You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.

Polenta is a good idea when you’re tired of the usual starchy dishes. It is basically corn meal mush allowed to firm up. It is then sliced and used as a base for sauce and/or cheese.


4 cups water

1 cup polenta

Dash of salt

Bring water to a rolling boil and very slowly sprinkle polenta into the water while stirring all the while. Reduce the heat once it comes back to a boil. Continue stirring while the polenta simmers. As it thickens it begins to splatter. Once it’s fairly thick, it’s okay to leave it for a couple minutes at a time, so stir frequently instead of constantly. A spatter guard is a huge help. The process of simmering and stirring takes about 25 minutes. The polenta should be quite thick. Coat a 8×8″ square pan with olive oil and pour the polenta into it. Smooth out the top with a spatula as best you can. Once it’s cooled a little, place it into the refrigerator for an hour or longer.

Polenta is a much larger and rougher grind than corn meal. Here is one cup of polenta.

Stir constantly at first until the polenta absorbs the water evenly.

Once it starts to thicken you will want a spatter guard on it. You should stir frequently, instead of constantly.

Looks thick enough now. 25 minutes has elapsed.

Voila! Polenta.

I have to confess that I’ve never had polenta outside of what I’ve made myself in my own kitchen. I’m assuming I’ve done it right because it tastes good. I’ve seen prepared polenta in plastic tubes at the grocery. It looks like you would slice the tube into rounds and then assemble the dish that way. Someday I may try that.

Polenta Parmesan

Prepared polenta


Favorite marinara-type sauce

Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Cut the 8×8″ pan of polenta into 9 squares. Lift out each square, turn it so you see the short side, and slice in half. Now you have eighteen slices, roughly the same size. Lay nine of the squares out on a baking dish (a 9×13″ will work, but another size might work better-see below) which has been coated with olive oil. Top each polenta square with a piece mozzarella, then sauce. Then top the sauce with another slice of polenta, cheese, and sauce. Sprinkle the whole thing with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Cut polenta into squares and lift out of the pan.

Here are the slices.

My sauce has BIG chunks of Italian sausage in it, so my little polenta stacks look a bit topsy-turvy. TASTES great. Doesn't present very well, though. Sigh. See what you can do. My nine polentas wouldn't fit in the pan so I split one in half, it's on the right side of the picture.

Just before it goes into the oven.


Serve! Goes well with Eggplant au Gratin.

This is a dish I make frequently. It is so simple.

You will need olive oil, one eggplant, bread crumbs, and seasoning. That’s it!

Slice an eggplant crosswise into 1″ slices. Drizzle olive oil into a 9X13″ pan. I start with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Dip each eggplant slice into olive oil so that each side of the slice is coated. You will need to add more olive oil as you go through the slices. As you’re done coating a slice, just slide it to one edge of the pan. When finished, both your pan and your eggplant should be coated with olive oil. Lay the eggplant out in a single layer (I have done this by offset stacking and it works, too, just not as pretty). Now, sprinkle the top of each slice with bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs with seasoned salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and parsley (whatever floats your boat). Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top, not much. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. You can stick a fork in one slice and it should feel quite tender.

These are meant to be eaten at room temperature so can be baked ahead of time, but they taste okay while hot. They tend to lose quite a bit of firmness in the refrigerator, but still taste okay. Usually, we don’t have any left to put in the refrigerator. My favorite way to eat these is to snatch them from the pan with my fingers about half hour after baking and pop them into my mouth. I can go through quite a few of them that way. I dislike sharing, I guess. Last thing: sometimes you can buy really small eggplant and I have prepared them the same way as this, only slicing in half lengthwise and sprinkling bread crumbs, etc. on each half.

This is the dish just before the last drizzle of olive oil

Here's how it should look right before you place it into the oven.

