Tag Archives: European

Peach Apricot Slices

Peach Apricot Slices

Sugary whole wheat crust filled with custard made from pureed peaches and apricots and topped with sweet California peaches

Amaaaaazing! Super creamy, fruity and fresh. Here’s the link to the recipe. Enjoy!

Hefeschnecken (Sweet Rolls with Hazelnut-Raisin Filling)

Alright, one recipe for you. (Blogging after being away for such a long time is hard!) Sugary, sticky, pull apart rolls filled with ground hazelnut, grated apple and raisins! In German they’re called “Hefeschnecken” which literally means “yeast snails”. Ick, I prefer my English title. ūüėÄ

By the way, the recipe I used is from my favorite Swiss cookbook,¬†Tiptopf. I think it’s the one all the kids use when they learn to cook at school. It’s the best!

Enjoy!

Hefeschnecken (recipe from Tiptopf)

INGREDIENTS

Sweet Dough

300 g flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

60 g (2 tbsp) butter, at room temp.

20 g fresh (2 1/4 tsp active dry) yeast

100 ml milk

1 egg

Filling

3 tbsp apricot jam (I used plum)

150 g ground hazelnuts

3 tbsp sugar

1 apple, grated (with peel is fine)

1/2 cup raisins

zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

4-6 tbsp milk or cream, at room temp.

Glaze

5 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp – 1 tbsp water

METHOD

For the dough:

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter, mixing lightly with your fingers until mixture is crumbly.
  2. Stir together yeast and milk. Allow to sit and “activate” for ca. 5 minutes. Then, whisk in the egg.
  3. Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the wet ingredients and mix, gradually bringing the dry into the wet. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Then cover, put in a warm place and allow it to rest until doubled in size.
For the nut filling:
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together ground nuts, sugar, raisins, grated apple, lemon zest and juice and milk or cream. Note: the filling should be moist, but not runny.
For assembly:
  1. Roll the dough out into a rectangle, 3 mm thick.
  2. Spread the apricot jam over the surface of the dough, followed by the nut filling. Then distribute the raisins evenly over the top.
  3. From one end of the dough, start rolling. Once rolled, hold the outermost dough layer in place and slice into 5 cm thick disks.
  4. Lay the disks cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the bottom half of a cold oven. Turn on the heat to 220 C and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and quickly prepare the glaze.
For the Glaze
  1. When the rolls are about ready to come out of the oven, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and water until combined.
  2. With a pastry brush, spread evenly over the hot rolls.


A Request for Bread Pudding

I got a special request for bread pudding the other day. Though I could have mixed in fun things like coconut, apple, rum or pumpkin and made an extra caramel, bourbon or hot custard sauce to serve, I decided to keep things simple. It’s interesting—whenever people ask me to make something, I think about who s/he is as a person in life and then try to translate this into the dish. In the case of this bread pudding, nostalgia was key. So as I listened to reminiscences about the version a beloved grandmother used to make, I knew that classic, warm and with raisins was the way to go.

The recipe is from Allrecipes. There are exactly eight ingredients, all of which you probably already have in your kitchen. You mix it all together, bake and what you get is soft eggy-bread in a sweet, heartwarming custard. It may be simple, but sometimes simple really is best.

Enjoy.

Bread Pudding (slightly adapted from Allrecipes)

printable recipe

INGREDIENTS

6 slices day-old bread (I used half a day-old batard)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus extra for sprinkling

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.
  2. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar over the top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.


Gravlax: A Lesson in Home-Curing Salmon

Lox ‘n’ bagels is kind of special occasion food in my family. It’s my dad’s way of saying “I love you” to my mom: “Happy birthday, dear. I got you schmear.”

The parents were actually here visiting this weekend—not for any special reason (I did get a new job this week, which I’m totally over-the-moon stoked about, so I guess that IS something). So I thought their visit as good a reason as any to try my hand at home-curing fish.

Anyway, I always thought there was some complex and almost magical process behind the making of lox. Ha—there isn’t! Impressive home gourmet¬†doesn’t get any simpler than this: mix, spread, wrap and refrigerate.

The original recipe from Apples and Butter used a slightly different herb rub—I decided to add grated lemon zest to mine. It also says to refrigerate for 24 hours; I refrigerated for 36 for good measure and extra flavor.

