Posts Tagged ‘polenta’

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.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Last year for Valentine’s Day, David and I stayed in and I cooked for him. We were newly engaged, in the process of planning a wedding, and as a consequence, pretty broke. So we skipped the presents and just spent a quiet night together, but I made David choose the menu. (That sounds like a gift–to let him choose what special dish I would make for him–but if you know us at all, you know that it’s simply not true. We both HATE to pick what’s for dinner!)

David chose this recipe from Bon Apetit magazine: Veal Chops with Roasted Shallots, Arugula, and Soft Polenta.

At first, I thought he was kidding. Veal?! He wants veal? I don’t know how to cook that! Does he even like to eat that? I thought. And really–Shallots? Polenta? It seemed awfully complex, as well as outside of our normal culinary experience.

But then, shouldn’t a special dinner be, well, special? Yes, it should. So I decided to give it a try. I made my grocery list and headed to Dominick’s, where I learned that Veal is expensive! The whole idea of this dinner in was to save money, and by the time I bought polenta, shallots, arugula, grape tomatoes, fresh thyme and everything else I needed, I couldn’t stomach paying $19 for two veal chops, especially when I wasn’t even sure that we liked veal. So instead, I made pork chops.

I’m sure that’s not the same. I’m sure that’s not what the author of this recipe had in mind. But I’m also sure that it was delicious. I’ve made this recipe several times since last Valentine’s Day, with thick, meaty pork chops, and it’s turned out great every time.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 4 2-inch-thick boneless pork chops (each about 8 ounces)
  • 18 small shallots, peeled, halved
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 12-ounce package grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup drained capers plus 1 tablespoon caper brine reserved from jar

1. Whisk 3/4 cup oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Mix thyme, salt, and pepper in another small bowl. Rub thyme mixture all over pork chops; place in glass baking dish. Pour oil-lemon marinade over; let stand 15 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine shallots, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in medium roasting pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes to shallots and roast until tomatoes are soft and browned, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Add capers and 1 tablespoon reserved brine and stir to blend.

3. Meanwhile, heat large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Drain veal chops and transfer marinade to heavy small saucepan. Add pork chops to skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium.

4. Bring reserved oil-lemon marinade to boil; boil 2 minutes. Place 1 veal chop on each of 4 plates. Divide shallot-tomato mixture among plates. Serve Polenta alongside. Drizzle with oil-lemon marinade. Garnish with arugula and serve.

Note: This recipe turned out to be a great go-to for a special dinner. I’ve served this with homemade soft polenta, quick cooking polenta, and most recently, store-bought polenta slices, gently fried in extra virgin olive oil until the edges are crisp. The thyme brings a nice flavor to the chops, for sure, but I’ve also tried it with fresh parsley or fresh rosemary, and both have worked well. Clearly, this is a versatile recipe. Don’t be scared of the capers, either. Even if you think you don’t like them on their own, they go very well with the roasted vegetable mixture here.