Polenta with Fresh Corn

I love summer!!

On Thursday night, when Grandma and WG joined us for dinner, I combined grilled steak with fresh, home made pesto. I’d never done that before. Why?! It was delicious. Forget sweet barbeque and steak sauces, which I rarely use. This is a combination that I will definitely make again. S also put some hickory wood chips on the fire and that also enhanced the flavor without making it smokey tasting. Mmmm.

And, what goes with steak and a mediterranean sauce? Polenta.

I made way too much – the reference recipe from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” said that it would make 4 cups. I actually used slightly less polenta and came out with much more. Definitely enough to serve 8, which meant that Grandma and WG got to take home some leftovers to eat grilled or fried on another day.

We all liked the addition of corn to the polenta. It added a texture and burst of flavor that were delicious and unexpected. I made the polenta a little creamier by combining milk and water for the cooking liquid, plus some parmesan and a little butter at the end. Another keeper. The girls are not big soft polenta eaters, but they do like it grilled. I will make this for them when they get home!!
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Kitchen Sink Salad

Quinoa Corn Salad
With just the two of us at home, I haven’t had to do much grocery shopping and I don’t want to over buy and waste food.

I happened to have a few ears of cooked corn left from our dinner party on Sunday night and we had some leftover meat and fish, that we brought home from a restaurant, from Tuesday night. So, last night I thought, how can I use this stuff up and how can I make something pretty healthy and delicious?

I took stock of the ingredients that I had on hand: lots of vegetables including the corn, sugar snap peas, carrots, celery, cucumber, and yellow pepper, cabbage, fennel, basil, among others. And, in the pantry: red quinoa, regular quinoa, rice, couscous, pasta. Plus, there was a half lemon sitting on the countertop, waiting to be used.

I definitely wanted to use the corn and I thought the red quinoa would be a good contrasting color and complementary flavor.
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Quinoa, Yes. Fennel, No. Matzo Toffee, Oh, Yes!

Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
Well, having the kids taste everything has paid off.

Last night, quinoa got the thumbs up! Shocking and satisfying. I was sure that when I said, “Come on, just one bite,” I’d get the pinched up face, the rolling eyes. But, instead, I got the nodding head. From both girls, no less. One more food in the plus column. Hooray!

Beets are still in the minus column. And, tonight’s fennel is in the minus column as well. Boooo!

Note to self: quinoa tastes better with a little dressing made of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, plus a little salt and pepper. I had the leftover quinoa and vegetables for lunch today – cold, with the beets and cauliflower, some gorgonzola, and the dressing. It would have been really good if I’d had leftover beet greens, but those were polished off last night. Fresh arugula or spinach would have been nice, too.

Tonight’s dinner was a classic: roast chicken (lately, I’ve been using the method from Zuni Cafe – without the 24 hour salting and herbs under the skin); roasted fingerling potatoes, carrots, onions and fennel; and, the piece-de-resistance, artichokes.

Matzo Toffee Crunch

No, that is wrong. While the artichokes were wonderful (at 4 for $5, how could I resist), dessert was everyone’s favorite part of dinner. I made David Leibovitz’s riff on one of my favorite treats: Matzo Toffee Crunch. [Here’s the link to the one that I’ve been making for years the original Caramel Matzo Crunch ]. I made it this afternoon to send to my college sophomore niece, who is studying for finals. I wasn’t sure if brownies would get to her (or if she could finish them) before Passover. We poison tested the toffee for dessert, just to make sure that it wouldn’t kill her. It was selfless of us, really.

Our people sure know how to cook.

Why was this night different from all other nights? We got to eat matzo covered with buttery toffee and chocolate, that is why. Makes you wish it were Passover more often.

Not Manly Enough

Farro Prep

I think I’ve figured out a couple of things after charring the boneless pork chops tonight.

1) S is a much better grill cook than I. He babysits his meats and vegetables on the grill and makes sure that everything that comes off of it is cooked to perfection.

2) I always wondered why grills were sold with side burners. Now I know. It is hard to babysit the grill when the sides are inside on the stove.

3) Maybe men are so great at grilling because they are not making sure that everything else is ready as soon as the grilling is complete? Yeah, yeah, I know, that sounds sexist. Oh, well.

I asked S’s advice for cooking the meat and thought that I followed his directions. But, I took the directions as gospel (when they were only guidelines) and I didn’t keep checking the meat. I just turned the grill heat down to medium, let the meat sear for 5 minutes on one side, turned it, 5 minutes on the other side, turned it again….well, it was probably done already. Probably should have done the first turn after 3 minutes, etc. No trichonosis at our house tonight!

I guess I’ll learn at some point, but I think I’d rather have S do the grilling – unless we get a grill with side burners.

The farro turned out well, though. Farro is a grain that is similar to wheat. It looks a little like a large, darker pearled barley and it can be cooked like a risotto. In Italy, we had it in a soup with peas and asparagus. That soup was memorably delicious.

Farro Risotto
serves 4

1 cup Farro (semi-pearled)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 sundried tomatoes, chopped (optional)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, heated
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes until the onion is beginning to brown and is fragrant. Add the farro and sundried tomatoes, and stir to combine them with the onions and the olive oil. Slowly pour in about half of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir frequently. When the liquid is just below the level of the grain, add more broth to cover the farro. Continue stirring and adding the liquid in this manner until the grains are barely cooked through (al dente). This should take about 20 minutes. Then, cook a little longer so that most (but not all) of the liquid is absorbed. Add the parmesan and about 1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add additional pepper and salt as desired.