Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sarda -- Sorta

It constantly amazes me how vast is the range of food adventure in this world. I'm just talking about the simple stuff. Nothing fancy. Nothing exotic. Just good plain food. You'd think, after living nearly seven decades on the planet, I'd have sampled pretty much everything. On a regular basis, I keep discovering I'm not even close. Sometimes I think that's why the concept of reincarnation appeals to me. How else am I going to have enough time to try it all?

Take corn meal. One of the staples in your kitchen. Cornbread. Cornmeal muffins. Cornmeal mush. Tamales. Anadama bread. I know I've had corn meal in one or two other things but that's about all I can think of offhand. And yet, just today, my favorite Marine (you know who you are, Gunnymom) tipped me off to a dish made with polenta, cheese and spaghetti sauce. That's all she said about it but it struck me as a possible addition to my F.E.D. list. With that in mind, I fired up Google, typed in those three magic ingredients and sat back.

Wow! Knocked my socks plumb off. There are a ton of variations on that basic three-ingredient combo but they all start with the polenta. And polenta -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is simply corn meal mush. But, oh my, the wealth of polenta-based recipes is boggling. What follows is my adaption of one of the first recipes I ran across. It was simple enough that I was able to whup it up during half-time of the Bolts and Colts game today.

It appears to be what is perhaps a dim version of an old Sardinian dish called Polenta Sarda. One source insists it's best made with pecorino sardo, a Sardinian sheep's milk cheese. Philistine that I am (because one does with what one has), I turned my version into a three-cheese affair and not one of those cheeses were ever introduced to a sheep, Sardinian or otherwise. But I'm certainly open to a future acquaintance. Pecorino is a wonderful cheese -- when you can get it.

Three-Cheese Sorta Sarda

First you make your corn meal mush. Your choice of liquid is flexible. Water, broth, milk, combinations of these -- whatever works. You put 2 3/4 cups water in a large bowl, add 3 teaspoons chicken bullion powder and 1 cup of corn meal. Whisk them good, put them in the microwave covered with a piece of wax paper and nuke the mixture for 5 minutes, on high. At the end of 5 minutes, whisk mixture again, recover with wax paper, nuke for another 5 minutes. When time is up, whisk in 1 fat pat of butter and 1 cup shredded cheese, whatever flavor you have on hand. (I had cheddar.) The texture will be smooth and creamy. Test taste. You probably won't need any other seasoning but if you want, you can add anything you wish at this point.

In the meantime, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add roughly 2 cups mixed veggies, whatever combo you wish (I had a frozen mix of cauliflower, broccoli, green and yellow squash and carrots, which I partially thawed by running warm water over the veggies in a strainer.) and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add about 2 cups of any pasta sauce you may like (I had some Ragu.), stir well, simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.

Plop two or three big globs of the hot polenta on a dish. Spoon some of the veggie mixture on top of that. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese, to taste, and a dusting of grated Parmesan. Try not to moan too loudly as you eat.

If you're serving two or more, there won't be any leftovers. Not the case with me, of course, so I did this with the leftover polenta: lined an 8" x 8" baking dish with plastic wrap, spread the polenta inside, flipped the ends of the plastic wrap over to cover and put the dish in the fridge. Later this evening, when I got hungry for supper, I took a table knife and cut a row of polenta cubes out of the dish and dumped them in a soup bowl. Then laid a couple slices of cheese over them. Then a layer of the veggie mix. Then 2 or 3 minutes in the microwave. Nummy, nummy.

Haven't decided what particular thang I'll do with the rest of the leftover polenta but there are intriguing directions to explore. Chocolate has not been ruled out.


Kate & Jim said...

Well - now you've gone and made me hungry. I've been wondering what I could make that was different from my usual fare and this just might be it! Seems I've got all the ingredients, so I'll be checking this out.

Bonnie said...

Wil would have to have the parmasan(sp) I would leave that off. :-) I'd also have to go buy corn meal.

Dee said...

Kate, seems to me this would be a wonderful hot dish with all your snow outside!

Bonnie, have you got any Cream of Wheat? Bet you could sub it for the corn meal.

Mage And George said...

Did you steam your camera up taking pictures of the polenta?

Dee said...

Didn't have to get that close, Mage. With that many megapixels, I can just zoom in on the photo after I've loaded it on the computer, then crop. No steam.