Thursday, February 26, 2009

Polenta, Food for the Poor

Because of certain circumstances (ahem, lack of jobs), The BF and I have been eating out less and less, which means our kitchen is getting put to good use. Whereas once we might have cooked one or two exceptional meals once a week, supplemented by take-out, now we cook a lot of basic weeknight dinners and one pot wonders, with a truly stellar, time-consuming meal once every other week. Our bellies are angry, but our bank accounts thank us!

I whipped up this hearty meal of polenta topped with a spicy tomato sauce for myself when I was enjoying a night alone. It's simple, delicious, cheap, and something that I love to make for myself: no fuss and just the flavors I enjoy. Plus, these rainy days have left me longing for foods that I can enjoy in a dim-lit room, curled up on the couch. The sauce is as basic as it gets and very forgiving--I don't think it's possible to screw up tomatoes and garlic!--so feel free to add your own mix of ingredients.

Oh, and don't let the anchovy scare you off! It cooks down into nothing so that all you're left with is a nutty undercurrent.

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce, for one

1/2 cup polenta, and water for cooking
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 anchovy, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 14 oz. can tomatoes, chopped.
Salt & pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp. parsley (basil would be just as appropriate, but it's far better in the

1. Cook the polenta according to package instructions. This will take about 25 minutes, unless your using quick-cooking polenta, which I've found to be just as good for a small meal such as this one. If you choose the latter, you may to keep it warm while your sauce is cooked.

2. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium might heat. Once hot, add in the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes. Gently stir and allow to cook for a minute or two. You want to anchovy to melt into the oil and the garlic's aroma to ignite.

3. Once the anchovy has all but disappeared and the oil has taken on a rich yellow color, add your chopped tomatoes. (If you're adding in any other hearty ingredients, like mushrooms or kale, you may want to give them their own turn in the garlic-pepper oil before you add the tomatoes.)

4. Allow the tomatoes to simmer for a good 15 minutes. It's important your flavors have time to meld together. Add a hefty pinch of salt and bit of pepper, and taste for flavor. If you need more salt, don't be shy. You want the flavor to be distinct against the polenta.

5. Finally, hit the sauce with the lemon juice and the parsley. Let it cook three to five more minutes, just long enough for the acid of the lemon to develop. Spoon your hot polenta into a bowl and top with your sauce. Enjoy!


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