If you’re wondering about whether to use fresh or previously frozen fish, I’d normally say fresh is always preferable. After doing a little online research on the subject, however, it looks like the frozen kind would work too. Actually, there was some discussion about freezing the fish in order to kill bacteria, so maybe previously frozen isn’t such a bad idea. In any case, I went with fresh; it looked prettier at the store.

Seriously incredible. I had my dad try it and he thought it was store-bought!! But way better! Can’t wait to try this out with other fish.¬†In my family, we always serve this on bagels (or toast or crepe) smeared with cream cheese and topped with sliced avocado and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s divine.

Enjoy!

Gravlax (adapted from Apples and Butter)

printable recipe

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. fillet salmon, skin removed

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp sugar

zest of 1 organic lemon, grated

1/2 bunch dill, including stems, finely chopped

1 tsp water

METHOD

  1. Coat salmon in chopped dill and lemon zest. Stir together salt, pepper, sugar and water.
  2. Place half the salt mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, place the salmon on top of the salt and coat the top and sides of the salmon with the remaining salt mixture.
  3. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and place in a rimmed baking dish (the salmon will give off a good amount of liquid). Place another dish on top of the salmon and weigh down with a few cans of food. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  4. Remove from the plastic wrap and wipe off the salt. Slice thinly and serve (in a salad or, as we do in my family, on a bagel, toast or crepe smeared with cream cheese, topped with avocado and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice).

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk

This is the post-ricotta tart and oatmeal cookie dinner I promised to post about: a somewhat strange recipe for chicken and milk from Jamie Oliver. Even Jamie says it’s “slightly odd”. Basically, it’s chicken roasted in a braising liquid of milk, lemon, spices and a whole stick of butter. Naturally, the combination of lemon and milk causes the milk curds to separate from the whey, which means a not-so-pretty sauce, but interesting flavors for sure.

My photos look a little plain, right? Well, that’s because the curds and whey looked so unappetizing that I couldn’t bare to include them as part of the photo.

The original recipe serves four, but obviously I made it just for one. Along with it I had a sliced tomato salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. A little unconventional (to me anyway), but tasty.

Enjoy!

Chicken in Milk (from Jamie Oliver)

printable recipe

Serves 4

1 whole chicken (3 lb/1.5 kg)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 oz (115 g) or 1 stick butter

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 good handful fresh sage, leaves picked

2 lemons, zested

6 garlic cloves, skin left on

1 pint (565 ml) milk

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C, and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season it generously all over with salt and pepper, and fry it in the butter, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the butter left in the pot. This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely caramel flavor later on.
  2. Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce, which is absolutely fantastic.
  3. To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it on to your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.

Torta della Nonna (Italian Grandmother’s Ricotta Tart)

This is bad, and I mean real bad. Because it is too good—too good for New Year resolutions, too good to for a nondescript name like “Grandma’s Pie” and seriously too good to resist.

My 2011 began with such promise. After proclaiming it The Year of the rabbit Me, I made goals like “no more yogurt and cereal for dinner”, “cut back on sugar” and “say ‘yes’ to people and activities that make me happy and ‘no’ to those that don’t. ¬†I am proud to say that breakfast for dinner is no longer a part of my daily life; I also started learning Japanese taiko drumming (this city is seriously the best; you can do/find everything here), I’m joining a choir again, I’m volunteering more in the arts, and I even left the city last weekend to visit a friend. Yes, I crossed to the other side of the bay (very Sex & The City girls go to the Hamptons—too funny since I’m not sure East Bay really counts as a weekend retreat.) Anyway, that’s all good stuff. But sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. No gold star for me there.

I knew what I was doing when I made the ricotta cheese; it was for this tart. Very bad. I also knew what I was doing when the next evening I decided to make oatmeal raisin cookies with coconut and walnuts. Again, very bad. (Recipe to follow shortly, of course). I’ve resolved to be better. Starting this week. After my cookie post I have a healthy oven-braised chicken recipe to share.

Now to the tart. It’s another recipe from someone’s grandma, so you know it’s been tried and tested by an Italian grandma somewhere. The pastry recipe I got from Mario Batali via the Food Network, though I’m not sure it’s really from his Nonna. And the filling recipe I took from Cook Almost Anything, and apparently, it’s from her mother.¬†Regardless of origin, both are fantastic.