Out of the oven

Finished product

First, I must give credit to Sunset Magazine for this recipe. It was in their June 1990 issue in an article called Summer Fruit Pies, chock-full of pie recipes. It’s like my pie-recipe Bible. There are so many pieces of scotch tape holding that issue together, it’s incredible. This strawberry pie is my favorite. I like it because you make the glaze yourself from whole strawberries. There aren’t any artificial dyes or gelatin in it. My big pie confession is that I can’t make a pie crust to save my life. Every few years I try, but without success. I buy the crusts found in the refrigerated section of the grocery, the kind you unroll. Today is March 17, 2012, St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite food holidays. I’ve got corned beef boiling on the stove top and Irish soda bread planned. The strawberry pie is the pièce de résistance of the meal.


Starting at the end. Here is the finished pie. Making the food pretty isn't my strong gift, but one taste of this is all that's necessary for transport to food heaven.

Mix together in pan: sugar, corn starch, and grated orange peel.

Choose 2 cups of the least perfect strawberries.

Whirl strawberries with water until smoothly pureed.

Add strawberry puree to sugar mixture in pan and stir very well.

Cook, stirring often, over medium high heat until mixture comes to a full boil, about 5 minutes. Stir in orange liqueur to taste.

Arrange remaining strawberries, tips up, in a pastry shell.

Spoon hot cooked berry mixture over whole fruit, covering completely.

Orange Blossom-Strawberry Pie

6 to 7 cups strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. grated orange peel

6 Tbsp. water

2 to 3 Tbsp. orange-flavor liqueur or 2 Tbsp. thawed frozen orange juice concentrate

Baked pastry for a single-crust 9” pie

Rinse strawberries and drain dry on absorbent towels; hull fruit.

In a 1 to 1-1/2-quart pan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and orange peel. In a blender or food processor, whirl 2 cups of the least perfect strawberries with water until smoothly puréed; pour purée into pan, medium-high heat until mixture comes to a full boil, about 5 minutes. Stir in orange liqueur to taste.

Arrange remaining strawberries, tips up, in pastry shell; evenly spoon the hot cooked berry glaze mixture over whole fruit, covering completely. Chill until glaze is cool and set, at least 1 hour or covered, up until next day. Cut into wedges. Serves 8 or 9.

A lot of people like to add a dollop of whipped cream to their slice.

Here is a rich dinner dish which goes well with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Candied Meatballs

3/4 lb. ground beef

¼ cup cream

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ cup bread crumbs

1 egg

2 Tbsp. minced onion

½ tsp. salt

Dash garlic powder

Dash pepper

½ tsp. chili powder


1 cup catsup

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. liquid smoke

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. mined onion

To make meatballs, combine ingredients and shape into 2″ meatballs. Place in a 8×8” baking dish. To make sauce, combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Spoon over meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves about 3.

This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9×13″ baking dish. It’s also good with ground moose or caribou instead of ground beef.

Mix the meatball ingredients together and form into balls. Stir the sauce ingredients together.

Spoon the sauce over the meatballs.

Voila! Done.

This is a recipe idea that developed over the course of the afternoon. It’s based upon a Moroccan Lemon Chicken recipe that I really like, but I wanted to use other ingredients I had on hand. Over the past couple years I have purchased multi-packs of lean pork roasts from Costco. Most people probably make pulled pork with them, but they’re easy to cube for stews as well. I also had the last of those zucchinis from the on-sale dinner the other day. Plus, I bought a bag of lemons which are not lasting as long as I had hoped. Since I’m still playing around with the mechanics of posting, I’ve placed the recipe first and the photo instructions second. It’s hard to know whether most people favor reading or a visual representation.


1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. ground cardamom

1.5 lbs. lean pork roast, cut into 1” cubes

1 quart chicken stock

2 lemons

1 cup lentils

3 small zucchinis, diced

Salt & pepper

In large pot, fry onions and garlic in 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium low heat until softened. Stir in turmeric and fry for another 2 minutes. [The aroma at this point is sublime.] Add paprika, cumin, coriander, and cardamom and continue frying over low heat for 2 minutes more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in the pot and brown the pork pieces. The remnants of the turmeric should turn the pork a golden color. If not, add a pinch more of turmeric.

