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Friday, May 30, 2014

Polenta with Olive Tapenade, Spinach, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

While I am aware of the shocking percentage of genetically modified corn, I kinda love cornbread. There is just something so comforting about it. And recently, I have really wanted to do something with polenta.

And while I am still a little nervous about where my corn is really coming from, according to the Bob's Red Mill site, their Organic Cornmeal seems to be trusted...right?

Regardless, while visiting my parents, I came across one of my mom's newest cookbooks, Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals From My Home to Yours. And while I leafed through it's pages, salivating on one pasta dish after another, I came across his recipe for Warm Polenta with Spinach and Robiola. 

Wow, did his pictures look delectable. Unfortunately, as you will see below we did not have the same type of luck. 

(After doing a bit of research, it appears that the water to cornmeal ratio was a bit off in the book. Instead of boiling 5c of water and putting in 1c of cornmeal, it looks like that if we wanted the cornmeal to turn out similar to his pictures, we should have done a 3:1; with 3c of water for 1c of cornmeal.)

We also decided that we wanted to change the topping for the cornmeal, given what we had. My mom had picked up a delicious tapenade, Williams-Sonoma Farmhouse Olive Tapenade, and we had goat cheese instead of robiola. 

Needless to say, despite the the disastrous process, dinner was delicious...but my changes are listed here, even though my pictures will show the process we used to problem solve the polenta being too soft. (Thought I would show the mistakes and problem-solving we did!)

Serves 4 - 6 (as side dish)

Olive oil
1tbsp. sugar
1c Bob's Red Mill polenta
1/4 - 1/2 jar of Williams-Sonoma Farmhouse Tapenade
4oz of white button mushrooms (1/2 a small pkg.)
5c of baby spinach
4tbsp. of goat cheese
Pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar (optional...I LOVE this 25yr aged one also from Williams Sonoma)

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add 1tsp. of salt and 1tbsp. of sugar. Slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. When the polenta as been added, lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to cook, whisking every so often, until the polenta has thickened to a very thick oatmeal. Pour the polenta in an 8x10 baking dish and let it cool and finish hardening (should be about 30 minutes). 

While that is cooling, clean and cut the mushrooms. Using a wok (I'm sure a normal frying pan would work just as well), pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil and let the wok warm. Then lightly cook the mushrooms until they slightly darken. Use the same pan to quickly cook the spinach until it is just wilted and still vibrantly green. A hint from my mom is to put the spinach up along the edges of the wok, which will allow the excess water to drain into the wok's bottom and keep the spinach perfectly cooked. 

Putting the spinach along the sides help drain excess liquid and keep spinach lightly wilted
Cut a square of the polenta and brown by either using your broiler, grill (like Batali), stove top, or panini press (like we did below).

When we realized that the polenta was never going to harden, we decided to make them into patties and grill using the panini press grill

Once the polenta is lightly browned, top with a tbsp of tapenade, a few mushrooms, a few cooked spinach leaves and then 1-2 tsp. of goat cheese, depending on taste. Sprinkle with some pepper and drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top, if you like.

Here is our finished product. Definitely not a defined square and more like a pancake. But still super tasty!

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