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Archive for the ‘polenta’ Category

spanish-stack2

I know that Stacked Food is oh, so very five seasons ago and since then the uber chefs of the world have moved on and through many other fancies and fads.  We’ve had Fusion illusion, Tasting Menus and Tapa’s everything and now we’re looking at 100 mile menu’s and locavore, seasonal, home style cooking.  All of which I’ve loved and lavished my attentions upon in turn in as much as I love food in it’s myriad of forms.  The simple truth is that I  am honestly as happy eating beans on toast in a greasy spoon as I am sampling the delicacies of the best sushi houses with the manicured and be-sequined.  But there’s something about the stack that I keep coming back to.  I think that at the end of the day, for a generally competent home cook, it’s such a simple technique that usually leaves me looking far more accomplished than I ever could be in front of a table of hungry guests.  I love the way it leaves space on the plate for sides and sauces and I love that it’s obvious that the various layers where thought about and meant to be eaten together, to compliment each other; instead of a random selection of cooked things from what I happened to have in the cupboard at the time.

* note: I served this with Polenta at the base of the stack, cooked with water and a teaspoon of rosemary , finished with some Spanish goat cheese for a bit of cheesy zing.  I’m not giving you the recipe for that as it’s pretty straight forward, non? There was a fresh salad of greens on the side and watercress as a garnish.

**you may be tempted to use a nasty wine in the dish; try not to.  Use what ever you’re drinking at the table, you’ll taste the difference.

spanish-stack1

Spanish Stack with Chorizo

Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
100 – 150g Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
100ml dry red wine
½ large (or 1 small) red pepper, thickly sliced
1 Chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
pinch nutmeg
½tsp dried Rosemary
salt to taste

1 med head broccoli, florets only
1 medium shallot
2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

– heat olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan or skillet.

– gently cook the mushrooms with the onion and until soft.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramalise.

– deglaze with the wine then add the pepper and chorizo, then the spices and herbs.  Simmer until the peppers are soft, about 10 mins.

– in a food processor, process the broccoli florets with the shallot until finely chopped (or chop by hand)

– heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the broccoli/shallot with the sesame seeds for just a few minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Season to taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

-Layer your stack starting with the polenta, topped with the chorizo melange and ending with the broccoli.  The watercress garnish worked very well with all those richer flavours.

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Autumnal Stuffed Squash

I love squash. I was brought up eating gem squash a couple of times a week, steamed in a pot and mashed up in the half shell with a slathering of salted butter and black pepper. Yum. I don’t know why we don’t eat that many any more, but when I saw these beautiful, variegated, stripey squash in amongst the first autumn pumpkins I knew just exactly what I was going to do with them: stuff ’em! And even though it’s still warm out (amazingly, thinking back to the wet, chilly September we had last year) I’m filled with the excitement and energy autumn seems to bring me and a really, truly Autumn meal is just what the doctor ordered, especially when served with a divine, meaty South African Cabernet. Oh, my!

Stuffed Autumn Squash

1 Kale leaf, chopped
2 Beet leaves, chopped (use the ones from a bunch of beets if they’re fresh and not wilted)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, finely chopped
⅓ – ½ cup mushrooms, finely chopped
5 – 6 meat balls ( or a bit of cooked mince, or some pancetta, chopped)
handful chopped parsley
2 – 3 Tbsp chopped Almonds
salt and pepper to taste

1 or 2 squash, halved and deseeded
Camembert cheese, enough for a chunk on each squash half

– preheat oven to 400˚F

– simply mix all ingredients in a bowl, seasoning to taste, and fill the cavities of each squash. You might have filling left over. Bake this in a bowl along with the squash for a great lunch treat. Top each squash with a generous chunk of Camembert.

– bake the squash for about 40 – 50 mins or until squash is tender when poked with a fork. Serve with polenta or mashed potato

Autumn Kale

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Tomato Medley with Shitake and Marrows

A tomato is a tomato. Or is it? I’ve been doing some reading, which if I remember, I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about tomato’s. Turns out that the baskets and baskets of fresh Field Tomatoes we’re seeing in the supermarkets and food markets this time of year are quite probably the most watery, least flavourful tomatoes one can buy. Other than middle of February, shipped from Australia or some such Tomatoes, that is. The reasons have a lot to do with the industrialisation of food growing over the last 50 or so years and the scientific “improvements” catastrophe’d upon this once exotic fruit to insure a crop which grows fast, large and resists things like bugs and weather. Large yields equals large profit for the farmer. I found out the truth of this first hand by buying various tomatoes from various sources and the bulk-available, large, red ones were by far the blandest.

