Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Party Cheese Ball

Monday, December 8th, 2014

My mom is not a cook.

For our wedding (I think I’ve mentioned this before), our friends and family put together an awesome cookbook of their favorite recipes. Since my mom is not a cook, however, her contribution was a little…simple.

Spinach Dip

Submitted by Mom

Ingredients:

  • Money of some sort
  • Your local grocery store
  • 1 round loaf Hawaiian bread
  • 2 lbs deli spinach dip
  • A car

Directions:

Drive to the store. Purchase spinach dip and Hawaiian bread. Drive home. Carve hole in middle of Hawaiian bread. Place spinach dip in hole. Serve with pieces of bread from hole around it. Enjoy!

_______________

It was still a wonderful contribution, since it makes me laugh every time I think of it. Plus, it’s a classic “Mom” dish that she takes to most parties that she has to bring an appetizer. Who doesn’t like Spinach Dip? Even though I love to cook, and would likely make spinach dip from scratch if I were going to take it somewhere, I love this recipe from my Mom.

The other recipes she included is a little more useful. It also happens to be her other appetizer recipe. It’s a classic cheeseball, a popular party snack. Here’s how it goes.

Cheeseball

Submitted by Mom

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar Kraft Pimento cheese
  • 1 jar Kraft Old English cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • Chopped pecans
  • Assorted crackers, for serving

Directions:

Soften the cream cheese. Mix 3 cheeses together, blend well. Shape into a ball. Roll in chopped nuts. Wrap in wax paper and foil, store in refrigerator overnight. Serve with crackers.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Apparently recipes from Mom are about 30 words long. Nothing wrong with that. I make this one often, because it’s easy, and a family favorite. The hardest part is finding the little jars of cheese–I swear they move around the grocery store every time I go. They’re never in the same place twice!

This Thanksgiving, I dressed up Mom’s classic Cheeseball recipe–like a turkey!

Gobble Gobble!

Gobble Gobble!

This is one of those rare Pinterest projects that turns out better than the inspiration. I love this little guy! To adjust mom’s general recipe, I rolled the cheeseball in crushed Ritz crackers to help it hold together, chilled overnight as directed, and then added the other garnishes once I got it on the platter the next day. The back feathers are crackers, I stuck pecan halves in the cheeseball in a feather pattern, rather than using chopped pecans, and the face is a strip of red bell pepper. The beak is cut out of a slice of cheddar cheese, and the eyes were made from a thin slice of string cheese, with a couple of whole black peppercorns stuck into it. I stuck a few toothpicks into the cheeseball and through the pepper, eyes, and beak. The whole process took about 5 extra minutes, and was a great addition to my Thanksgiving appetizer spread!

Beer-Battered Fresh Wisconsin Cheese Curds

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Fried stuff with cheese!

Can anyone tell me what that’s from?

. . .

It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?

. . .

Anybody still out there?

. . .

No? That’s okay, I’ve decided to post anyway.

Two random events have come together to bring you this delicious post.

Random Event #1:  a couple of months ago, we finally broke down and bought a deep fryer.

We don’t fry things often. Or, well, maybe it would be better to say that we didn’t fry things often. Because now that we have a deep fryer, we fry things pretty frequently.

It used to be that if I wanted to fry something, I’d get out the dutch oven and a thermometer, heat up the oil, and fry things on the stove. The problem with that is that it’s messy, greasy, and most of the oil goes to waste, because I never had a good system for straining the oil to be reused. More often than not, it would sit in that pan, unfiltered, until we broke down and did the dishes, and then it would get tossed. Pretty wasteful.

So like I said, I broke down and bought a deep fryer.

Random Event #2: On Black Friday, my mom, my sister and I went shopping in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And as all sensible Chicagoans must do when they cross that northern border, I stopped and bought cheese curds.

Do you see where this is going?

EZPromain

T-Fal Ultimate EZ Clean Pro

Do you?

