travel agency, Canarias -

'Canarias.com - experts for all things travel in and around Spain and the Canary Islands. What once was a car rental company with a small fleet of 40 vehicles has become a major tourism company dedicated to the areas of Spanish tourism, car rental, leisure, health and food. We do everything in our power to offer our visitors the best experience by offering the widest range of products and services - everything the client needs to make their vacation unforgettable.'

I've not had the pleasure of visiting Spain, but Sean has, and despite three separate visits to Italy, Spain is still his #1. Now that we know about Canarias.com, perhaps a trip to the Canary Islands is in order?

I came up with a fun Mediterranean-inspired appetizer that's assembled in an round cake tin. It would be neat to present the 'cake' on a beautiful stand at a dinner party!

Polenta 'Cake' with Black Olive Pesto Filling and 'Nduja Ricotta 'Frosting'

6-8-inch round cake tin - greased lightly with olive oil or butter

1/2 C pinenuts

1 C Kalamata olives, pits removed (I buy Kalamatas that are already pitted and sliced)

1 clove garlic, rough chopped

1/4 C Manchego cheese, grated

1 500g tub Ricotta

1 C 'Nduja**

2 C water

1 1/3 C milk

1 C cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 C Grana Padano

- Toast pinenuts in a dry pan until golden - combine toasted pinenuts in a food processor with Kalamata olives, garlic clove and Manchego cheese - pulse until 50/50 chunky/smooth - mix with 250g of Ricotta and set aside

- In a small bowl, with a spoon, mix 'Nduja and remaining 250g Ricotta until smooth

- In a large microwave safe bowl, whisk water, milk, cornmeal and salt - microwave in 1-minute intervals, whisking between each minute until thick - about 6 minutes - add butter and Grana Padano - stir to combine - voila! Microwaved polenta!

- spread a thin layer of polenta in greased cake tin - top with olive pesto/Ricotta mix - top with another layer of polenta - top with 'Nduja/Ricotta Mix - top with another layer of polenta - leave yourself enough 'Nduja/Ricotta mix to 'frost' the outside of the cake

- place cake tin in fridge to cool/set one hour - flip cake onto plate and 'frost' with remaining 'Nduja/Ricotta - can be served warm or cold

***'Nduja is a SPICY spreadable salami made in Calabria, Italy. I ordered mine from Bottega Nicastro in Ottawa!

Saturday
Jan072012

White Polenta, Porcini-Port Sauce, Gorgonzola, Pancetta Crisp

I still remember the best polenta I've ever eaten. It was Natal Day, 2010 and I was invited to Maurizio and Stephanie's house for a BBQ. I can vividly recall the beautifully laid outdoor table - the pretty light-purple Italian tablecloth - platters of food set-out, waiting to be enjoyed - guests mingling with flutes of Prosecco in their hands. I wandered through the backyard in the dusky orange glow of the setting sun, to Maurizio at the helm of the grill, turning fat golden squares of white polenta. Caramel coloured and crispy on the outside - fluffy, delicate and white on the inside - I knew that this was something special.

Since that day, I've scanned the shelves at the grocery stores hoping to find white cornmeal. I gave up, thinking that yellow would continue to be my only option. And then, last week, out of the blue, something caught my eye on a lower shelf at Sobey's. Goya's Masarepa White Corn Meal - had I finally found what I had been looking for? The answer is yes.

Now, on a side note, it's no secret that I love bacon - in fact I've become somewhat notorious amongst family, friends and co-workers. I can't help it. I love, not only the flavour of bacon, but pork in general - ham, prosciutto, pancetta, pork tenderloin, porchetta - the list goes on. I decided that this year, instead of always making someone else's recipe and blogging about it, I wanted to make up my own recipes - and I wanted to start the New Year off right with a post that includes my most beloved ingredient.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart, however, it is a rich flavourful dish that is EASY to make - a great appetizer that will definitely impress your friends the next time it's your turn for a dinner party!!

Polenta with Porcini Port Sauce, Gorgonzola and Pancetta (serves 8 - 20 minutes)

3 Cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Cup instant (pre-cooked) white polenta

2 Tbsp butter

Grated Parmigiano (optional)

~ Boil water and salt - add polenta in thin steady stream whisking entire time - whisk one minute - remove from heat - add butter and Parmigiano - cover cookie sheet with Saran - spread polenta onto cookie sheet to about 1/2 inch thickness - cool

Sauce

1.5 Cups 35% Whipping Cream

3 oz Port (I use Private Stock - it's cheap and it tastes amazing in sauces)

2 Handfuls of dried Porcini mushrooms

1-2 Cups of boiling water

2 oz Gorgonzola + extra for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

8 Pancetta slices, cooked crispy

~ in a small bowl, just cover dried mushrooms with boiling water to reconstitute - let sit about 10 minutes

~ pour whipping cream into small saucepan - bring to a light boil - add Port and 3 oz of the mushroom water - bring to a light boil - add mushrooms and Gorgonzola - stir occasionally until Gorgonzola is melted then let sit without stirring until bubbly, thick and toffee-coloured - season with salt and pepper to taste

~ while your sauce is reducing you can cut your polenta into any shape you like - I used a round biscuit cutter. You can either pan-sear, grill or bake your polenta, or you can serve it cool. Top with sauce - garnish with small bit of Gorgonzola and a pancetta crisp. Serve.