Winging it

p7315770.jpgThis recent dinner consisted of leftovers and needed-to-get-used stuff in my refrigerator. The leftovers were a sweet-and-sour lentil dish based on the recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, by the Moosewood Collective, but slightly modified: I increased the amount of vegetables, and I cooked the lentils in orange juice instead of apple juice because that’s what I had around. I love the flavors and textures in this dish, which keeps for days and is tasty at any temperature (and, thus, is great for picnics and potlucks).

I had some freshly picked purple (green) beans from the garden, so I made what’s become a summer staple in my house this season: green beans, carrots, walnuts, and sesame seeds, covered with the Asian miracle dressing from Vegan Lunchbox (the book and the blog).

I also had some gorgonzola that was on its way south if it didn’t get used soon. I knew I wanted it in a sauce but didn’t want to make pasta, since we’d had some the day before (Chinese noodles with peanut-ginger sauce, made by Jan). So I decided on polenta. Now, I love polenta, and I even don’t mind hovering near the stove for the thirty to forty minutes it needs to cook properly. But when I’m trying to prepare other dishes at the same time, I find myself really wanting to get the double boiler insert for my pot.

The lack of a double boiler insert aside, the polenta cooked up just fine. I poured it into a 9″x13″ dish to cool, sliced it into large cubes, and pan fried them in olive oil. In my impatience I overestimated the “set-ness” of the polenta, so most of the cubes were still a little squishy when I fried them. But still tasty.

The gorgonzola found a good home in an improvised sauce. Most recipes for these sorts of sauces call for butter, cream, and cheese. We had no cream in the house, so I used milk. Skim milk. Yeah, it wound up being a bit runny…but still full of gorgonzola piquant-ness. And lots of butter. Yum.

p7315771.jpgI opted to serve the sauce on the side, partly because I wasn’t sure how Sylvia would like it (she loved it–Jan put a puddle of it on her plate, and she dipped everything, even dressing-covered green beans and walnuts, into it) and partly because I knew they would be leftovers, and they’d keep and reheat better if the polenta cubes weren’t soaked in sauce.

Take a look at the sauce pitcher. This piece was a gift from our friend Evelin (who is blogless, but her husband, Carter, blogs here), who made it in a pottery workshop. It is by far the best syrup/cream/whatever pitcher we have ever used, because it never drips. Seriously. Jan and I call it “the erottery,” and every time we use it we have to giggle because picking it up by the handle requires you to fondle the figure on it.

p7315772.jpgLook! She even has a little bottom. Heh.

4 Responses to “Winging it”

  1. Imperatrixon 13 Aug 2007 at 1:36 pm

    How in the name of sanity do you make polenta in 30-40 minutes? Mine takes 15 minutes, tops.

    I probably cook it too high. But even risotto doesn’t take me more than 20 mins. (Maybe we just like things crunchy?)

    When I’ve got time before supper, I like to plop polenta into a greased loaf pan, then cool it. That way I get even slices. I’ll layer it with mozz. slices and pour a tomato sauce on top, then bake for a bit.

    I make all my white sauces with skim milk, too. Mmmm gorgonzola sauce!

  2. Marshaon 13 Aug 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Fifteen-minute polenta? Wow! How do you manage that? I don’t mind some crunchiness, but I do want the polenta to be cooked. We use very coarse cornmeal for ours (no fine grains or special polenta stuff), so maybe that’s why it take a long time. As for risotto, we cook ours in ten minutes…using a pressure cooker. Yum…

  3. Kellion 13 Aug 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I love the Moosewood cookbooks. I also wing it fairly frequently. Good for you!

  4. Frankon 13 Aug 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Hmmm… Last month I used some Missouri cornmeal for our polenta and it cooked up in about 15 minutes too. I don’t go the extra step of letting it set up though. Obviously I learned to cook polenta from Rachael Ray (I’m serious!).