I went with Mario’s pastry recipe as it required way less fat (as in 3 tbsp each butter and olive oil vs almost 1 cup butter). It was simple to put together and when finished reminded me of pasta dough. As for the filling, I particularly liked the addition of semolina and lemon zest. I added raisins to the mix and the additional handful almonds for topping, but otherwise left the recipe alone. Assembly and baking are pretty standard. The tart will rise a bit while in the oven, especially in my case since my dough was still a bit raw after 35 minutes and I had to bake for an additional 10. One thing worth noting about the dough is that it is not supposed to be too golden, so don’t keep the pie in for too long waiting for the right color because you’ll just over-bake it and end up with a dry custard. In hindsight, I probably should have baked for only an extra 5 minutes as I think my custard would have been a smidgen creamier. Oh well, next time. Overall, though, I’m happy with my efforts! And by the way. I baked it Thursday, and it was gone Sunday night. (And yes, I did share ūüėõ )

Enjoy!

Torta della Nonna

printable recipe

INGREDIENTS

Pastry (adapted from Mario Batali recipe via Food Network)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp sweet butter plus 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, melted together

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling (adapted from Cook Almost Anything)

1 1/4 cup whole milk

scant 1/2 cup semolina

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 1/4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup raisins, optional

handful almond flakes, optional

confectioner’s sugar, optional

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

For the pastry

  1. To make the pastry, make a well in the flour, and place egg, yolks, sugar, butter and olive oil mixture in the center and proceed as you would with fresh pasta, i.e. bring flour in bit by bit until the liquid in the well is thick enough to bring together with your hand. Knead until the dough is smooth, then allow to rest 10 minutes.

For the Filling

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm – rain in the semolina, stirring as you do to stop any lumps forming. Add the lemon zest and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and comes away from the side of the pan. Take it off the heat to cool.
  2. Push the ricotta through a fine sieve – this just helps to lighten the mixture. (Skipped this step…no fine sieve.) Place the sieved ricotta into a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and cooled semolina mixture and using an electric mixer, beat until thoroughly mixed. If using, stir in the raisins now.
  3. Prepare the pastry case:¬†Divide the dough into two—two-thirds for the base and one-third to form the top.
  4. On a well-floured surface, roll the larger piece out to line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed 20 cm/8 inch round pie pan. Make sure the pastry overhangs the lip to make joining the top easier.
  5. Pour the prepared filling into the case, smoothing it out to level the surface. It will rise when it cooks so don’t worry if it doesn’t reach the top of your pie case.
  6. Roll the smaller piece of pastry to form a circle a little larger than the pie pan.
  7. Brush the lip with a little milk before placing the pastry top – press down to make sure the dough sticks and then trim to size.
  8. Lightly brush the top with the milk, a sprinkle of sugar and, if using, a handful of almonds.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through. (Mine needed 45 because after 35 the dough was still raw. To prevent burning, I covered the pie with a piece of foil with the center cut out.)
  10. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing it to a wire rack. At this point, you could dust the top generously with confectioner’s sugar. (I chose not to.)


Homemade Ricotta Cheese: It Can Be Done! (Even in the Microwave)

Whole Foods makes me mad sometimes. How do they get away with charging people $5.99 for 16 oz of ricotta cheese? It’s just milk heated with a little vinegar. Sheesh! Well, I can do that.

So I did. And it’s so simple! I googled around for recipes for a few minutes until coming across this article and recipe from Serious Eats, which claim you can make homemade ricotta cheese in 5 minutes! I liked this recipe in particular because, first of all, it only takes 5 minutes; second, it didn’t require me to buy any extras like buttermilk, cheesecloth and/or special strainers; and lastly, it has microwave directions! Cheese-making in the microwave? Crazy, I know. But it actually worked!

I used whole milk this time, but I suppose you could use any kind of cow or goat milk. Non-dairy wouldn’t work, however; it has something to do with the whey that comes from animal milk, which reacts when combined with an acidic substance like vinegar or lemon juice. On that note, regarding the acid to add, I saw recipes, which called for buttermilk, lemon and distilled white vinegar. I would have used distilled white or lemon, but all I have here at home is apple cider vinegar. Guess what, it turned out fine. The recipe also says to microwave from 2 to 4 minutes; I needed the full 4, but it will depend on your microwave. You’ll know when it’s done because the milk will have completely curdled.

