I’m naming my first kid Polenta

Inspired by a variety of fancy restaurants that have lately included polenta on their menus, I decided to try my hand at this cornmealy… stuff.

You make it a lot like you do rice, quinoa, risotto, and other grains: boil water, add grain, lower to a simmer, and cook and stir.

Only in the recipe I used, once you’ve lowered it to a simmer, you get to add a bunch of tasty stuff, much like risotto or mexican arroz con leche (which I’m also dying to make asap). I added parmesan cheese, fennel, and butter. OMG, butter makes everything better, which I feel is also sometimes the mantra of my friend Leslie.

Do you SEE this BUTTER? Oh god, I love butter so much, sometimes I think I could eat a stick of it like an ice cream cone.

Moving on.

The polenta was served with a very simple, very easy, fast broccoli rabe. I’ve made it tons of times before, always with garlic and red pepper, but the recipe also called for SALT. it never occured to me to add salt to bitter broccoli rabe before. it made a huge difference. i wonder also what a little lemon zest might do next time…

The only problem with the polenta experiment that there was not enough for a full-sized meal. I don’t know what I was thinking making this our entire meal, but that bit there is smaller than the size of my fist. Hardly a good (American) dinner.

Nevertheless, it was delicious. Polenta, you come on over anytime. I like you so much, maybe I’ll name my firstborn after you. Or at least my next cat.

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stuffed cabbage, a.k.a. alien babies a la alison

for months, my colleague/friend rachel has been telling me about how fabulous the moosewood cookbook is. last night, i finally got around to cooking something from it.

i made stuffed cabbage. sounds a little weird, but we’ve had an extra head of cabbage rolling around our fridge for longer than i’m willing to divulge here, so i figured it was worth a shot. the recipe is actually in the link to the googlebook above, so i’m not going to mess with spelling it out here… you just get the pictures and my sparse commentary.

Cooking with cabbage was a very unique experience. My not-so-extensive cabbage background includes slaws and soups, so to core it, boil it, peel it apart, and use the leaves to hold all the stuffing ingredients was completely alien to me. Funny enough, the cabbage itself actually took on something of an incandescent, ghostly, and alien quality of itself, as well.

Here, I thought the cabbage leaves looked lacy, skin-like, and very eerie. I don’t know what to make of this picture… totally not appetizing. But how could I not include it here?! You must be prepared what you’re up against. Alien Skin, that’s what.

Once the cabbage is cored and boiling, you begin to sautee the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots in butter. Later, I added salt, pepper, and sunflower seeds.

Once all that jazz is sauteed up, you add a chopped tart apple, a pound of ricotta cheese, lemon, tamari, and some other stuff… I forget what it was now…

Then you take the ricotta-based stuffing and roll it up into the cabbage. Here, I thought the cabbage-rolls looked like little baby aliens–see, the stems are like spines! Again–NOT appetizing to look at, but I promise, it is delicious (plus later, it gets prettier). Spread some cashew-ginger sauce (in my case, almond-ginger) on top and stick it in the oven for a half an hour.

And viola! This dish was by far one of the most surprising, delightful meal I’ve made in a long time. It is tart, creamy, and sweet all at once. Next time I’d pare down on the ricotta–I don’t think the stuffing needs to be *that* creamy–but if you make this, DON’T LEAVE OUT THE SAUCE. It’s too good to leave out.
Now go make your own alien babies!