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March 16, 2008

Easy Polenta

Conventional wisdom says that making polenta requires tons and tons of stirring. Because of this, I've tended to resort to the "instant" stuff that cooks in 5 minutes, or the stuff you buy in tubes at the grocery store to slice up and saute.

So, I was intrigued to come across the claim by Jack Bishop, in his A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen that you can cook polenta with little stirring if you cook it covered, over low heat. I tried it, and it works. And produces a noticeably nicer polenta than the instant or precooked stuff.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a largish saucepan, bring the water to a nice, rolling boil. Turn the heat to low and add the salt.
  2. Pour in the cornmeal slowly, whisking constantly. (I actually just stirred rapidly with a wooden spoon. This part is important for not getting lumps. It takes about a minute to get all the cornmeal whisked in.
  3. Cover the saucepan. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal doesn't taste raw or gritty.
  4. Stir in the butter, and season to taste with additional salt.

Serves 4-6 people, depending on how much they like polenta.

Posted by spaceling at 08:03 PM

March 02, 2008

Eggplant with Peppers and Yogurt

I may be getting ready to declare victory in my ongoing quest to learn how to cook eggplant properly. I'm not sure that I've figured out what the secret is, though plenty of olive oil does seem to help.

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. It comes fairly close to duplicating an eggplant dish that I used to get at a short-lived Afghan restaurant in Berkeley. Served with a cucumber salad and some pita bread, it makes a quite satisfying meal.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put 1/3 cup olive oil and all but 1/2 tsp. of the garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I do mean large - I used the 14 inch monster that we usually refer to as "the shield of Achilles" around here. The eggplant reduces in volume quite a bit as it cooks and loses water, but getting it all in the skillet initially is a tight squeeze.)
  2. After about 2 minutes, add the peppers and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Beat the yogurt until it is smooth, then stir in 1/2 tsp. garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, and some salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the eggplant and peppers from the pan, pour the sauce over them, and serve hot.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:31 PM