One more thing, the article discusses drainage time and how long you want to allow the cheese to strain before using it. It depends on what you want to do with the cheese. If you want to eat it right away, i.e. as a dessert or appetizer spread, then 5 minutes will suffice. For use as a filling, like in ravioli or manicotti, then 15-20 minutes. And for baking, like for use in pastries or pancakes, it’s best to strain for at least 2 hours or even overnight. I let mine sit overnight since I plan on baking with it.¬†(I’m planning on making Torta della Nonna, Italian Grandmother’s Ricotta Tart, with it today.)

Doesn’t the picture LOOK like ricotta? It tastes and feels like it too! It does have a slight vinegary tang to it, but I don’t think it will be noticeable once baked. If I wasn’t going to bake with it, I think I’d pour some olive oil over the top, sprinkle over some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and then slather it over toasted baguette slices. Yum!

Enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (recipe from Serious Eats)

printable recipe

Recipe makes 1/2 cup (and  is easily doubled)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole milk

1/4 tsp table salt

2 tbsp distilled white vinegar or lemon juice (I used apple cider vinegar because that’s all I had)

METHOD

  1. Line colander with four layers of cheesecloth or 2 layers of food-safe paper towels and set over large bowl. Combine milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice in microwave-safe glass 1-quart liquid measure. Microwave on high heat until lightly bubbling around edges, 2 to 4 minutes (milk should register about 165¬įF on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from microwave, and stir gently for 5 seconds. Milk should separate into solid white curds and translucent liquid whey. If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer. Repeat until fully separated.
  2. Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer curds to prepared colander, cover exposed top with plastic wrap, and allow to drain until desired texture is reached. Store in covered container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Mushroom and Roasted Eggplant Moussaka

This moussaka was my veggie main for Thanksgiving. I made it for my mom (who’s actually pescatarian) and my friend S. who joined us for dinner. She brought along her amazingly talented chef husband and also her little sweet pea, baby V. (We all took turns staring at and holding him. He in turn entertained himself by staring at the kitchen light and spitting up on me.) Anyway, moussaka is perhaps a bit unconventional for the holidays, but we are an unconventional family. Besides, who cares about tradition—this is awesome.

Recipes involving both cooking and baking are often labeled “laborious” and “time-consuming”. I don’t think so; actually, I think those kinds of dishes are total time-savers, especially on days when you know the oven is going to be occupied most of the time by a big, fat turkey. (I had to negotiate with my dad for oven time. He takes his turkey verrrry seriously.) They also have more complex flavors because of the multi-stage prep and cooking time. I roasted the eggplant the night before, made both red and white sauces and assembled the gratin in the morning, and then didn’t think about it again until the turkey came out hours later, at which point I shoved it in the oven and baked it for an hour. See, not complicated; just requires a little organization!

Time-consuming or not, it was delicious. CookThink says the mushrooms “are so rich and meaty” that you won’t miss the meat, and it’s true! I’m sure my mom and S. didn’t miss anything; and I don’t think the rest of us did either. The superstar of the mushroom sauce, though, was really the spice combination of cinnamon, allspice and oregano. Aromatic and bold, they are what truly make the sauce. As for the eggplant, I saw a few versions, in which it is breaded and pan-fried, like in eggplant parmigiana, but I liked them roasted. Maybe I’ll try it that way next time when there’s less competition, i.e. no turkey. One more thing to note is that unlike with lasagna, the bechamel sauce goes on top of the layered veggies. It’s flavor—nutty from the nutmeg and salty from the parmesan—is just as important as the vegetables in bringing the dish together.

This was fun! Too bad I forgot to take photos…guess I was too busy eating. ūüėõ

Enjoy!

Mushroom and Roasted Eggplant Moussaka (recipe adapted from Janet is Hungry and  CookThink)

printable recipe

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

Mushroom Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/4″ thick slices

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb button mushrooms, sliced

2 large tomatoes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or more if necessary

1/2 tsp ground allspice, or more if necessary

1/2 tsp oregano, or more if necessary

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste

Bechamel Sauce

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

2 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%, but any will do, even skim)

1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

Topping

3/4 cup bread crumbs (I made my own with 2 slices of my half-white bread)

METHOD

Mushroom Sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 2 baking sheets with the olive oil, and arrange the eggplant slices on top in a single layer. Douse and season each side with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake, turning once, 20 minutes. (I did 20 minutes on each side; I wanted them really roasted. And then I wrapped them in foil to continue steaming until cooled.)
  2. Plunge tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then refresh in cold water. Peel and chop roughly.
  3. Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat and add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, cinnamon, allspice, tomato paste, parsley, wine, salt and pepper to the mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then cover and simmer or 15-30 minutes, or until it tastes right.