 

wisconsin-cheese-curds

fresh cheese curds

Now you do.

beer battered cheese curds

beer battered cheese curds

So how’d I do it? Once you have the deep fryer and the cheese curds, this one’s actually pretty easy.

Beer-Battered Fresh Wisconsin Cheese Curds

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts of canola oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil for frying (I like to use canola oil)
  • 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 cup bisquick or other baking mix
  • 3/4 cup beer
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound fresh cheese curds broken into pieces

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large fryer or sauce pan to 375 degrees. This part’s easy if you have an electric deep fryer. If you don’t, you can use a thermometer, or worst-case-scenario, you can check to see if the oil is ready by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon into the pan. If the oil forms bubbles around the handle, it’s ready.
  2. Whisk together milk, baking mix, beer, and egg until well incorporated.
  3. Place cheese curds in batter 6 – 8 at a time, stir to coat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon to pull them out of batter, shaking off excess batter.
  5. Deep fry curds until golden brown.
  6. Drain on paper towels
  7. Sprinkle with a light dusting of salt while they’re still hot and resting on the paper towels.
  8. Enjoy the cheesy goodness!
soooo cheesy

soooo cheesy

See? Perfection. The cheese will be melty and gooey and perfectly stringy–like the texture of the best mozzarella sticks you can imagine. The breading, thanks to the baking mix and the beer in the batter, has a light, fluffy texture, even as it gets crispy around the edges. And even though the batter is bound to drip and drizzle a little bit in the oil, the deep fryer we bought has a built in filter as well as a frying pan and frying basket that are completely dishwasher safe, so cleanup is a breeze. If you’re making these without a fryer, though, you should expect a fair amount of crunchy bits left in the oil confounding your efforts to clean up. Just one more reason to buy a deep fryer, I suppose. Even without the deep fryer, they might just be worth the trouble. Thankfully, I don’t have to decide and we can just make them whenever we want.

* * *

P.S. “Fried stuff with cheese!” is from Friends. The One with the Truth About London. Phoebe imagines what could have happened if Joey and Monica had ended up together, and it turns out that what would have happened is that Joey would have weighed about 400 pounds thanks to Monica’s cooking. 

Monica: Dinner’s ready!

Joey: What’s my little chef got for me tonight?

Monica: Your favorite!

Joey: Ho-ho-ho, fried stuff with cheese!

It’s hard to blame you, Joey. Who doesn’t love fried stuff with cheese?!

Pioneer Woman’s Sloppy Joes

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Ah, that Pioneer Woman. Everything over there is delicious. I don’t usually consider her food to be terribly original or inventive, just a really great solid version of whatever she’s trying to make. That’s what you get with these sloppy joes. If you’ve never made sloppy joes “from scratch” and have been relying on a mix or a can, you’re definitely in for a treat. The flavors are brighter, there’s just the right amount of spice, and browning the buns with butter is a great, simple touch that really makes a difference.

(If you have made sloppy joes from scratch, there’s probably not anything earth shattering about this recipe. My family used ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar to make their sauce, and this is certainly in that family. But the onion & bell pepper adds something to the mix, as does the fresh garlic.) This recipe is extremely flexible though, so you can leave out pretty much any of the ingredients that you don’t care for.

photo courtesy of thepioneerwoman.com

Sloppy Joes a la Pioneer Woman
Serves 8; Adapted from thepioneerwoman.com

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2-½ pounds Ground Beef
  • ½ Large White or Yellow Onion, Diced
  • ½ Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-½ cups Ketchup
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (or use more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (or use more or less to taste)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional; to taste)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Kaiser Rolls, Hamburger Buns, or other soft sandwich rolls
  • Butter

Preparation Instructions

Add two tablespoons of butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard.

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

To prepare the buns:

Spread both halves of each bun with butter and brown on a griddle or skillet. Spoon meat mixture over the rolls. Serve hot.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Cooking Light magazine recently had a feature on Banana Bread recipes.