I’ve made a promise to myself to only buy tomatoes from the Organic Farmers Market and make them last as long through the week as they can. And what a difference! Each bite packs a punch of plenitude. Raw, cooked, sliced, diced and just pooped straight in the mouth. Yum. Now I fully understand why Ms R, a friend living in the Cornwall countryside of Ontario, has pledged to eat nothing but her own tomatoes, out of her garden. I remember an email from her last year where she was impatiently looking forward to her lunch, which was going to be her first tomato of the season sliced, with salt and pepper, on fresh bread. And what a lunch it would have been, no doubt, after so many months without a fresh tomato! I remember from many years ago when I lived in Ottawa as a student for a year, she would send through frozen tubs of home made pasta sauces to cook up for dinners. Delicious! Over the Summer, as her garden produced more tomatoes, peppers, marrows than the family could consume, Ms R cooked up large batched of sauces; Ragu, primavera and so on, to be frozen and used through the long Winter months of snow and cold and on until the next seasons produce were plump in the garden again. How I wish I had my own little patch of garden delights to tend!

Three Tomatoes

Tomato Medley with Shitake, Marrow and Polenta

Golden cherry tomatoes, halved, to make up a cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
good grinding of fresh black pepper
chopped basil, to make about ¼ cup
2 or 3 small yellow tomatoes (I used the low acid Peach Delight), sliced
2 or 3 small red tomatoes, sliced
cubed white cheese, I used a Basque sheeps milk cheese called Etorki, to make about ⅓ cup
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
pinch ground sage
10 – 12 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 marrow or zucchini, cut in half; 1 half grated coarsely, 1 half cut in half lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper
Parmigiano or parmesan to finish

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– in a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt pepper and 2 Tbsp of the basil, mix well. Add cherry tomatoes and mix.

– in a foil lined tin, bake the tomato mix for 40 mins, basting with the juice after 20 mins

– in a Saute pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 min until the garlic becomes fragrant

– add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add marrow or zucchini and bring to a low simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid on while you prepare the polenta.

– make the polenta according to the manufacturer’s instruction. I prefer to make mine with water, not milk, and I add 1 tsp ground mustard while it’s cooking and finish it off with a little dollop of butter and about 2 Tbsp Parmigiano.

– arrange the sliced tomatoes around the plate, top with the sheeps cheese and baked cherry tomatoes; reserving the juice and oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

– dish up the polenta, topped with the shitake marrow mix. Drizzle the juice and oil from the tomatoes over the dish and salad. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano.

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Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa

I never new much about eggplants growing up. The reason, I found out when my parents visited us here in Toronto a while ago and I was doing all the cooking, is that my Dad abhors this beautiful, delicately flavoured fruit and so we never had it in the house. Oh, the disappointment of not being able to make my Iranian Eggplant and lentil stew, flavoured with pomegranate and fresh mint for them during their time here.

It was the colour of the skin which first attracted me to the eggplant a few years ago.  That rich, almost black shade of purple, so mysterious and reminiscent of stories of Arabian Nights and Vincent’s Starry Sky. I  tried a bunch of things with the Aubergine, fumbling around for a while not knowing what to do with it.  Do you eat it raw?  Do you put it in a stir fry?  Until I got to know it a bit better, did a bit of reading and discovered a few ways of turning it’s slightly rubbery, raw flesh into the creamy, flavoursome meal it can be.  I still hold hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll be able to twist me ol’ Dad’s arm and make him change his mind about this yummy food.

Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa Sicilian salsa

1 large, firm eggplant, sliced into 1cm slices
Salt
Olive oil for frying

⅓ cup black nicoise, pitted
1½ Tbsp small capers
3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1½ cups bottles tomato pasta sauce, heated

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

goats cheese

Polenta – made as per packet instructions and kept warm

– place slices of eggplant on paper towel and salt. Leave for half an hour to sweat. Dry with paper towel.

– place olives, capers, anchovy, shallot, garlic and thyme in a processor and blitz until finely chopped but not paste. Or chop all ingredients finely by hand and mix. Refrigerate for half and hour to allow flavour to develop.

– fry eggplant in olive oil in batches until lightly browned and tender. Add more oil as needed and drain on paper towel.

– place a serving of polenta on plate. Add a slice of eggplant, top with tomato sauce and repeatto use 3 or 4 slices of eggplant.

– top with about 1½ Tbsp goats cheese. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes under a hot grill, until cheese starts to bubble slightly.

– remove from oven and garnish well with salsa and pinenuts

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