Roasted Summer Veggies with Parmesan Polenta

Roasted Summer Veggies with Parmesan Polenta

Ina Garten’s recipe for parmesan polenta got me over my aversion for all things polenta. I had never been a fan of the gooey textured stuff before, but I had been missing something key: enough butter, cream, and parmesan. That, and the right toppings. This meal brings it all together—a creamy polenta base, which serves a two-part role as sauce and substance; and roasted summer veggies, which benefit from (and compliment) the creaminess of the rest of the dish; pine nuts, which add much-needed crunch. I’ve made it four times in the last month, a testament to how well I’ve been convert from polenta-hater to lover. Maybe it will convert someone you know, too.

Roasted Summer Veggies with Parmesan Polenta
Roasted Summer Veggies with Parmesan Polenta

Roasted Summer Veggies with Parmesan Polenta

Published May 30, 2019 by
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Serves: 4   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



Ingredients:

For Roasted Summer Veggies:
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1-2 small to medium zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  • Salt & Pepper

  • For Parmesan Polenta:
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely ground or stone ground cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 heaping cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

  • For Serving:
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Garnish: additional shredded Parmesan cheese, additional sprigs of thyme

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Prepare veggies: dice eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. Slice zucchini into half moons. Slice bell peppers into strips. Slice red onion into wedges.
    2. Place chopped veggies and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer. Use two sheet pans if veggies are over-crowding the pan. Drizzle liberally with oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme leaves.
    3. Place veggies in oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking.
    4. When the veggies have 15 minutes left to cook, begin preparing the polenta. Bring 4 cups of water in a pot to a boil. Add salt and garlic.
    5. When water is boiling, add cornmeal, whisking immediately to prevent clumps from forming. After a few minutes, polenta should begin to thicken. Continue whisking, and remove from heat. Continue stirring almost constantly for about 10 minutes.
    6. Add butter, Parmesan cheese, and cream to polenta, stirring to incorporate. Polenta should become thick and creamy, and will continue to set as it cools. Season to taste with pepper.
    7. Serve: scoop polenta into serving bowls, and top with roasted veggies. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parmesan and a garnish with a sprig of thyme. Serve hot.

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    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    An unopened bottle of orange blossom water had been occupying precious real estate in our fridge for months as I debated the best thing to do with it. Finally I opened the bottle, just to smell. One whiff is all it took, and my thoughts were drifting away on a cloud of delicate blooms — soft and white, immensely fragrant. From that cloud, I landed in a darkly lit room, sitting at a large round table surrounded by smiling faces. My tenth birthday party.

    We perch on round, gilded pillows at a low table. Silky fabrics hang from the ceiling, lining the walls and giving the room a sense of mystery. Someone has given me a warm, floral-scented cloth for cleaning my hands. A waiter is sprinkling us ceremoniously with orange blossom water, and the droplets land on my shoulders like the sweetest rain that ever rained. Talk about feeling like Queen for the day.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    There are candles artfully lighting the space, but the most notable ones are balancing on a women’s body. A belly dancer. She gracefully juggles fire from her head to her elbows and back again, never missing a beat. We eat couscous, chicken with almonds, and b’stella pastry (a dish my dad would later take to making at home).

    When it is time for tea, it is time for the greatest show of all. The waiter stacks drinking flutes in a pyramid. He makes a show of pouring the mint concoction from an ornate tea pot, starting with the top glass, and pouring until it pools over, filling the next two. The cascade continues, until each glass is full. (In my mind, the memory is almost a dream-state. I can’t quite figure out the physics of these glasses. How is it that they only spill in two directions? Did they have little spouts? Did he actually pour into glasses individually, and it is my memory that falters?)

    We each take a glass and sip. It is, to this day, glorified as the best cup of mint tea I’ve ever had.

    To say the least, I’ve been on a Moroccan food kick since I stole a breath of that orange blossom water in the fridge. I bought The Food of Morocco (affiliate link) and searched for something reminiscent of that day. I bought harissa paste and slivered almonds and actually started to use the orange blossom water.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato
    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    The flavors of Moroccan food are so different from what you find in other cuisines. Flowers take on a large role. Both roses and orange blossoms. Herbs are used fresh. Citrus is a star of the show. Lamb, goat, cumin, paprika; Roses, pomegranate, dried fruits.

