Tag Archives: polenta

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta

December is such a busy time of year for most of us. Lots of gatherings, shopping, school functions, sporting events, etc. I usually have a pretty open schedule and found myself booked 3 of the 5 work days this week. What?! However, busyness doesn’t mean you have to get take out. You are spending enough money everywhere else this month, you don’t need to eat out a ton too.

Enter your slow cooker. This awesome piece of kitchen equipment is the busy cook’s best friend. Throw some food in early in the day, cook some sort of starch to go with it, and you are good to go.

This ratatouille is perfect for a cold December night. Super hearty and filling, you won’t even miss meat. The goat cheese in the polenta adds the perfect tang. It’s just all around delicious. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta (Serves 6-8)

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta

Ratatouille:
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
3 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
2 small red or yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-­inch pieces
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
¼ cup all-­purpose flour
¼ cup tomato paste
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

Polenta:
6 cups low-­sodium vegetable or chicken stock
1 ½ cups polenta or cornmeal (not instant)
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1. Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the slow cooker that has been lightly greased with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-­high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the flour and tomato paste. Cook until the mixture is thickened
and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes.

3. Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Turn off slow cooker and stir in Parmesan cheese and basil.

4. About 30 minutes before vegetables are done, add the stock, cornmeal, and ½ teaspoon pepper to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-­high heat, whisking frequently to prevent lumps. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until creamy and thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and goat cheese.

5. To serve, ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top, and serve immediately. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 330
Protein: 12 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 18 mg
Carbohydrates: 46 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 579 mg

Recipe Notes: The eggplant is less bitter if you peel it and if you let it sit a bit with the salt. If you are pressed for time, it will still work if you don’t do either step. It might be a bit more watery, but not enough to kill it. I don’t love the taste of cooked red onions generally, so I prefer to mix and match here. I’m sure fresh herbs would be delicious here, but I don’t remember to buy them or the store doesn’t have the one I want. If you can’t find or don’t eat goat cheese, I would probably sub in more Parmesan. Or maybe cream cheese. I tried blue cheese once and didn’t love the combination personally, but it is an option as well.

Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious.com

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Italian Braised Beef over Polenta

At my house, it is beginning to warm up and feel like spring and summer might actually happen. I spent so much time at the park yesterday that I got my first “tan” line of the year. But Mother Nature is tricky. Every year this happens, and then every year there is a random snow storm or cold streak that makes us all depressed again.

In anticipation of that cold streak, I bring you this hearty, Italian dish. It is warm, sticks to your ribs, and tastes amazing. Even better, it cooks in the crockpot, so you could make it on a spring or summer day without heating up your house.

Enjoy!

Italian Braised Beef over Polenta (Serves 4-6)

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½ tablespoon olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced bell pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds boneless chuck roast (or about that much)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ – 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ¼ cups cold water
1 cup polenta/corn meal
¼ cup parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrots, bell pepper, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

2. Add chuck roast, pepper, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and basil. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 7 ½ hours, until meat is falling apart and shreds easily with a fork.

3. Add vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, while preparing polenta.

4. Combine broth, water, and polenta in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently until polenta begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in parmesan cheese.

5. Shred meat with 2 forks. Serve meat with sauce over polenta.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 391
Protein:  37 g
Fat:  12 g
Saturated Fat:  3.5 g
Cholesterol:  116 mg
Carbohydrates:  34 g
Fiber:  4 g
Sodium:  275 mg

Recipe Notes: The original recipe called for pork. I’m sure that would be delicious as well. The original recipe had you sear the meat on all sides in oil before sautéing the vegetables. My meat was frozen, so searing wasn’t an option for me. I still think it tasted fine. I generally skip that step in lots of slow cooker recipes. My meat usually is frozen, but I also just don’t find that big of a flavor difference worth the mess or time it takes to sear it. I think it is a personal preference.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Polenta-Stuffed Poblanos with Fresh Salsa

I always thought of polenta as a “fancy” food that was hard to make. But when I started making polenta with sausage ragu, I realized it is nothing more than cornmeal porridge – the Italian form of grits, which I had grown up eating regularly.  Since it is simple to make and a new family favorite, I set out to find more recipes using polenta.

Honestly, many I found are just variations on a sauce over polenta.  I wasn’t willing to bother with just a variation on a dish I already really liked.  Then I stumbled on this little gem on pinterest.  This dish is different from anything else I’ve ever eaten and is phenomenal. The salsa on top is good enough to eat on its own.  But on top of the creamy polenta and chewy, charred peppers, it is even better.

Enjoy!

Polenta-Stuffed Poblanos with Fresh Salsa (Serves 4-6)

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8 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed (to your heat preference)
1 large red onion, cut into wedges (sixths or eighths should work)
½ tablespoon olive oil
4-6 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 ounces low-fat cream cheese
⅓ cup green onions, chopped, divided

1. Preheat broiler or grill. Toss tomatoes, jalapeño, and onion in olive oil. Broil or grill tomatoes, jalapeño, red onion, and poblanos for about 5-10 minutes on each side (starting with cut side down). Turn when beginning to char. Cook other side until charred as well.

2. In a food processor, chop tomatoes, jalapeño, onion, cinnamon, garlic, and salt to your desired salsa consistency.

3. Preheat oven to 400. In the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of the salsa.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine water, chicken broth, and cornmeal. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until thickened and pulling away from sides of the pan, stirring with whisk or wooden spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in corn, cream cheese, and ¼ cup of green onions.

5. Spoon polenta into poblano pepper halves until each pepper is full. (You may have leftover polenta.) Place stuffed peppers in baking dish. Cover with remaining salsa.

6. Bake until heated through, about 5-15 minutes. Serve with remaining green onions.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving with 6 servings):

Calories: 190
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 3.7 g
Saturated Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 148 mg

Recipe Notes: Be careful when grilling the tomatoes. Obviously they are full of juice, which can drip down and cause flares in your grill flames. I like a spicy salsa, but since I serve this to my 1 year old, I usually remove most of the seeds and membranes in the jalapeño. Leave them in if you like things spicy. The poblanos do provide a little heat, so keep that in mind. I know it seems odd that I say 4-6 poblano peppers. First, it depends on how big your peppers are. I usually try to get bigger peppers. Second, it depends on how stuffed you want them. I used 5 large poblanos when I made this batch, and they still had a lot of polenta in them. If you are looking for a shortcut, you could use store-bought salsa. You should try this salsa at some point though.

Source: adapted from Real Simple

Low-iodine adjustment: Use iodine free chicken broth and omit the cream cheese.

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