I frequently have a freezer full of too-ripe bananas, just waiting to be turned into Banana Bread. (This has never been more true than lately; I think we’ve got about 12 frozen bananas in there!) I have an old standby recipe for banana bread from David’s family, and I’ve made other types of banana bread before, but I was excited to try some of the Cooking Light varieties, especially after seeing their outstanding reviews. The first one to catch my eye was this Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

I’ll admit, I made some tweaks. For one, I didn’t have chopped peanuts, or creamy peanut butter, so I cut out the middle man and used chunky peanut butter. Worked great. I’m not a fan of super-sweet desserts, usually, and Banana Bread is more of a breakfast treat to me than it is a dessert anyway, so I skipped the extra sweetness from the peanut butter glaze, though I’m sure it would’ve been tasty. I liked the way it turned out. Moist, rich-but-not-too-rich, with just a hint of peanuty goodness. The peanut butter added flavor without overpowering the bananas. The most successful Cooking Light recipes are ones that don’t seem “light,” and this definitely falls into that category. I’ll probably make this one again–if I was making it to give to someone else or to bring to a party or something, I’d probably try the glaze, too.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2010

For the Bread:

  • 1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3  cup  vanilla fat-free yogurt
  • 1/3  cup  crunchy peanut butter
  • 3  tablespoons  butter, melted
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • Cooking spray

For the Glaze (optional):

  • 1/3  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  1% low-fat milk
  • 1  tablespoon  creamy peanut butter

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare bread, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a standard 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

4. If you want to make the glaze: combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread when cooled.

Nutritional Info: Calories: 198; Fat: 7.4g; Protein: 4.7g; Carbohydrate: 29.7g; Fiber: 1.9g

Copycat Mongolian Beef

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Since my mom made a point of calling out this recipe in yesterday’s update, I thought I’d go ahead and get this one out of the way.

My husband David is not a big fan of Chinese food. When we met, he didn’t like it at all, but I slowly wore him down with my homemade recipes and nagging requests to go to P.F. Chang’s, and now he’s made his peace with at least some chinese food. First, he found he liked my pepper steak. He eats the cashew chicken and sweet & sour chicken that I make from scratch. An occasional stir-fry or two. Then he branched out into similar dishes from Chinese restaurants, like beef and broccoli. Once we went to P.F. Chang’s, though, he was absolutely sold on Mongolian Beef.

And why wouldn’t he be? P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef is a delicious, tender, yet crispy pieces of thin steak, tossed in a delicious spicy-sweet sauce. Using a couple of recipes I found online, I was able to replicate the flavors almost perfectly. Keep reading to see how.

Copycat Mongolian Beef

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • vegetable oil, for frying (about 1 cup)
  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large green onions, sliced (you can skip these if you don’t like them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (also optional, or you can use less or more depending on how spicy you like your food)

1.      Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Be careful not to let the oil get too hot. It should shimmer, but not smoke.

2.      Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches.

3.      Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

4.      Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick bite-size slices. If you tilt the blade of your knife at about a forty five degree angle to the top of the steak you’ll get wider cuts.

5.      Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. And let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.

6.      While the coated beef is resting, heat up one cup of oil in a wok. (I don’t have a wok, so I used a dutch oven. Any heavy pan that holds heat well will work, as long as you can cover the beef with oil.

7.      Just as before, heat the oil over medium heat until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. (You don’t need to fully cook the beef here, since it’ll go to go back on the heat later.) Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly.

8.      After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, and drain the oil out of your wok or pan. Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and cook for another minute.

9.      Add the sauce from earlier, cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring, then add the green onions and red pepper flakes, if using. Continue to cook for one more minute, then remove the beef mixture with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate. There will be extra sauce, but it’s delicious as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or dumplings, or just drizzled over the beef when served with rice. You’ll definitely want to serve this over rice to soak up as much of the rich sauce as possible.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. I’m going to say that again, because you’d never expect it from the title, and it definitely bears repeating. This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. It was very tasty, but somehow manages to be good for you (relative to other alfredo recipes, at least.

The sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I would’ve liked, so I may adjust the amount of flour next time. Using bacon drippings for a roux was a nice touch, as it added a smoky, salty flavor that wouldn’t have been included in the traditional butter. Normally, you don’t need a roux, of course, but it helps to compensate for the 1% milk in the place of the more traditionally heavy cream.

This wasn’t the best alfredo sauce I’ve ever had, but it was absolutely the tastiest “light” alfredo sauce I’ve ever tried. We’ll be making this again.

Photo from cookinglight.com

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, January 2010

Ingredients

  • 1  (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine (I substituted a high-quality dry pasta)
  • 2  slices bacon, chopped
  • 1  teaspoon  minced garlic
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • 2/3  cup  (about 2 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, and pepper.

Note: Even with all that cheese, the sauce wasn’t terribly thick. The original recipe suggested using some of the starchy pasta-cooking water to make the sauce, but I skipped it because I was afraid the results would be too watery. I think that was the right call. We had some leftover grilled chicken, so I threw that on top, but it would be fine without the chicken. whatever you prefer.

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

First, I got a grill. Then, Rachael Ray dedicated a whole issue of her magazine to grilling recipes. The magazine had a great feature listing tons of grilled skewer recipes, including this one.

The dry-rub gave the steak an awesome flavor. It was slightly sweet with a smoky, spicy flavor. David grilled the skewers expertly, and we finished the steak off with a pat of basil-spiked butter. These were awesome. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2010

  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices
  • 16 cherry tomatoes

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil; season with salt and pepper; refrigerate.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons each sweet smoked paprika, garlic powder and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon each chili powder, dried basil and dried thyme and 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Add 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices, and 16 cherry tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Thread 2 pieces of steak, ribbon-style, and 2 tomatoes onto each of eight 12-inch skewers. Cover and grill, turning once, until the steak is just cooked through, about 7 minutes. Top with the basil butter.

Note: When grilling with skewers, it’s a good idea to soak the skewers in water for 15-20 minutes before loading them up with food. Wet skewers are less likely to burn over the high heat of your grill.

Stir-Fry Rice Pilaf

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

If I were to say that say I’m making a rice pilaf, you could probably conjure up images of several different rice side dishes you’ve been served at various restaurants or dinner parties. And you probably wouldn’t be wrong. The only thing required for a rice pilaf is to sauté the uncooked rice in oil or butter to give it a nice toasted flavor, and then to cook it in broth. Nuts, seeds, veggies, dried fruits, herbs, and meat are all optional add-ins. That makes rice pilaf an incredibly versatile side.

Most people use a long grain white rice to make a pilaf, but we keep this short-grain brown rice on hand, and that’s what I used. It worked just fine. I adapted the recipe from that website, where they posted the perfect template for a make-your-own-pilaf. I added sesame seeds and frozen stir-fry veggies, along with a bit of hoisin sauce and ginger to the broth. Though it takes a bit of time to make the rice from scratch, this was a delicious and versatile side dish. I know I’ll be making other variations when the mood strikes.

Stir-Fry Rice Pilaf

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 tsp oil or butter
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 ½ cups frozen vegetables (I used a stir-fry blend)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add oil and stir with wooden spoon. Add rice and continue stirring for 5 min or until grains are toasted. Add broth, cover tightly and cook for 45 min. Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking for 5 min. Serve. Makes 6 servings.

Note: This made a lot of rice. I’d half this recipe next time, and probably still have leftovers. We served this with hoisin-glazed pork chops and grilled pineapple skewers. Yum!


Versatile Pilafs

Rice pilafs are a method of cooking rice that requires sauteeing of raw grains to add a nutty toasted flavor. Any combination of herbs vegetables nuts and seeds and meats can be used with the rice. Always use a wooden spoon to stir rice to avoid breaking the grains.

