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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fast-Cooking Polenta Saves the Day

We're happy to report that the long-awaited CSA season has arrived. Our first box, from Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia, was heavy with fresh goodies, including a big bunch of kale, a pint of tart cherries, spring onions, summer squash, and zucchini.

Over the years we've been CSA members, we've learned that "the box," as we reverently call it, provides a great service in addition to its reliable load of produce: it reliably provides dinner. As long as our pantry has some grains, herbs, and spices, we always can pull dinner together.

Take last Friday. An exceptionally stress-filled week had left us exhausted, to the point that we didn't even want to go out for a quick bite. At the same time, we hadn't had time to shop for groceries, so the refrigerator shelves were pretty bare. What to do?

We remembered that big bunch of CSA kale. Combined with polenta, it would make a fast, nutritious, delicious dinner. So we trimmed the kale, cut it into thin strips, and sautéed it with a little chopped garlic. We heated the oven to 400 degrees. And we made polenta.

Basically cornmeal mush, polenta is one of the fastest-cooking dishes you can make. You just boil water, whisk in the yellow grains, stir for a few minutes over low heat, and there you have it: an excellent base for just about anything. You can rich it up with globs of gorgonzola or goat cheese, or just a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan; you can cool it and slice it for grilling.

In this case, we combined the mushy cooked polenta (dressed up with a little Parmesan) with the cooked kale and garlic, then transferred the mixture to a pie pan. We baked the polenta pie for about 20 minutes (if we hadn't been in a hurry, we would have let it bake for an additional five or ten minutes, for a light-brown crust). Combined with a fast tomato jam and a crisp chardonnay, this made a fine fast dinner.

1 comment:

  1. Summer has arrived, I guess! How exciting...this polenta looks fantastic!