I grew up spending my summers in Westport, Mass., where there is a wonderful brand of locally-milled cornmeal called Gray's. My dad would always use the cornmeal when making pancakes or waffles, to cut the flour and add some heft (and nutritive value) to the batter. Naturally, my love of Gray’s cornmeal led me to experiment with their product for making one of my favorite comfort foods: Polenta.
While I typically make polenta with chicken stock for added flavor, I’ve started to experiment with using plain water and instead adding a variety of seasonings to jazz up the cornmeal — that is where this recipe has its roots. Next up on my polenta experiment agenda? Creating a baked version of the addictive polenta fries Chef Matt serves up at Providence’s La Laiterie.
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When I was writing regularly about wine, I used to make an annual pilgrimage to Verona to attend Vinitaly, the massive international wine trade show. I rarely had a complete dinner (I had usually been snacking all day), but one dish I always looked forward to, sitting at a little wooden table out in the front part of the place, was a big slab of slightly charred fried polenta topped generously with just-melting gorgonzola. This is approximately how it was made.
The beauty of heirloom tomatoes is that they’re so good they can be eaten raw, which is why I only stewed some of the tomatoes in this recipe. Ironically enough, I couldn’t find heirlooms at the store, so I didn’t feel as guilty about it. This is a very elegant dish that’s really easy to make. All it takes is marsala cooking wine. Bright, ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes are added at the end for a burst of freshness and color.
Click here to see It's Time for a Cherry Tomato Fiesta — 11 Great Recipes.
Swiss chard and sausage — it rolls off your tongue just as easy as it slides off the fork. This recipe is simple in nature but the sauce is made with deliberate steps (browning, deglazing with red wine, aromatics) to have a bold depth in flavor. It's the perfect bath for the Swiss chard and sausage to soak in, and the cheesy polenta is just the icing on the cake.
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Rich, sweet, moist and yet completely free from flour and refined sugar, this Italian lemon and almond cake is a great way to end a meal. It is technically a cheesecake, but has very little in common with the heavy American versions. In Italy, most delis have their own version of ricotta. The most delicious one is made from sheep’s’ milk – try it in this recipe, if you can find it. We often prepare the cake a day in advance. It makes it even creamier and enhances the flavors. — Green Kitchen Travels by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl
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You know that Le Creuset Dutch oven you registered for all those years ago? The one that remains spotlessly clean on a high shelf? First of all, no Dutch oven should ever be spotless. Second of all, get to know the pot. In the winter, few things create a happy home vibe as effortlessly as the smell of something braising all day in a Dutch oven. Here’s the world’s best way to get you started. — Jenny Rosenstrach in Dinner: The Playbook
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Many dinners that I prepare consist of seeing what is on hand and determining a menu from those ingredients. I don’t like going shopping for one dish. I have a fair amount of pantry space and a large freezer, so I can typically find ingredients to make something.
One night, I wanted to use some chicken thighs from the freezer and decided to serve them with polenta and a green vegetable. I hate to admit this but here goes... I’ve been cooking Italian dishes forever, love food from the North, South and in between, but have never made polenta before. Why? Well, I really have no idea; maybe it was from those years in the South when cornmeal was used for grits, something I thought of as a breakfast staple.
It was time to take this plunge and it was beyond easy — could easily become a dinner staple. I can imagine so many variations on a theme: Spices, cream, cheeses... heaven!
This dish was so simple, I would say less than an hour from start to finish, so it's a great weeknight meal for a busy family... or even me!
Chorizo is a magical ingredient, the kind of thing that makes your food taste way more accomplished without asking anything of you beyond just buying it. D’Artagnan sells a good-quality chorizo that is readily available; just make sure you’re buying Spanish chorizo, which is already cooked, and not Mexican chorizo, which is raw. You can expand or contract this dish based on your needs: Feeding a bigger crowd? Double the amounts. Feeding just yourself? Cook as much chorizo and shrimp as you’d like to eat. It’s really that simple.
Every Wednesday there is a tradition in our family – “Seafood Pasta Night.” Sometimes as an alternative I make this delicious seafood dish of Stuffed Calamari with Tomato Sauce which I serve on a bed of luscious, warm truffled polenta. If truffles aren’t your favorite, substitute with regular polenta, if short on time, use store-bought good quality Arrabbiata or Marinara sauce to go along with this dish. Calamari tubes are stuffed with sweet combination of seafood such as scallops, shrimp, and calamari which are processed to make smooth paste. Then I add cheese and seasonings to develop that slightly zesty, robust flavor and texture. It is also easier to work with the seafood in the paste form when stuffing the calamari tubes. It takes only 20 minutes to cook stuffed calamari and then, prego, enjoy this delightful dish! — Svitlana Flomm, Art de Fete
Soft-shell crabs are in season in the spring, so keep your eye out because the soft-shell season doesn't last that long. Be sure to have the apron, lungs, and eyes removed by your fishmonger and use the crabs as soon as possible.
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Among the many gluten-free people I meet, almost all say they miss pizza more than any other food. This version is sure to please those who are gluten-free as well as those who are not. The crust can be made hours in advance. Keep it wrapped and refrigerated, and bake it when you make your topping of choice.
If you’re short on time, brown-rice tortillas make a great last-minute pizza crust.
Adapted from “Clean Start” by Terry Walters.
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