While I on the east coast, I was able to spend the night in New Jersey and see a whole slew of relatives that I hadn’t visited in years. We had a fantastic evening, with lots of laughter, wine, and tons good food. The theme was some kind of vague California-Italian, but not really on purpose.
- Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe and Lemon
- Auntie’s Stuffed Manicotti
- Creamy Polenta with Mascarpone
- Roasted Mushrooms With Red Wine
- Roasted Winter Vegetables
- Baby Lettuces with Mustard Vinaigrette and Fennel
- Chevre Cheesecake with Pear Sauce
I’ve adapted two of the recipes for a much smaller group, since they are delicious, easy, and shouldn’t just be for big dinner parties.
I often hear mixed opinions about polenta, with complaints about mushiness and texture. To those people, I say: Stop whining! Go get a spoon!
If you look at other polenta recipes, you will notice that there is an absurd amount of cheese in this one. A better name for this recipe might be “Giant Bowl O’Cheese.” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. You really have to try this though!
POLENTA WITH PARMESAN AND MASCARPONE
makes about 4 servings
cook time: 30 minutes
- 1 cups cornmeal
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbs. butter
- 3 tbs. mascarpone
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese plus 1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese
- 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
- 1 tbs. garlic powder
- 1 tbs. dried onions (usually from McCormick)
- sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Bring 1 c. of chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat to low, and gradually whisk in the cornmeal (Don’t just pour it all in at once!).
- When the mixture comes to a simmer, add in the other 2 cups of chicken broth. Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried onions. Whisk the mixture for 10-15 more minutes (this makes sure it cooks evenly, doesn’t get clumpy, and doesn’t stick to the bottom). The polenta should be fairly thick now, but if you like it thicker feel free to cook it another 5 minutes or so.
- Turn the flame to very very low (so you don’t burn the cheese), and stir in the mascarpone, parmesan, and cheddar cheese. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and top with shaved parmesan and cracked black pepper while it is still steaming hot.
This recipe is great because it’s so flexible. You can really pick whatever vegetables you like (my favorite combination is beets, sweet potatoes, and turnips). This time I used buttercup squash from the pantry, rainbow carrots and winter greens from the garden, half a butternut squash I had sitting in the fridge, along with red onion, shallots, and garlic.
ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES
serves: as many as you want
cook time: 1.5 hrs.
- an assortment of winter vegetables, whatever you like(carrots, beets, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, beet greens, kale, etc.)
- olive oil to coat liberally
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- chopped flat leaf parsley (probably about 1/4 c.) or other herbs you like (thyme, rosemary, minced garlic or shallots, etc.)
- shaved parmesan cheese for serving
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash veggies thoroughly, and chop all of your vegetables into 1/2” cubes (roughly chop any greens into 1/2″ strips). I never peel beets, carrots or sweet potatoes, I like the texture of their skin when it roasts in olive oil. Set aside greens to add in later.
- In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh herbs (about 2 tbs. of herbs from a large mixing bowl of veggies will do fine). Spread veggies over a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. If you want to add any greens, take out the cookie sheet and mix them with all the veggies now. Cover with tin foil, and roast for another 20 minutes or so, or until veggies are cooked and nicely golden brown around the edges. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Serve these roasted vegetables over polenta or rice, tossed with pasta, in a green salad, or however else you can think of!