Monday, December 10, 2007

Scratch Polenta Sort of Easy: Thanks to New Book

Every Chanukah I get a cookbook from the lovely mother in law and this year was no exception. I am now the proud owner of "Adventures of an Italian Food Lover: With Recipes from 254 of My Very Best Friends," by Faith Heller Willinger, a woman who has lived in Tuscany for thirty years and clearly wants to let you know this fact. This book is about her travels to various restaurants in Italy complete with recipes (and lots and lots of plugs). It is organized by region, in a way that would make Mr. Fodor, but not Julia Child, proud. She also had her sister do the drawings for the book. While the illustrations are not what I would put in my book, and the writing style is sort of acceptable, there are a few recipes that may make it worthwhile for you to buy the book.

Many of the recipes are simple, most look tasty, and the two I tried both worked. A spaghetti and Parmesan recipe was so simple I am embarrassed to post anything about it (but I will, in the next few days) yet devoured by the lovely wife, me, boy 1 and boy 2 with relish (the quadrifecta!). I also tried a polenta dish, a variation of which is below, which was also quite simple. It also represents the first time in my life I had made successfully polenta from scratch. The trick is to boil it briefly and then pour it into a double boiler to cook. This made it quite tasty and not at all gloppy. The polenta was then topped with sausage and tomato sauce.


1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt for the cornmeal
6 cups water

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomatoes (I used on can and one cup of chopped fresh tomatoes. In season, I would just use the fresh)
2 tablespoons olive oil

6 sausages (about one pound): 3 sweet and 3 hot
freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Fry pan
Fouble boiler
Second pan

Boil the water. Slowly add the corn meal, whisking as hard as you can to avoid lumps. Add the tablespoon of salt. After it boils a bit, transfer the whole thing to a double boiler. Keep whisking out lumps (there will be lumps). Cook about 45 minutes, whisking when you remember too. You will likely have to reseason with more salt prior to serving. The polenta shouldn't be to thick (it thickens when it cools a little).

While this is going on, remove the sausage meat from its casing and sautee until brown. Set aside.

Brown the garlic and add the tomatoes. cook about 10 minutes, until everything is soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

The original recipe calls for just throwing everything together into the center of the table. However, I found that combining the ingredients into single servings in a bowl (you could use a plate) worked well and was a lot neater.

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