Polenta with Sauteed Chard and Mushrooms

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Everyone has those dishes that taste like home. For me, it’s a big bowl of spaghetti and tomato sauce, doused with parmesan cheese. Another favorite is a pile of mashed potatoes with a deep hole in the middle filled with brown gravy. (If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll top that with corn – a mini shepherd’s pie.

I ate these dishes a lot as a kid, and they have become my comfort foods: easy to make, warming from the inside out, and nostalgic. As an adult, I’ve grown accustomed to some new comfort foods: scrambled eggs with caramelized onions, miso soup with tofu and roasted bok choy, and shakshuka with crusty, buttered bread. They’re my new (and healthier) comfort foods.

The newest of my comfort foods is polenta. Polenta is mashed-potato-esque, made from cornmeal and water. For a long time, polenta was a black box to me. We never ate it growing up, so I didn’t have much exposure. I first learned of it through my college roommate – she made it a few times from the tubes you can but at the grocery store. Until this year I hadn’t even tried it. Change is hard.

Now that I know how easy it is to make, it’s a regular part of my dinner line up. This time of year, when the air is getting colder, it’s an extremely warming, feel-good meal. It’s also very inexpensive: a 24-ounce bag of cornmeal cost me less than $2 at the grocery store. As a starch it’s high in calories, so go easy on it as you’re dishing it up (if you can). It’s very versatile and I like to serve it with sautéed vegetables, as in this recipe.

This dish comes together very quickly, but requires that you pay attention to three pots at once. To make it easier to read, I separated the directions for each ingredient. If you start the mushrooms first, then the chard, and end with the polenta, they should all finish around the same time for a delicious meal in less than 20 minutes.

Polenta with Sauteed Chard and Mushrooms

Yield: 2 servings. Per Serving: $2.43, 364 calories, 12g fat, 87g carbs, 11g protein.

Mushrooms: Wipe 1 container (8 ounces) of baby portobella mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel and slice into ¼ inch pieces. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until brown.

Chard: Cut 2 garlic cloves in half and place in a cold sauté pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Put on low heat and cook slowly until the garlic turns slightly brown, then remove the garlic. Clean and chop 1 bunch green chard and add to the garlic oil with ½ teaspoon salt. Toss the chard occasionally over medium heat until wilted.

Polenta: Bring 1 ¼ cup water to boil in a small sauce pan. Turn to low heat and whisk in ½ cup fine yellow cornmeal, adding slowly. Add ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon cheddar cheese. If the polenta becomes too thick, add more water. Cook for about 5 minutes on very low heat, stirring frequently.

 

 

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Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

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Food trend alert: shakshuka. I’ve seen this traditionally Middle Eastern egg dish popping up everywhere. I first laid eyes on it on Instagram; someone leaning over the stove, wearing an apron, cracking eggs into a pan of tomato sauce. I was insta-trigued – what was this mystery dish? Then I spotted it again, this time on Plated’s Instagram feed, and finally learned what the dish actually was. Then, a girlfriend forwarded me this New York Time’s article, saying that she and her boyfriend had made it over the weekend (while reading the Financial Times and drinking mimosas – so posh). I was convinced – had to try it. Because I hate following recipes, I made my own version.

Since I was in tomato overload last week, I had a low bar for giving this recipe a try – what else was I to do with all of that tomato sauce? I instantly realized that the hype was real. This dish is easy to prepare, hearty, and can hold up at any time of day. I made it for dinner last night and it was great. I have no idea what a traditional Shakshuka chef would say about this recipe, but it worked for me. (According to Wikipedia, variations of this dish are popular in Moroccan, Algerian, Israeli, Egyptian, Libya, and Tunisian cuisines. As described in the New York Times article, it’s often served at Passover.) The feta added a saltiness to the tomato sauce that was countered perfectly by the cilantro, and the eggs melted in my mouth since they were poached slowly in the sauce. YUM.

As proven by it’s popularity in many different cuisines, this dish is easy to adapt based on your taste. You could add some spices, like cinnamon or cumin, to the tomato sauce and get a totally different flavor profile. Add some different vegetables to the tomato sauce, or try a different cheese – there are all sorts of options here to customize this to your preference. Then have your friends over and impress them with your new favorite dish. (Don’t forget the mimosas!)

Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $5.88, 362 calories, 13g fat, 27g carbs, 16g protein.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat up 1.5 cups of tomato sauce (I used my basic tomato sauce made with farm fresh heirloom tomatoes) in an oven proof saute pan (I used cast iron, but a stainless steel can work too). Use a smaller sized pan so the tomato sauce is at least half an inch deep and fills the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a smaller pan, double the recipe (the more, the merrier). When the sauce is warm and starts to bubble, crack two eggs into opposite sides of the pan Turn off the heat and top with 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and take it out when the eggs are cooked to your liking (I like medium cooked yolks, so I took it out around 9 minutes). Let cool for 5-10 minutes, top with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and serve with crusty bread or a toasted English muffin.

Baked Portobello Mushroom Egg

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Looking back on my most recent posts and recipes, it would appear that I have become a vegetarian (kale salad and not one, but two Farm Share Fridays). I tend to favor vegetarian meals – they’re generally lighter and less expensive – but I often find myself craving something a little meatier and higher in protein. This meal is the best of both worlds – a hearty Portobello mushroom with the protein of an egg but the lightness of a vegetarian meal. It’s also very pretty – I mean, look at it.

Baked Portobello Mushroom Egg

Yield: 2 servings. Serving size: 1 cap. Per Serving: $0.90, 118 calories, 8g fat, 2g carbs, 10g protein.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wipe two Portobello mushroom caps clean with a damp paper towel (never submerse mushrooms in water – they’re like sponges). Using a spoon, scrape the gills out of the mushroom cap on the bottom side. This makes room for the egg. Place the mushroom caps in the oven and bake for about 3 minutes upside down, then lay to dry upside down on a paper towel. This releases excess moisture and par cooks the mushroom.

Crumple up tin foil into two rings just smaller than the mushroom cap and place on a baking sheet. Put the mushroom on the ring upside down. The ring should prop the sides of the cap up a bit more than they naturally fall, making more room for the egg.

Crack one egg into a liquid measuring cup, and slowly pour into the mushroom cap. The yolk will come all at once, so pour slowly. If the egg spills over the top, don’t worry – it will just be egg whites and will cook quickly. Repeat with a second egg.

Cook in the oven for about 7 minutes, or until the whites start to set and become opaque. To finish off the top, place in the broiler for about 30 seconds. Top with 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve with a side of kale salad.