Bechamel Sauce

  1. While the red sauce is simmering, prepare the bechamel. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and slowly stir in milk. Return to heat and whisk until sauce thickens. Stir in nutmeg and Parmesan. Again, remove from heat and set aside.

Assembly

  1. Spoon alternating layers into a greased 9″x13″ baking dish. Start with a layer of eggplant, then half the mushroom mixture. Then another layer of eggplant, and the second half of the mushroom mixture. Finish with a layer of eggplant.
  2. Spread sauce over last layer of eggplant and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 F covered with an aluminum foil tent for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes until golden. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Swiss Zuepfe

I’ve already posted about this incredible Swiss non-bread¬†here. (I still think it’s bread, but in Switzerland, it’s just “Zuepfe”. Okay.) I’m just so proud…because it’s so preeeety! And seriously the only bread that works for me every single time. But here’s the recipe again, including U.S. measurements this time.

This was the perfect Thanksgiving bread.

Enjoy!

Swiss Zuepfe (recipe from TipTopf and also posted here)

printable recipe

INGREDIENTS

3 cups or 500 g all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp.

2 tsp active dry

1 1/3 cups or 300 ml lukewarm milk

1 egg lightly whisked, plus 1/2 an egg yolk

METHOD

  1. Warm the milk for 20 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 15 minutes or until slightly frothy.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix flour, salt and sugar.
  3. Cut in the butter. Use your fingertips to work the butter and flour in together, creating a uniform mixture.
  4. Whisk together egg and egg yolk. Add half to your yeast and milk mixture; stir to combine.
  5. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the liquids. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or in your stand mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size.
  7. Once dough has risen, place it onto a clean surface and cut in half. Roll the dough back and forth with your hands until you end up with two  equal-lengthed 18-inch strands. The middle of the strands should be thicker and the ends, thinner.
  8. Braid the dough. Place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate and let rise for 15 minutes. (This last proof is optional.)
  9. Then with remaining egg, brush two layers of egg onto the dough.
  10. Place braid in cold oven, set oven to 425 F / 220 C and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the bread, knocking on the bottom for doneness. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool, then slice and serve!

Sausage, Peppers and Onions with Creamy Polenta

What a meal this turned out to be! Sweet sausage and peppers with creamy polenta…delicious. I should seriously make polenta more often—I love the feel of the smooth, tender grains in my mouth. It’s also way more interesting than plain old pasta.

Apart from a few minor tweaks, I stayed true to the original recipes (found here and here).

Enjoy!

Sausage, Peppers and Onions with Creamy Polenta

(recipes adapted from Giada de Laurentiis via Week of Menus and The Kitchn)

INGREDIENTS

Sauce

extra virgin olive oil

1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage

2 red bell peppers, sliced (I used green)

2 yellow onions, sliced

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used 1 big handful, incl. stems)

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste (I omitted this)

1 cup Marsala wine (I used white)

1 15oz can diced tomatoes

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

1/2 cup frozen, canned or fresh corn kernels, optional

Polenta

4 cups water (I used 2 cups 1% milk / 2 cups water)

1 cup polenta

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (I omitted this)

salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

For the Sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain.
  2. Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil stems, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala (or white) wine, tomatoes, and chili flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. (I let mine stew for over an hour on very low heat.) Add the corn, if using, and chopped basil leaves, stir and allow to warm through.

For the Polenta:

  1. While the sauce is stewing, begin making the polenta. You’ll need about 45 minutes. First, bring the water to a boil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Once boiled, add the salt and, whisking continuously, slowly pour the polenta into the water in a thin stream. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring nearly constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, the grains soften, and the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 45 minutes. (The idea of stirring for 45 minutes annoys me, so I actually just turned off the heat when the mixture thickened, covered the pot and let the polenta steam until tender.)
  3. Stir in the butter and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, if using, and season with pepper. Cover to keep warm.
  4. Plate and serve with the sausage and peppers.