Grilled Cheesy Polenta with Quick Tomato Sauce, Grilled Caesar Salad

by Jennifer

The polenta needs to be made ahead, with time to cool;  you can do this up to a day before you plan to serve it.  You can grill the polenta and romaine while the sauce is simmering.  The polenta serves 6 – 8;  the salad serves 6.

Grilled Cheesy Polenta with Quick Tomato Sauce

For polenta:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups coarse cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. cold mozzarella, cubed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, chopped

For Quick Tomato Sauce, from A Fresh Taste of Italy by Michele Scicolone:

  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • pinch dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil or 6 leaves fresh basil, torn into pieces

For polenta:

Coat a 13” x 9” pan with cooking spray.  Bring water to a boil in a large pot.

Slowly whisk in cornmeal and salt, lower the temperature to medium, and cook, whisking,

for 5 minutes, or until it’s very thick.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Pour polenta into the pan, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until solid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.  Prepare grill.  Cut polenta into 6 – 8 squares.  Brush each square with garlic oil, then place garlic-oil side down on grill and

grill for 8 minutes, or until there are grill marks and the crust is golden.  Brush top side with garlic oil before flipping polenta over and grilling second side for another 8 minutes.  Serve hot topped with Quick Tomato Sauce.

For tomato sauce:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat;  add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add tomatoes and their juices, salt, pepper, and dried herbs (if using fresh basil, wait until the sauce is done to add).

Cook, gently crushing the tomatoes and stirring occasionally for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until thick.

Grilled Caesar Salad – adapted from Gourmet magazine

  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 of a baguette or loaf of French bread, sliced (supposed to be 1/2” thick slices, I think I managed 1” slices at best)
  • 1 large egg
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 hearts of romaine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Prepare grill.

In a blender or small processor, chop garlic, then add anchovy paste, olive oil, salt and pepper, blending well.

Brush bread slices, both sides, with this dressing, then grill bread, about 1 – 2 minutes per side, until toasted.  Slice bread in half or quarters and set aside.

Add egg and lemon juice to dressing and blend for 2 – 3 minutes, or until emulsified.

Slice romaine hearts in half lengthwise, then grill, cut side down, for 2 minutes,

or just until grill marks appear.  Slice romaine hearts cross-wise into wide strips.

Toss together romaine, croutons and cheese;  add dressing and toss well.

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Shrimp Scampi with Preserved Lemon and Fennel on Polenta, Romaine Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan

by Jennifer

This recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 4 – 6.  Serve with Romaine Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan.

Polenta:

  • 4 1/2 8-oz. bottles clam juice
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 3/4 tsp hot sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shrimp Scampi:

  • 3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. large shrimp, cleaned
  • coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bulb fennel, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped, seeded tomato
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 TBS chopped preserved lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the polenta:
Combine clam juice, water and cream in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking, and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for 15 minutes.
Whisk in hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste, then remove from burner, cover, and keep warm until scampi is finished.  (Add a little water before serving if it gets too thick.)

For shrimp scampi:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp, season with coarse salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring once, for about 2 minutes, or until the shrimp begin to turn opaque.  Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Add the fennel through garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 4 minutes.

Add cream, bring to a boil, and

stir in shrimp, tossing to coat, just until the shrimp is cooked through, about 1 minute.  Divide polenta among plates and top with scampi.

Vegetable Pot Pie with Wine Sauce and Polenta Crust, Spinach Salad with Basalmic-Thyme Vinaigrette, Pumpkin Pie

by Jennifer

This was a company night, hence the extra nice dinner and Pumpkin Pie for dessert!

Vegetable Pot Pie with Wine Sauce and Polenta Crust – adapted from Bon Appetit

If the pot pie seems a little daunting, it’s really not;  there’s some down-time while the vegetables are roasting, and you can even roast the vegetables a day ahead…just bring them to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.   I add baked tofu for protein, but you can leave it out if you’d rather.  I also used instant polenta, which cooks slightly faster than regular polenta;  you can use either.  Photo caveat:  the sun was streaming in my kitchen window, pots were steaming and at one point, polenta was exploding on the stove-top, so my apologies for not having as many photos as I would have liked!

Serves 6.

Filling:

  • 15 frozen pearl onions, thawed (such as Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • 12 oz. rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 leek, chopped and rinsed (white and pale green parts only)
  • 12 oz white mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried herbs de Provence, OR 1/2 tsp each dried basil, thyme and rosemary
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 7 oz. package organic baked tofu, savory flavor (such as Trader Joe’s brand), diced

Wine Sauce:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup good red wine (a kind you’d like to drink), divided
  • 1 TBS cornstarch

Polenta:

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups instant polenta (from a 9.2 oz package)
  • 2 TBS freshly grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine pearl onions through dried herbs in a large roasting pan;  roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until all vegetables are tender.

Stir in the peas and tofu, if using.  Transfer vegetables to a serving dish;  mine was 8×12”, like a lasagne pan.  Turn down oven heat to 350.  In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable broth and 3/4 cup wine to a simmer.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup wine and 1 TBS cornstarch, then

add it to the simmering broth/wine mixture;  cook for a few minutes, or until it thickens.

Pour sauce over vegetables.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth, water and salt to a boil.  Add the polenta slowing, stirring constantly, and stir until it thickens (turn down the heat quickly to avoid a similar polenta explosion), about 3 minutes for instant, 10 minutes for regular polenta.

Pour polenta over vegetables and smooth out;  sprinkle with Romano cheese.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for 15 minutes;  turn on broiler and broil until polenta is golden, about 4 minutes.  (I will admit, after the polenta explosion and my kids simultaneously playing the piano, drums and running around the kitchen, I forgot the broiling part.  Still tasty, though!)

Spinach Salad with Balsamic-Thyme Vinaigrette

Serves 6.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 oz. baby spinach

Whisk together dressing ingredients, oil through pepper.

Toss with spinach and serve.