Tag Archives: polenta

CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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CSA Week 5: Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

My weekly farm boxes are getting bigger and heavier! As summer squash and root vegetables start to ripen I’m going to need to get myself a pack mule (or just take my teenagers so they can carry the load)! My CSA box for week five included lettuce, kale, beets, NINE (!) zucchini, three cucumbers, blueberries, green beans, cabbage, and japanese eggplant. My new favorite breakfast has become sautéed mixed veggies with scrambled eggs. This uses up a lot of veggies, but there are still plenty left!

While I’ve never been a huge fan of squash in general, I’m starting to like it more and more, which is a good thing, since it seems to be a plentiful ingredient in my weekly mystery boxes. I’ve come to really enjoy zucchini, mostly because it’s just so darn versatile! It’s got a very mild flavor of its own, which makes it perfect for cooking with other things with stronger flavors. It just takes on the taste of whatever you cook it with. By cooking these in “boat” form instead of chopping them up, the zucchini stays nice and firm and absorbs all the yummy tastes of whatever you stuff it with. I had some salami on its last legs and wonderful feta and those big flavors paired so nicely with the more mild zucchini. You could stuff yours with whatever meats, veggies and/or cheeses you have on hand or try this combo. I made a nice creamy polenta to go with it. You can keep it plain and simple, or mix in a bunch of fresh herbs and veggies to bump up the flavor.

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped salami or pepperoni
1/4 cup chopped feta
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt & pepper

Cut eat zucchini in half, lengthwise. Scoop out some of the seeds, making a boat to hold the filling. Chop up some or all of the scooped zucchini. Put in a small bowl with salami, feta and tomatoes and lightly mix. Heap the filling into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper. Bake at 375˚ for 10-15 minutes, until zucchini is tender.

Herbed Polenta

1 cup dry polenta
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped fine (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil & thyme)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta. Turn heat down to low and cover. Cook 5-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. While polenta is cooking, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in another pan. Remove polenta from heat and stir in mushroom mixture, herbs, cheese, butter and salt & pepper. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Note: After cooling, polenta will solidify into a block, which you can then slice and pan fry or bake or broil. I usually save the leftovers and pan fry it with eggs for breakfast.

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Polenta Veggie Bowl

I have so many recipes picked out and marked on my weekly menu, and yet…they sit there mostly ignored lately. The reason is that fresh produce is happening, and when I go to farmer’s market, I don’t really make a list. I just buy whatever looks great and is priced right. Usually whatever is coming off the plants is not only the tastiest, but also the cheapest, since it is ripe and plentiful. Of course I buy more than I plan to, because everything looks delicious and then I have a pile of stuff that needs to be used pretty quickly. Aside from the veggies, there is hummus, and fresh goat cheese and oh my, so many wonderful things. And all of this lives in my kitchen during these months. Which all adds up to ignoring my recipes and throwing random ingredients together.

This is a terrific weeknight meal, since it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and uses no weird ingredients (if you consider any of these ingredients weird you can swap it for something more “normal” if you’d like). As far as vegetarian meals go, this one is very satisfying.

So set aside your Pinterest recipe board and your cookbooks and magazines, and join me by throwing together whatever random veggies and cheese YOU like and using them to top off a bowl of piping hot and creamy polenta. Mmmm. This is the combo I made, but feel free to substitute. I don’t mind a bit.

Polenta Veggie Bowl

Polenta Veggie Bowl with Goat Cheese. 

Polenta Veggie Bowl
(serves 2)

1 cup polenta
Olive oil
1-2 zucchini
6 (or more) cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
6-8 olives (I used green castelvetrano olives, but any kind is fine)
Basil
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup milk
2 oz. goat cheese, divided

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water or broth to a boil. Add polenta and a pinch of salt. Give it a stir, cover, and turn down heat to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and polenta is soft and creamy. Remove from heat. Add butter, milk, half of the goat cheese and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk into the polenta until creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add zucchini, tomatoes and olives. Cook 2-3 minutes until zucchini is softened but still firm. Taste and season with salt & pepper if needed.

Scoop polenta into a bowl and serve the veggies on top. Sprinkle with remaining goat cheese.

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Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

Last week it was raining in Oregon.  I know, it’s a shocker.  This month I’m doing a 30-day walking challenge, which means instead of enjoying the gentle tapping of raindrops on my roof, I was out slogging away in it, getting drenched in the process.  It’s not all bad.  It smells good.  It’s not very cold.  Things could definitely be worse.  However, all that rain made me wish for a boat.  Since I had no boat, I decided to set sail on zucchini boats instead.

If you haven’t tried polenta, this is a simple but delicious recipe to get you started.  It might look basic, but it was the perfect rich, creamy counter balance for my crunchy, zesty zucchini boats.   If you have any left over, put it in a dish or pan in the fridge and it will set up solid.  Then slice and pan fry, grill or bake it for a crunchy little cake.  It’s like two foods in one!

I made this as a main dish, but if you want something a little heartier, it would be great with a side of chicken or fish or pork chop or…you get the idea.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta.  Mmmm.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta. Mmmm.

Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

4 zucchini
1 cup chopped tomato
4 oz. goat cheese
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
3-4 green onions, sliced and divided
1 cup dry polenta
4 cups water or broth
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Slice each zucchini lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop the seeds out of your zucchini.

