polenta on the grill


polenta on the grill

I got adventurous the other weekend.  I made an amazing flank stead rolled up with all kinds of yumminess inside and grilled it off.  But I was in need of a side dish.  So this post is not about the amazing flank steak, but instead, finding a suitable side dish.  Disappointed?  Sorry.  Maybe I will muster up that post another time!  Since my husband and I were, (or constantly are) in the midst of self-hatred when it comes to diet choices, I figured mashed potatoes were out as a side option.  The kids were so tired of brown rice that they said they would rather have beets.  Ok, so they didn’t say that, but I understood their complaint (considering that my father thinks beets taste like dirt, I never really have tried them, and so I have yet to introduce them into my household).  I  needed something to go with the meat and salad I was preparing, but what do you plug in that fills that carb void?  French fry nachos?  Now that’s a thought…(note for the Superbowl!).  Scrolling through iPad land, I came across a polenta recipe that seemed to fit right in.  It was creamy and had sautéed veggies in it and cheese.  Now I need to sell the family on polenta.  I remember a few years ago though, buying the tube of polenta that you could cut into discs and grill or sauté.  After maybe the second time preparing them…probably topping them with an arugula salad or something…my husband finally told me that he felt he was eating what he described as preformed nastiness – dogfood-like crap, and that I didn’t need to make that dish any longer.  He can be direct.  Looking at this recipe, however, this preparation was different.  The polenta could be cooked in a cast iron skillet on the grill, and you could add to it pretty much whatever you wanted.  Now self-hatred aside, yes, there is cheese, but I didn’t go crazy.  I used some feta and some parmesan.  In another life where I could prance around in a size nothing and bloating didn’t exist, I would opt for cheddar craziness, goat cheese or even gouda….anything else but feta!  But this tasted good.  I was thrilled, and so was the family.  I could cook it right on the grill and not have to jump between the steak and the stove.  Win win!  Plus, it didn’t taste like beets!

pancetta

polenta with mushrooms and tomatoes on the grill:

3  TB butter
1  4oz pkg pancetta
1  cup polenta
4  cups hot chicken broth
1  3oz pkg mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup  grape tomatoes, sliced
1  jalapeño, sliced
1/4 cup  crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
black pepper

polentamushrooms

Preheat your grill to medium high heat.  Heat up the stock on your stove or directly on the grill.  Gather all of your ingredients and have them ready at your grill.  Place a 10 inch or larger cast iron skillet on the grill.  Add the butter so it starts to melt.  Add the pancetta and render until browned but not crispy.  Add the polenta and give a quick stir.  Pour the hot broth over, and gently whisk to prevent any lumps forming.  Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to get thick.

pancettaadded polenta

Once thick, add mushrooms, tomatoes and jalapeños.  Stir to combine.  Let cook on the grill for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in parmesan and feta and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, toast it under the broiler for a minute or two to finish it.

jalapeños

veggiesbroiler

finished polenta

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zucchini and summer squash salad


squash salad

Ah yes, there are those foods that garner immediate food porn photos, the dramatic drooling and the obvious filling of one’s plate.  Then there is squash salad.  Recently, when planning an informal dinner party at the house, I told my husband that I would be making a squash salad.  Talk about a lukewarm response, followed by “…and?”.  That made me really want to try this and see if it could pass the party test.  I had a similar recipe from Tyler Florence (not personally…though, that would be SWEET)  which sounds a bit fancier – Zucchini Carpaccio.  I never made it because of how it sounds – blah.  This recipe came from Cooking Light, and intrigued me a little more – probably because of the ricotta salata and prosciutto.  Needless to say, it was a hit, and as a bonus, it’s a fairly guilt-free food.  My husband gave me the nod to add it to my index of party foods.  The following weekend, I bought the ingredients to make it at a friend’s BBQ.  But there I was again, in the kitchen, and when asked what I was making, I hesitated since it doesn’t grab your attention like other party favorites.  I went with the very formal name of “shaved summer squash with prosciutto crisps”.  Call it whatever you want, the plate will be empty sooner than THEY thought.

summer squash

shaved summer squash salad (adapted from Cooking Light)

1  medium zucchini
2  medium yellow squash
pinch of kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2  TB thinly sliced basil or mint
2  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  tsp. grated lemon rind
2  tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3  slices prosciutto, chopped
1/3  cup crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese

shaved summer squash

pile of squash

get started on the salad:

With a good vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini and squash into strips.  Discard the strips from the center that have a lot of seeds, if you wish (compost!).  Place zucchini and squash in a medium bowl and toss with salt and pepper.  Combine basil, olive oil, lemon rind and juice and stir with a whisk.  Pour over zucchini and squash and toss to coat.  Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add prosciutto and sauté for 2 minutes, or until crisp.  Place salad on a platter and top with crumbled ricotta salata and prosciutto crisps.  Add additional olive oil or lemon juice to your liking!

prosciuttocooked prosciutto

note:  this feeds about six as a family style appetizer.  As a salad, it would feed four people.

summer squash salad