Tag Archive | polenta

Polenta-Kissed Spinach

I’ve been away, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.

So much has transpired since I last posted. Too much to recount… Tending to a host of health issues became a full-time job and that included returning to nourishment, on all levels, which meant the real beginning of nourishing me – body, mind, and soul.

I was forced, literally, to do a reset and though that journey was definitely not an easy one, there were many gifts along the way.

Food, a rediscovery of it, re-interpretation, re-engagement, and re-integration, was one of them and of course, recipes like this one.

I was cooking one evening a recipe I hadn’t made in a long time, not because it wasn’t a favourite, but because my compulsive need to keep experimenting with new and different recipes and love for diversity has both blessed and cursed me with many favourites to the point that there are beloved recipes we don’t return to for years.

That dish was one of its victims. This time, due to a strict food regime to fix severe stomach issues, I sadly adapted the recipe to accommodate my dietary restrictions at the time. As I stood at my stove, hovering over the dish, it came to me, polenta-kissed spinach.

Over dinner, I told this to my husband and on the weekend it became our next weekly brunch feature. Fresh spinach normally abundant was difficult to find that week, but on one of our daily walks, we happened to stop in at the grocery store and managed to procure the required bundles.

In my mind, the spinach was silky, loose, and just barely coated with a thin sheen of polenta. To be clear, it was a spinach dish kissed with polenta and not intended to be polenta containing spinach (though this is now on the list to make because I’m really loving this duo).

We came home and commenced the now insanely long process of properly sanitizing the greens for safe consumption. I embarked on making the dish fully expecting to make adjustments along the way to match the picture in my head. My husband was close by taking notes and carefully tracking ingredients and amounts and on standby to revise accordingly.

Never before has a recipe come together so effortlessly. Every ingredient and measurement was correct from the start, and nothing needed adjustment, nothing. It turned out, on the first attempt, exactly as I had envisioned.

As usual, I was telling my mom about our brunch meal when later we spoke and she fell quiet. When I inquired about her silence (extremely rare for my mother), she responded she was remembering back to her grandma, who used to make this dish for her when she was a child. Then, it was my turn to fall silent. My mom had never mentioned the dish, nor made it for me growing up, and she explained that she had even forgotten about it, but concluded she too would resurrect it. I have always said that food is extremely powerful, particularly as a connector, on many levels, including our past, and the long ancient lineage of ancestral wisdom.

To say I love spinach is an understatement. I have fond memories growing up of my mom making mounds of spinach for me, simply blanched, seasoned with salt and drizzled with olive oil. I would eat mounds of it. Couldn’t get enough!

I now have yet another way to enjoy it, except now it has a little bit more substance and a lot more character. It’s simply gorgeous as a side dish and stunning as an ensemble for brunch, particularly with poached eggs. Such a beautiful way to get my fill of spinach, eat my spinach, and pay hommage to my ancestors. Thanks great grandma.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

 Olive oil  1 tbsp
 Garlic, clove, minced  1
 Water  1 cup
 Chili flakes  pinch
 Salt  1/2 tsp
 Black pepper
 Cornmeal  2 tbsp
 Spinach  2 bunches
 Juice, lemon  1/2 tsp
 Olive oil (if needed)  1 tbsp

Directions:

  1. In a medium, but deep skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add water and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add chili flakes, salt and black pepper and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add cornmeal and cook for 8 minutes.
  6. Remove half the polenta from skillet and reserve for later use.
  7. Add spinach and cook until just wilted.
  8. Return to skillet other half of the polenta and fold into spinach until coated.
  9. Add lemon juice.
  10. Add olive oil if required.
  11. Divide spinach into two bowls.

Serving suggestion:

  1. Top with 2 poached eggs.
  2. Season eggs with salt, black pepper and paprika.
  3. Garnish dish with parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Serve with a piece of toast cut in half.

Polenta, Pomodoro & Oyster Mushrooms

Mushroom Polenta

I love polenta, but don’t make it often because all semblance of self-control seems to go out the door as I inevitably always end up overheating. It’s not so much the serving that makes it onto my plate (I won’t lie, it’s bigger than it should be), but more so what I tend to eat while I’m plating and then when I’m storing leftovers.

What can I say? It’s Italian comfort food at its best! I have such fond memories of watching my mom make this classic dish. Its golden colour, beyond creaminess, and extremely satisfying. In our household, it served as a bed for no other than our homemade tomato sauce, what I call liquid gold. Anything else would have been sacrileges.

What you are getting in this week’s recipe is actually two classic dishes
: polenta and pomodoro and pomodoro and oyster mushrooms. What a treat!

Though I make this dish as I was taught in the traditional way, with olive oil, parmigiano, and fresh herbs, I’ve changed it up this time to boost the protein content. Beware, though delicious, my mother would not approve. I kept the olive oil for richness, but instead of the parmigiano, I used nutritional yeast, added hemp seeds for protein, and chives instead of fresh herbs, as the pomodoro is amply aromatized with fresh rosemary, a very nice complement to the oyster mushrooms as well as the pomodoro. My mom was quick to tell me that basil would have, of course, worked better, but I disagree. Fresh basil is classic with pomodoro, but rosemary works better with oyster mushrooms. I’ve convinced her to give it a try.

As for the oyster mushrooms, normally they are sautéed in some olive oil and then the processed tomato wedges get added. It’s delicious, but the mushrooms tend to water down the pomodoro for a more liquidy consistency. I opted to cook both separately and added the mushrooms to the pomodoro at the very end after they were both fully cooked.

Truly, this is one of my favourite dishes and by far my preferred way to serve polenta. It’s creamy. It’s sweet. It’s chewy. So satisfying on so many levels.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Mushrooms:
 Olive oil  ½ cup
 Mushrooms, oyster  3 lbs (48 oz)
 Salt
 Black pepper
 Parsley, fresh, chopped
 Pomodoro:
 Tomato wedges  64 oz
 Olive oil  ½ cup + 2 tbsp (or 10 tbsp)
 Salt  1 tsp
 Black pepper
 Garlic, crushed, whole  3 cloves
 Rosemary, fresh  2 sprigs
 Polenta:
 Cornmeal  1 cup
 Water  4 cups
 Salt  ½ tsp
 Black pepper
 Olive oil  3 tbsp
 Hemp seeds  4 tbsp
 Nutritional yeast  1 tbsp
 Chives, fresh, chopped  10 grams (1/4 bunch)

1. To prepare the mushrooms, in a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and black pepper and cook until liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms start to caramelize, approximately 30 – 45 minutes. Remove from heat and garnish with parsley.

2. To make the pomodoro, process tomato wedges through a food mill or in a blender. In a medium pot, combine pureed tomatoes and olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add salt, black pepper, rosemary, and garlic. Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until thickened. The pomodoro should reduce by more than half.

3. For the polenta, in a medium pot, add salt, black pepper, olive oil and water and bring to a boil. Add cornmeal and nutritional yeast. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, using a whisk to stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chives and hemp seeds. 4. To assemble, divide polenta onto 4 plates. Top with pomodoro and mushrooms. Garnish with more parsley.