A little zucchini canoe.

A little zucchini canoe.

Fill your boats with tomatoes, cheese and half the green onions.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until zucchini is tender.

While the zucchini boats are cooking, bring 4 cups of water or broth to a boil.  Add one cup of polenta.  Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in butter, cream cheese and the rest of the green onions.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Ladle some polenta onto a plate and top with zucchini boats.  Serves 4.

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Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Even though I love veggies, I still occasionally come across one I haven’t tried before.  This week at farmer’s market, a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard caught my eye.  I had to buy it.

Rainbow Chard.  Isn't it pretty?

Rainbow Chard. Isn’t it pretty?

I asked the vendor how he normally cooks it and he sheepishly admitted that he’d never actually tried it himself.  What?  So…left to my own devices I went home and dug up some recipes online and hit on one that we all really liked.

I’m usually not a big fan of greens.  I didn’t grow up eating them, so I’ve slowly introduced myself to them.  I like almost all of them raw, and just recently have started cooking them now and then.  While I would not consider chard (or any leafy greens really) to be an entry level vegetable, I really enjoyed this.  While raw, it was quite bitter, but a quick saute mellowed the bite substantially.  The sweetness of the shallot and vinegar and smokiness of the bacon complemented the slight bitterness of the greens, adding up to a tasty dish indeed.   Add a creamy, cheesy polenta for contrast and it was absolutely delicious.  If you’re wondering if the kids will eat it, I can only say that mine both cleaned their plates with a smile on their faces.

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta
(from Sunset)

1 cup polenta
1/2 tsp. salt
4 slices thick cut bacon
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large bunches rainbow chard, ribs cut into 1/2 inch sections and leaves roughly chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Cook polenta with salt as package directs.  Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.

Discard bacon fat and heat olive oil in the same pan. Cook shallots, garlic and chard ribs until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chard leaves, chile flakes and 1/3 cup water.  Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Stir butter and cheese into polenta and spoon into bowls.  Toss chard with vinegar and spoon over polenta.  Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top.  Serves 4.

Note:  This meal can easily be made vegetarian by simply eliminating the bacon.

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Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

I’ve never been a fan of grits.  I think it’s one of those things you have to grow up eating to appreciate.  But I love polenta.  This doesn’t really make sense because they are basically the same thing.  And yet, it’s true.  I don’t know if it’s the way it’s cooked, or the way it’s presented or if it’s just in my head.  I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter.  In any case, this post is about polenta.  Which is wonderful.  Especially when you mix cream cheese and butter into it.  If you are on a gluten-free diet, or just wanting something different from rice or potatoes to smother with something, eat this.  You can thank me later.

Topping off the polenta is a delicious mushroom and sausage concoction.  Together it was heaven on a plate.  When I first showed this recipe to my daughter Claire she was suspicious of the whole thing.  It didn’t look like much.  But in the end, she made the loudest yummy noises of all.  This disappeared in record time but it will definitely be making a reappearance in our kitchen very soon!

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 – 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

To make polenta, bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and butter.

Meanwhile, eat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.  Serve over polenta.

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Mini Polenta Pizzas

Polenta is one of those ingredients I forget about.  That is, until I have some and then I think, “oh yeah, I love this stuff!”.  There are two ways I really like it: one is cooked creamy, like rice or grits (although oddly, I don’t like grits), preferably loaded with some sort of creamy cheese.  The other way I love it is when it is set up solid, and then fried so it’s a little crispy on the outside.

To fry polenta, you can make it yourself and then cook it in a pan to set up solid, then cut it into pieces and pan-fry it.  Or, if you are rather lazy like me, you can buy it pre-made in a tube!  Now, usually food in a tube grosses me out, but this stuff is pretty good, without much in the way of added ingredients.  Simply remove it from the tube and slice it up into disks.  Fry or bake to your heart’s content or use it in whatever recipe strikes your fancy.

In this case, I was in the mood for pizza.  But I’m trying to eat more healthy, and also trying to cut down on gluten-heavy foods since they seem to love my hips (and why wouldn’t they?).  So the idea for using polenta disks instead of crust was born.  Since I had just broken in my new food processor by making the first batch of pesto out of my garden, I decided on pesto instead of red sauce and with a couple of fresh veggies and stretchy cheese…voila!  Pizza in a quickie, fairly healthy, bite-size form. Can I just say, I’m somewhat of a genius?

Mini Polenta Pizzas

Mini Polenta Pizzas

1 tube of pre-made polenta
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1/2 cup basil pesto (store bought or homemade)
Fresh garden or vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
Zucchini, sliced in disks or diced
Mozzarella cheese, shredded or thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Slice polenta into disks, about 1/2 inch thick.  Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Take out of the oven and smear tops with pesto.

Mmmm….pesto!

Build your pizza with your favorite toppings.  We used fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese.

Fresh and beautiful toppings

Pop back into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to brown in spots.  Remove from oven and let it sit for just a few minutes.  If you eat them when they are really hot, you’ll need a fork.  If you wait a little bit you can pick them up.  Up to you!  One tube of polenta yields about 10 mini pizzas.

Right out of the oven. And those crunchy cheese bits on the pan all got eaten too!

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