    But, this stew is not traditional. It was never supposed to be. Rather, it’s approachable. It’s a one-pot wonder that has been Americanized, Instant Pot-ized, and everyday dinner-ized. It doesn’t ask you to buy a bottle of orange blossom water, which you would surely have to get at a specialty store (or on Amazon (affiliate link), like me). It also calls for quinoa in place of couscous (Couscous is a hand rolled pasta, so not GF, despite it’s millet-y looking appearance). The recipe calls for ingredients you know, but combines them with Moroccan flare in mind. Cumin — lots of cumin. Paprika. Turmeric. And cinnamon, a small amount, something we rarely add to savory dishes here in the US.

    I know it’s starting to look a lot like spring in somewhere, but here — and lots of places - it will still be winter for at least a month. On a snowy evening, this stew is absolutely warming and cozy. Just my style.

    For the curious: The restaurant I had my tenth birthday at, Boulder’s Mataam Fez, has since closed. There is a Mataam Fez in Denver that provides a similar (but IMO, not quite as magical) experience. Plan to make an evening of it.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    Published March 5, 2019 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, strained
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • For serving: minced parsley or cilantro

  • Directions:

    1. In the bottom of an Instant Pot, heat coconut oil using the Sauté setting. When oil glistens, add onion, garlic, ginger and celery and sauté until onion is transparent.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
    3. Secure lid on Instant Pot and press the “Manual” button. Set to “high pressure” (labeled “more” on some models) and set timer for 1 minute with vent in the sealed position.
    4. When the timer goes off, turn off the Instant Pot and allow it to set for 10 minutes with out releasing the steam. This will ensure the quinoa is cooked through.
    5. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure. Stir, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.

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    Truffle Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Truffle Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Not everyone is a fan of truffle — it’s one of those love/hate flavors, where people seem to fall on one side of the fence or another. And I freaking love it. Truffle oil is just this magical extra oomph that takes something from normal to "oh this is amazing.”

    Like many good things, the trick is not using too much. If you’re about to eat truffle oil by the spoonful you should buckle up — that would be a LOT in one bite! In this vinaigrette, truffle oil is combined with olive oil which makes a salad dressing with just the right amount of truffle.

    In a rush, and throwing together a salad to take with me to work, I’ll often just drizzle some oil and vinegar over top of some veggies and call it good, but when I actually take the time to make a real vinaigrette it makes such a big difference (and, you can keep a jar of this dressing in the fridge for a week: time saver!).

    But this vinaigrette isn’t just any old vinaigrette…yes, it has truffle oil, but there’s more! More, in the form of:

    • Dijon mustard. It adds a bit of creaminess and the flavor of mustard is nice and sharp, adding just a tiny bit of punch to the vinaigrette

    • Shallot. Like mustard, shallot just adds a bit of extra zing. Shallots are like onions but way more mellow, and won’t leave your mouth with that “I just ate a plate full of red onion” flavor

    • Salt & Pepper. Easy peasy — but does make a difference.

    If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could add a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary, thyme, or basil. A dash of red pepper flakes is perfect for anyone that likes a little extra heat.

    Truffle Balsamic Vinaigrette
    Truffle Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Like I said above, I like balsamic vinaigrettes (with or without truffle) on almost any salad, but here are five I recommend:

    1. Spinach salad with butternut & figs

    2. Late fall salad

    3. Arugula, peach and piquillo pepper salad

    4. Winter salad with kale apples

    5. And of course… a simple caprese salad, or like in the video below, cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella over arugula. YUM!

    If you don’t see the video player below, click here to watch, or scroll down for the full recipe.

    Truffle Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Published February 7, 2018 by
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    Serves: 8   |    Active Time: 10 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons truffle oil (look for an olive oils infused with truffle)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Directions:

    1. Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine.
    2. Drizzle over salad of choice.
    3. Store in fridge for up to 1 week.

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