Polenta with Rosemary Mushrooms

So, this meal looks remarkably similar to my shrimp and grits post from a few weeks ago. And, I guess in theory, that makes sense, because polenta and grits are remarkably similar. They are, in fact, the same food- corn meal- ground to varying consistencies. Polenta is usually a bit more coarse; however, traditionally, they are really derived from distinct types of corn. But when it comes to grocery store shopping, can you really find a difference? Not usually. The more coarse, deeply yellow corn meal I purchased (from the bulk bins at Whole Foods) is labeled “polenta,” and is what I’d consider polenta to be. Contrastingly, when I make grits, I use a finely ground white corn meal, which cooks quite a bit more quickly and yields a creamier consistency. These are lot of fancy descriptions for ground corn. The biggest difference notable to the consumer is 1) cook time and 2) texture. If you want dinner on the table in under 15 minutes, finely ground corn meal, usually grits, are the way to go. If you want more deeply developed flavors, go with something more coarse and simmer for awhile, usually polenta. However, this can probably be reversed. (I believe some Southerners would turn their nose at the finely-ground, more-quickly-cooked stuff).

I purchased the polenta on a whim, eager to see what the difference really tasted like. I also wanted a classic Italian flavor profile (two Italian dishes in a row!? Too bad I actually made this a couple weeks ago), so I topped the polenta with delicate and bitter greens and rich and savory mushrooms. I pretty much love mushrooms made this way. The rosemary isn’t overwhelming, but does add to the savory-ness (that’s a word now).

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Polenta with Rosemary Mushrooms

Serves 1 (I eat alone… but this is easily multiplied)

1/4 cup coarse, stone-ground polenta

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 tbsp. butter

1 cup arugula

4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tbsp. butter

1/2 tbsp. flour

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped finely

Pinch dried red chili flake

Salt & pepper, to taste

To prepare the polenta, heat the chicken stock in a pot over medium-high heat until boiling. Once boiling, turn the heat to low, add the polenta, and whisk constantly, until the polenta has absorbed some of the stock and is thickened slightly. Cover the pot and simmer the polenta, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking to the pan. Cook the polenta for 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is fully absorbed and the polenta is creamy. It may seem “done” a bit before this, but cooking longer intensifies the flavor. Once finished, add butter and season with salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate and plate.

While the polenta is cooking, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and melt, then add the mushroom. Cook the mushrooms until browning and releasing their juices, about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt, pepper, and chili flake, and add the fresh rosemary. Mix to combine. Toss the flour over the mushrooms and stir to incorporate. Cook the flour over the mushrooms for about a minute, until the white powdery flour is no longer visible. Add the stock, which should bubble upon contact. Stir to incorporate the stock with the mushrooms, and allow the stock to thicken and reduce. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the liquid is quite thick and adherent to the mushrooms.

Top the plated polenta with a pile of greens. Add the hot rosemary mushrooms above the greens, which will cause them to wilt slightly and soften the flavor. Eat slowly and savor the deep corn flavor with the savory rosemary mushrooms.

I love grits, but polenta is seriously good.

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(Anyone notice my distorted reflection in the spoon of my first picture? Yes, these are iPhone photos. I love VSCOcam.)

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Buffalo Quinoa Burgers

So this is a new experienxe, blogging on my phone from a coffee shop (my favorite- Ipsento in Bucktown). I forgot my iPad, so it’s especially inconvenient. But I have this Nutella Mocha here, and I’m not thinking it’s so bad. I made these burgers for the first time a few weeks ago, and actually made them as “bites,” which was directed according to the recipe I was following. They were absolutely delicious, served atop a bed of butter lettuce and other salad accoutrements (Is that possibly spelled correctly? Will spell check function appropriately on my phone?). However, these quinoa bites were kind of unproportionately inconvenient to prepare and make, requiring three rounds of pan sautéing and individual dips into buffalo sauce. I thought to myself: hey, this would be way easier as a patty, still served with ranch and crispy greens, but also with a delicious toasted bun!?! And it was so. I tweaked the general recipe some, adjusted the buffalo sauce proportions, and improvised my own “ranch” dressing (quotes because I’m not sure if it’s real ranch without mayonnaise or buttermilk). These burgers turned out phenomenal- perfectly crisped edges, wonderfully buffalo-sauced, and cooled just a touch by the ranch on top. To be honest, while I ate these all week simply with sauce and arugula, my favorite serving style was with a buttered, toasted bun and a runny egg on top. But, in all fairness, that’s always the best way to serve anything.

These are a great spin on a classic weeknight meal, and, I think, tastier than buffalo chicken. The quinoa just absorbs the flavor better. Top as you like, always with a fresh roll (toasted).

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Buffalo Quinoa Burgers

Based off of this recipe

Serves 6

Homemade buffalo sauce

  • 1/3 cup hot sauce of choice (I’ve used Frank’s and Cholula)
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Dash of red chili flake

Quinoa burgers

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cannellini (or other white) beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup homemade buffalo sauce

Homemade ranch dressing

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon, squeezed)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, and parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

Soft, fluffy buns

Arugula or other greens to serve

To prepare the ranch dressing, add all ingredients to a blender, mason jar, or bowl. Blend, shake, or whisk accordingly until all ingredients are combined. Place in the refrigerator to cool until ready to use.