Cooking Instructions:

  • 2 cup Lundberg® Long Grain Brown Rice
  • 2 tsp oil or margarine
  • 4 cup broth or water
  • 1/2 cup any nutmeats or sesame seeds
  • 1 package frozen vegetables or
    2 cup fresh chopped herbs
  • salt and pepper as desired

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add oil and stir with wooden spoon. Add rice and continue stirring for 5 min or until grains are toasted. Add broth or water cover tightly and cook for 45 min. Stir in vegetables nuts etc. and continue cooking for 5 min. Serve. Makes 6 servings.



Pork Chops with Country Gravy

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

As you can probably tell, I went on a Cooking Light recipe spree last week. I can’t help it; it’s one of my favorite places to get recipes, especially when I’m in the mood to really cook. The instructions are simple enough, but the recipes tend to be a little more involved than a lot of the other “light” recipe sources I’ve used. They also tend to focus on real ingredients, instead of canned soup or other pre-made products. I like that too. Finally, the website’s rankings, reviews, and comments all help me to determine which recipes are worth a try and what good updates might be. It’s all very helpful. (They have other kinds of recipes besides healthy; Cooking Light is just one of several magazines in the recipe index. Go to myrecipes.com).

This recipe is classic comfort food. It reminds me of the chicken fried steak I grew up with. Except for the nutritional information. This version substitutes lean pork chops for the fatty steak, skips the breading and deep frying, and uses a reasonable amount of butter with low-fat milk to form the gravy. You wouldn’t have noticed the “lightness” of this though, which makes it even better. Instead of the herbs listed below, I used a ¾ teaspoon of poultry seasoning, which worked great. I served this with mashed potatoes and reduced-fat biscuits (store-bought. Not everything can be made from scratch, especially on a Wednesday!).

Pork Chops with Country Gravy
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2006

  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried marjoram
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried thyme
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried rubbed sage
  • 4  (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2  cups  1% low-fat milk

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, salt, dried marjoram, dried thyme, and dried rubbed sage in a shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess. Reserve remaining flour mixture.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.

Combine reserved flour mixture and milk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add milk mixture to pan; place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Serve with chops.

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

David and I have not, historically speaking, been big fans of polenta. My first experiences with polenta were way back when my mom was doing Weight Watchers in the late 90’s, when someone on the message boards convinced her to try the pre-made kind. It came in a tube, we sliced it and tried to pan fry it with olive oil, or maybe even cooking spray. Yuck. No flavor at all. Weird texture. No thanks.

Then, Alton Brown convinced me to try again. Not really compatible with Weight Watchers this time, since his recipe calls for plenty of cheese, butter, and whole milk.  It was also mildly complicated, as he extolled the virtues of “real” polenta, and asked me to avoid the instant stuff. Trusting Alton, I did. This was better than the first time, but I still remember being disappointed. Handfuls of good-quality cheddar, wasted. I ate my spoonful, but I didn’t really like it at all. It was mildly better sliced and pan-fried, but not great. I was ready to write off polenta altogether.

Except…

Something makes me WANT to like it. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why I’m so determined. I’ve had it at restaurants, and still wasn’t a fan. Cheese couldn’t save it. But for some reason, when I saw this recipe at the Cooking Light site, I was willing to give it another try.

And this time, I was pleasantly surprised. The fresh sweet corn adds additional flavor and texture that the other recipes I tried were lacking. The parmesan added a salty richness, but the flavor wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy. The fresh tomato and basil balanced the flavors. I subbed shallots for onions (I do this often—where onions are too much for me, I’ve learned to like the milder taste of shallots) and even liked the flavor that they added. It was really good. I went back for seconds. I’m pretty sure David did, too. And I even ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I never got around to slicing and frying this batch, but next time I make it, I’d make sure I got to try that with the leftovers. And there will be a next time.

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2008

Ingredients

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (2 medium)
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1  cup  instant dry polenta
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  chopped tomato
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in broth, corn, and garlic; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Slowly add polenta, stirring with a whisk until polenta is thick (about 5 minutes). Add cheese, stirring to melt. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat; sprinkle with tomato and basil. Serve immediately.

Note: Bonus points for this recipe—I got to use my dutch oven! A heavy saucepan would work just fine though.