Archive for ‘Italian Inspiration’

March 17, 2011

Olive and Sun Dried Tomatoes Grilled Polenta

When it comes to making polenta, I have close to no experience. In fact, I have close to no experience with polenta period. I’ve only had it maybe 5 times in my entire life. Or perhaps it was 6. I discovered this delicacy about a year ago, at a restaurant not too far fr0m home. I loved it so much, I almost fell off my chair. I had to go back a few times just for their polenta… until they changed the way they serve it. I didn’t like it. So I tried making it at home. My first try was not very successful. I ended up with a lot of lumps and it was very dry… Tonight’s was a lot better, but still, it wasn’t what I would call creamy. And that is precisely what I love about polenta. The contrast between the creaminess of the interior and the slight crunchiess of the grilled exterior.

Some say you have to cook polenta for like forever. Others say that it’s totally unnecessary, that it won’t make it any creamier. I guess it’s a trial and error thing and once you’ve found a recipe and technique that suits you, then you stick with it. One thing that would make sense to me, however, is that a lot of the creaminess comes from milk, cream, butter and/or parmesan cheese that is often added to the polenta after it’s done cooking. Of course, I don’t want to add any butter or cream or any other kind of fat to my polenta, so I assume I’ll have to settle for a little bit of dryness.

Tonight’s version may not have been decadently rich and creamy, but it was very acceptable nonetheless. Nice and crispy on the exterior, nice and soft on the interior. Definitely what I would call a keeper, although next time I will try cooking it a little bit longer. Unless someone has good tips or suggestions for me, which would be much appreciated, this is the recipe I will be using from now on.

Ingredients
(serves 3-4)

  • 4 cups water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 175 grams polenta
  • about 2 tbsp each: sliced green olives, sliced kalamata, chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 30-40 grams blue cheese, crumbled
  • 30 grams toasted walnuts, crushed
  • Mixed greens
  • Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • In large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add corn meal gradually, whisking continually. Once you have added all the cornmeal, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes or so, until the polenta no longer attaches to the sides.
  • Pour polenta in a 8″ cake pan, coated with cooking spray. Press evenly, cover with plastic film and put in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
  • Take the polenta out of the pan, cut it into 6 or 8 wedges, then cut each wedge horizontally, so that you end up with 2 slices to make a “sandwich”
  • Add a few crumbles of blue cheese and crushed walnuts on one of the 2 halves then top with the other half.
  • Brush with a little bit of olive oil and grill in a non stick pan until nice and golden, about 5-7 minutes per side.
  • Serve on a bed of mixed greens, garnish with a bit more blue cheese crumbles and walnuts, sprinkle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

 

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February 13, 2011

Spinach and Sausage Oven Baked Spaghetti

Tonight, I cheated a little… While not entirely unhealthy, tonight’s meal called for Italian Sausage, which isn’t the healthiest meat you can find. BUT, I have to say that this was the best pasta dish I’ve had in a very long time. I’d even say one of the best I’ve ever had.

Of course, if one wanted to keep the dish clean, they could replace the sausage with lean chicken meat, but I think the taste would suffer some… The combination of  Italian sausage, spinach and basil was simply magical. I will, however, eventually try a chicken version. I just have to!

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January 23, 2011

Spaghetti Chicken Meatballs

Another classic made healthy!

This is not your quick and easy weeknight meal. A good spaghetti sauce demands time, there is no real way around it. I’d say the more time, the better. But I managed to make this one in less than 3 hours, and it turned out pretty good.

For the ground chicken meat, I used boneless, skinless breasts that I cut in pieces and ground in the food processor. That way, I know I am only getting the lean stuff. You can’t really trust that ground chicken that you get from the supermarket. Chances are, the whole chicken went into it, skin and all… So I prefer to make my own really. It’s not that complicated and it takes no time at all, provided you have a food processor, or a meat grinder.

All you need to do is cut your breasts into smallish cubes and toss them in the food processor, give them a couple of spins on “pulse”, until the meat has the desired consistency. It’s important to do this on “pulse”, otherwise, you’ll end up with mush.  It only takes a few seconds really to get your meat where it needs to be.

Very few steps that are extremely worth taking, in my opinion!

Here’s what you will need if you want to try this dish!

INGREDIENTS
(Serves 6-8)

Meatballs

  • 3 chicken breasts (about 600g total), ground
  • ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp unsalted seasoning (Ms Dash type)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salted herbs
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • Pinch nutmeg

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 tbsp each basil, oregano, thyme
  • 4 tbsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch ground clove
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 cans (28oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup water

DIRECTIONS

  • Cut the chicken breasts into small cubes and grind in the food processor, on pulse, until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the other ingredients. Mix until well incorporated and set aside to rest in the refrigerator while you get the sauce started.
  • In a large saucepan, drizzle some olive oil and sauté the onions, bell pepper and celery over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add all the other ingredients except for the last 4 and cook for another 5 minutes to develop aromas.
  • Add last 4 ingredients and stir. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring from time to time.
  • Now it’s time to start working on the meatballs.
  • Drizzle some olive oil in a large non-stick pan. While you wait for pan to heat, take the meat out of the fridge and start forming little meatballs, about the size of a ping-pong ball.
  • When the pan is hot enough, start cooking your meatballs (don’t cook too many at once, leave plenty of room between them) until they get nice and golden brown on all sides then transfer them to the sauce to finish cooking.
  • When all the meatballs are done, simmer the sauce for at least 1½ hour to 2 hours, stirring from time to time.
  • Keep this super healthy! Serve on whole grain pasta of your choice.