To prepare the buffalo sauce, melt butter in a large bowl. Whisk together with extra virgin olive oil. Whisk in the hot sauce and spices. Set aside for later use.

To prepare the buffalo quinoa burgers, first prepare 2 cups of cooked quinoa. To make approximately 2 cups of cooked quinoa, heat 1 cup of water to boiling in a medium pot. Add 1/2 cup of dried quinoa to the boiling water, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer. Simmer quinoa for 10-15 minutes until opened and soft.

In a large bowl, mix the two cups of quinoa with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. In a food processor, blend the cannellini beans to a puree. Add the pureed beans to the bowl with the bread crumbs and quinoa. Add the egg, whisked, and 1/4 cup of the prepared buffalo sauce. Stir thoroughly to combine until the mixture is wet but firms into clumps in your hand (think hamburger patty consistency). Add more bread crumbs or buffalo sauce as needed to get it right.

In order to make the 6 patties, I try to level the quinoa mixture in the bowl with a spoon. Score the mixture with the spoon down the middle, then score 3 lines perpendicular to the first. Grab the scored area to form the patties.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the buffalo quinoa patties and cook for 5 minutes per side, covering the pan (except to flip). Remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Drizzle the remaining prepared buffalo sauce over the patties. The buffalo quinoa patties will easily keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. Alternatively, you could cool the patties then freeze.

To prepare your burger, toast the buns in butter on a sauté pan (or toast then butter). Add your buffalo quinoa patty and top with a good spoonful of ranch dressing and your greens. If you want to throw a fried, over-easy egg on there, I’ll applaud you for your good taste.

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Look at that egg, the yolk begging to drip all over the burger, the plate, and your face. If you like buffalo-style anything, I promise you’ll love these. And better, you can enjoy them all week… or anytime, really.

 

Greens, Eggs, and Pan

This may be my favorite savory breakfast, save the more indulgent rare quiches and restaurant-finds, and it’s one of my go-to “I don’t have anything for dinner” meals. I can’t count the number of times I topped toast and greens with eggs and called it dinner while in graduate school, starving mid-study session and short on the patience required to prepare a more “substantial” meal. But what’s odd is now I find myself craving it, kind of in the way breakfast for dinner or cereal nights are sometimes preferable to mindfully prepared dinners. And, beyond that, with the right bread, and the right greens, these ingredients genuinely blend perfectly together, the yolk coating the somewhat bitter greens and enhancing the buttered, yeasty bread below. So you’ll need to excuse my Dr. Seuss pun (it was too easy), as this is not some distasteful dish to run away from, but rather a delicious escape from time-intensive meals. And for anyone wondering, pan means bread in Spanish, and it was the only way to make this rhyme work.

I know some are wary of a runny yolk, but I have to insist you give it a try. I owe my own experience to my best friend and former roommate, who introduced me to the bread-in-drippy-yolk combo, which absolutely blew my mind.* There are eggs, scrambled or otherwise, on a whole spectrum of deliciousness. But an egg over easy, yolk loose and sauce-like, is just second to none. But, if you’re a first-timer, over medium may be a safe place to start. You’ll get a little runny yolk action, but mostly have a pretty firm egg. Just… don’t go straight for the scramble. So many lost eggs out there.

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Toasted Bread and Greens with Eggs Over-Easy

Serves 1

2 slices good bread (I used half of a demi-baguette, but sourdough or a seedy wheat would also be excellent)

1 tbsp. butter, divided

2 cups arugula or other green (spinach or a delicate spring mix work nicely)

2 large brown eggs (organic, free range preferably)

In a small sauté pan, melt 2 tsp. butter over medium heat in the shape of your bread slices. Place the bread flat-side down onto the pan, pressing firmly to coat the bread with melted butter. Heat the bread until toasted and just browning in butter, then remove from heat. Alternatively, if your bread is fresh and soft and perfect, just spread 1 tsp. softened butter on each slice.

Top the bread, toasted or otherwise, with the greens.

In the previously used sauté pan, melt the final teaspoon of butter over medium-low heat. Crack the eggs side by side into the pan, making sure to keep the yolk intact. Cook the eggs until the bottom of the egg-whites are set, about 2-3 minutes, then cover with a lid. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until whites are fully set but the yolk is still runny (it should move loosely when you go to move the eggs with a spatula). If a more set yolk is desired, cook for a few more minutes covered, until the thin layer of whites surrounding the yolk are more opaque, and the egg is less mobile.

Gently, with a spatula, top the greens and toast with the eggs. Use a fork to break the yolk and allow to run all over. Eat with a fork or with your hands, whichever is more feasible and more messy. It’s more enjoyable that way.

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Finish the meal with a beautiful blood orange on the side. Dinner and dessert now complete. You are free to go about your scheduled evening activities.

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In tribute of the classic, buttered bagel dipped into 2 over easy yolks, whites scooped up with the bagel in hand. Also, this is a good example of a more “over-medium” egg.