You may have noticed that the voice on this blog is sounding a little one sided. “I thought there were supposed to be two cooks?” you may be saying to yourself (we only hope you read so often as to notice). Yes, it’s true, New York life takes it toll on the best of us. SMH is still my support and inspiration in the kitchen (and cooks dinner for us both), but he’s also often working evenings. That means I find myself just one cook in the kitchen, usually after a full day of work and graduate school. This is not a recipe for inspiration. However, lately I have found midweek motivation somewhere and have pushed myself to make new things and use up what is in the cupboard.
My criteria for a successful midweek dinner is pretty simple: quick and easy; balanced amount of grains, protein and vegetables; high leftover potential for lunch the next day; won’t dirty every dish in the house.
The other night I achieved a new mid-week success with a meal of homemade polenta with ramp pesto, seared Brussels sprouts with Sauerkraut and a turkey Italian sausage. This is a meal that is more than a sum of its parts. Each part was so simple and so basic, but together so delicious.
About a month ago I decided to brave polenta making and picked up some coarse cornmeal, which I proceeded to shove to the back of the cupboard, probably right next to the quinoa and bulgar wheat. However the other day was rainy, windy and cold and I wanted something hot and substantial that was not pasta or rice. Polenta! I got out Marcella Hazan’s Essential of Classic Italian Cooking and asked myself, “Do I have an hour to stir this pot? No,” and decided to go with her “No Stir” recipe. So easy! I was also inspired by Kelly’s entry on Eat Make Read about ramp pesto. However, since I try to make everything as nut-free and dairy free as possible around here I just defaulted to my usual pesto recipe, which you can read about here. Basically, I omit the cheese and nuts and substitute toasted bread, and substituted ramps and omitted the garlic. Polenta + ramp pesto + some pecorino cheese grated on top (because it’s not me with the diary allergy) was heavenly!
with thanks to Marcella Hazan
(this actually should be the less stir method, be forewarned, there’s still some stirring involved)
7 cups water
1 TBL salt
1 2/3 cups coarse-grained cornmeal (polenta)
8 to 10 cup steel or copper bowl
1. Bring water to a boil in a large heavy pot and add salt
2. Add polenta in a thin stream – you should be able to see every grain – while whisking rapidly. Ensure that the water continues to boil while you add the polenta.
3. When all the polenta is added stir for 2 minutes with a long handled wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to medium so the polenta continues at a “lively simmer” and cover.
5. Cook for 10 minutes, uncover and stir for one minute, cook for another 10 minutes, uncover and stir for 10 minutes, repeat two more times.
6. The polenta will have cooked for 40 minutes. After the last stirring cook for 5 more minutes.
7. Just before you remove it from the heat stir vigorously for 1 minute.
8. Moisten the bowl with water and pour in the polenta.
9. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn polenta onto a board or platter. Serve immediatly or refrigerate to reheat and eat later. Yum!
Also, careful, polenta just out of the pot is a molten mixture. This sounds obvious, but use caution! I burned one of my fingers pretty badly because I had to touch it because its texture just looked so appealing.
Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Caraway Seeds
Brussels sprouts are definitely an adult taste for me. I never ate them in my family growing up and my Dad used to amuse me with stories about how my older sisters would craftily try to get rid of their Brussels sprouts by slipping them to the dog (who refused them) during dinner. Here is my grown-up revelation: They are delicious! Brussels sprouts get a bad rap, but hopefully this recipe can help change that.
15 or so medium sized Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, more if needed
1 Tablespoon Caraway seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Remove the outer leaves of the sprouts and cut off the white bit of stem. Wash.
2. Cut sprouts in half.
3. In a large pan heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot place the halved sprouts flat side down in the pan.
4. Sprinkle the caraway seeds, salt and pepper into the pan. Keep an eye on the sprouts and add more olive oil if necessary – you don’t want them to dry out and burn.
5. Sear the sprouts until they are crispy brown on the flat side, then turn them over with tongs.
6. Brown the rounded side of the sprouts lightly then add 1/2 cup water and cover the pan, reducing the heat to medium. Cook until the sprouts are soft.
For an extra good caraway effect, serve garnished with Sauerkraut. I used Sauerkraut I made from last summer’s CSA cabbage. Enjoy your week!