Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Corny Meal

Polenta with mushrooms and asparagus in marinara sauce

Easy meal to make, satisfying, flexible. Two methods:

Method one: the "hard" way:

For four servings:
1 c. polenta meal
4 c. water
1 tsp. salt

Make the polenta: Mix polenta in water, in a two-quart baking dish. Add salt, stir. Bake for fifty minutes at 350 degrees. Take out, stir, then replace in the oven for 10 - 20 minutes, until done. It will be thick and soft.

Corn and vegetable sauce:
4 ears corn
1/2 c. water
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. asparagus, fresh, preferably thin
1 - 2 c. marinara sauce
A few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade (roll up and slice thinly) (optional)
Italian seasoning to taste

While the polenta is cooking, prepare the vegatables. Take the husks off the corn and cut in half. Clean and slice mushrooms. Wash asparagus, cut off tough ends and discard, then cut spears into 1 - 2" long pieces. Chop onion. Slice basil leaves into thin strips.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When the polenta is back in the oven for the second time, put the corn in the pan to cook until done. Test by spearing an ear - if liquid that comes out of a kernal is clear the corn is done.

When polenta is about 2/3 (about 40 minutes in) done, fix sauce. In a large frying pan heat water over medium heat. Add onion, cook for about a minute. Add mushrooms and steam-cook until nearly done (5 - 10 minutes). Add asparagus, marinara sauce, and seasoning. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender.

[Alternatively, you can cook the polenta ahead and refrigerate. Cut into four pieces and reheat in the microwave]

To serve: Divide polenta onto the four plates. Divide sauce on top of the polenta. Serve corn on the side.

Method two: The easier way:

Polenta: Use tube from the store. For each serving cut two slices, each about 1/2" thick. Heat in microwave until warm.

Corn: use frozen ears. Cook four in microwave, according to package directions.

Sauce. Combine all ingredients except asparagus in wide microwave-safe dish with lid. Cook in microwave oven until nearly done (microwaves vary; start with three minutes and check). Add asparagus (you can use frozen spears if you like, or frozen cut asparagus) and cook until crisp-tender, another minute or so.


Warning: I did not try the microwave version. I relied on past experience with similar mixtures and with polenta from a tube package. If you try it let me know how it comes out.

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