Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A-ha Moments: Kitchen Edition

I'm back!  Forgive the sporadic posting these weeks, if you will.  I've got one more bout of business travel ahead and then I'm going to settle in for a long and quiet winter, with lots of inspiration up my sleeve and regular posting to do.  In the meantime, I've been cooking up a storm when I'm home, as the grounding counterpoint to the frenetic pace of my work life at the moment.  As a result, I've had a couple of cooking a-ha moments in the last week that I must share...

Firstly, one word: mini-muffins.  We registered for a mini-muffin tin when we got married, and for many years it didn't see a lot of action, and seemed kind of a silly thing to want in retrospect.  I now wholeheartedly take back that notion.  In a house with the following residents: toddler who likes to nosh, mom who doesn't want to commit to a whole muffin, dad who likes just a spot of dessert after dinner (but nothing too huge), mini-muffins are a no-brainer.  I'm now making a weekly batch of mini-muffins, which are thoroughly enjoyed by all.  Lil' J has even taken to standing by the part of the kitchen counter where we've been storing the container of muffins, reaching his arms up with all of his might, and shouting passionately "Muff!!! Muff!!!".  Very gratifying.  My current favorite recipe, with pumpkin on sale for .99 cents a can at Whole Foods, is the classic pumpkin bread in The Joy of Cooking.  The batter only takes about 15 minutes to bake into perfect mini-muffins.
Secondly, three words: yellow corn grits (aka polenta).  I'd forgotten what a cheap, easy staple grits can be.  They act as a base for so many delicious meals, and are even more versatile that risotto in that way, and lot more low maintenance.  Last night we were in desperate need of comfort food, so I roasted a chicken for dinner.  On the side, I made a great batch of polenta that was to die for and so easy, it barely merits a recipe, but here you go:
Monday Night Polenta
Serves 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme are especially good choices)
1 cup yellow corn grits (aka polenta)
4 cups veggie or chicken broth
1 cup grated cheese (I used Cabot 50% Light Cheddar, but any cheddar or parmesan would be great)
1) Heat oil in a a large pot.  Add chopped veggies and fresh herbs and saute for 10 minutes.
2) Add broth and bring to a boil.  Add polenta.
3) Stir with a whisk until the mixture thickens to your liking, about 8 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste. Voila!

I love to eat grits in a creamy pile in a bowl, topped with some protein (like killer roasted chicken and its jus).  But you can also save whatever is leftover in a lightly greased Pyrex dish or pie plate, and cut it into perfect squares or triangles to reheat the next day.  Polenta reheats beautifully in the microwave, or you can get fancy and heat olive oil in a pan and sear the outside of your polenta sqaures, creating a great, crispy crust, then pop them in a low oven until they are heated through.  You can see how this is an all-around winner. 

This morning I was craving more grits, so I popped a nice serving of our leftovers in the microwave and quickly fried an egg to go over the top.  The results were so satiating and nourishing; the perfect start to my day with some strong coffee.  The deliciousness of it all got me thinking of the endless possibilities of grits for breakfast, and I went to the interwebs looking for further inspiration.  The variety of breakfast options I found were diverse and beautiful... check them out!
From The Kitchn: polenta cooked with butternut squash, topped with candied pecans and a dollop of whipped mascarpone.
 From 101 Cookbooks: yellow polenta topped with toasted almonds, dried fruits, and a drizzle of cream and honey.
 From Saveur: Parmesan Polenta with Eggs and Roasted Mushrooms
Expect to see more variations on polenta when this period of travel comes to a close!  
So many possibilities, so little time!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, do I ever love polenta! Thanks for sharing all of these recipe ideas. What a perfect dinner for these chilly fall evenings! The farm families who own Cabot appreciate your Cabot recommendation- and so do I! :-)