Return the onion mixture to the pot and pour in the chicken broth. Juice one of the lemons and add the juice. Cut the other lemon into quarters and add them. Stir in the lentils. Cover and let simmer for 35-60 minutes, depending upon how old your lentils are and how mushy you like them. Add zucchini and simmer until they’re cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

Chop onions and garlic. Saute in olive oil until soft.

Add spices and saute. Your kitchen will smell SO good!

Cut pork roast into 1" pieces.

Remove onion-garlic-spice mix from pan and set aside. Add olive oil to pan and saute pork pieces until browned.

Add chicken broth, lemon juice, lemon, and lentils. Simmer until lentils are cooked.

Add zucchini and simmer until zucchini is cooked.

This is what it looks like when finished.

And serve like stew, pictured here, or over rice.

We invited dinner guests who had given up meat for Lent, so we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches, broccoli cheese soupclassic salad and cranberry cake.  We had provolone tomato sandwiches and fried egg cheddar sandwiches. What I want to tell you about is the Eggplant Provolone Sandwich. I’ve become such a huge fan of eggplant. You will see more recipes in the coming weeks. I discovered that a lot of that salting and draining, and whatever it is that they do to eggplant before actually cooking with it, is often a huge waste of time. What I’ve described below works for me and tastes sweet and delicious.

Because I used a round loaf of sourdough bread, I sliced the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2″ slices. They fit nicely onto the bread that way. You could slice them into rounds if that’s what will fit your bread better. Slice the skin of each piece of eggplant every inch or so. [I did not want anyone to bite into their sandwich and pull out the entire eggplant piece because they couldn’t break the skin with their teeth.] Dip an eggplant slice into flour and then into an egg wash (2 eggs mixed with 2 Tbsp. water) and fry in olive oil on medium until well browned and cooked through. You will have to add more olive oil as you go through the batches. The eggplant should be tender when stuck with a fork. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble the sandwich, place sliced provolone cheese on bread slice, followed by eggplant, then provolone, then top bread slice, then butter. Place buttered side down on hot griddle, then butter top. Watch the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Provolone melts quite easily, so this should go quickly. Turn over to brown the other side. Remove from heat, cut in half, serve.

I ran into a neighbor at the grocery store last week and she told me to go check out the sale produce in the back of the store next to the seafood. Amazing. That day I came home with about 10 bell pepper of various colors for $2.99. That’s what the regular price is for each one. I got the whole bag! Two days ago I picked up a bag of russet potatoes (I’d guess 10 pounds) for $1.99 and a bag of mixed bell peppers and zucchini for $2.99. We are in produce heaven. Tonight I made a zucchini dish of my own invention.

After you scoop out a lot of the flesh, lay the zucchinis in a greased 11×7″ baking dish and place pieces of mozzarella on top.
Cover with sauce.
Sprinkle croutons over the top.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes. You may need to place a foil tent over the top at about 45 minutes if it gets too brown. YUMMY!

Zucchini Parmesan Bake

1 pound bulk Italian sausage

7 apx. 7″ long zucchini squash

1 jar favorite marinara-type pasta sauce (I like Safeway Arrabiata-very spicy)

8 oz. mozzarella (I like fresh, but the other should be fine)

1 6oz. package seasoned croutons

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Fry the Italian sausage in a medium pan until no longer pink. While it is cooking, cut the ends off zucchini and scoop out the soft seed part. Zucchini becomes quite watery while cooking and you want to remove a lot of the interior flesh. Chop the scooped out parts and add to the cooked sausage. Saute a little longer. Add pasta sauce to the Italian sausage mixture and let simmer for an hour, uncovered.

To assemble the dish, lay out the zucchini shells in a greased 11×7″ pan. Cut the mozzarella into pieces and lay the pieces into the zucchini shells. Cover everything with sauce. Sprinkle croutons across the top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Place a foil tent lightly over the top at about 45 minutes if it starts getting too brown. Remove from heat when you see it bubbling. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

If you want to make your own sauce and your own croutons, by all means do so. Tonight I used what I had on hand. It was quick and easy. The croutons worked very well to absorb the water created by the cooking zucchini.

What kind?