Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Couldn't Resist - Creamy Polenta with Sausages, Mushrooms and Marinara Sauce

Some people give you the crazy eye when you tell them Valentine's Day happens to be your favorite holiday. At the very least, they give you the side eye. They'll tell you it's a fake, commercially created holiday that only serves to make single people feel badly about themselves. I think they must not appreciate baked goods, flowers and an extra incentive to hug it out. I tell them they must never have experienced the famous V-Day pillow fight on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. They must not enjoy drinking champagne (because that's just what you do on this day) eating steak and watching the classic romantic comedies (such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and whatever else happens to be on AMC at the time). How can you not like Valentine's Day? Honestly! Who would refuse a cupcake on this day?

I may come off as a cynic when it comes to love and romance, but in truth, I'm a total sap.

Like I said. It's my favorite holiday. And I will not apologize for that.

So after my fantastic Valentine's Day weekend that included wine tasting with a friend in Sonoma; a visit with my favorite appetizer, the Pork Belly Bun at Heaven's Dog and several glasses of champagne, my body decided to go on strike. Most of Sunday and all of Monday were spent in bed with a glass of juice and little else. My body ached, I was feverish and my throat was unbelievably sore. So much for a good ending to the weekend of love.

So when 4 o'clock rolled around today, and I came across Mark Bittman's newest Minimalist recipe in the New York Times, I was relieved to discover I had my appetite back. His polenta with sausage looked amazing, and I could tell it would hit the spot. I topped it off with some purple basil.

Polenta is such an easy, quick-fix for a meal. The whole thing came together in about 20 minutes. It was savory and comforting. It's something I haven't cooked much of before this year, but more and more, it's becoming a go-to weeknight dinner.

More on the Sonoma wine discoveries next time, also, a visit to Oakland's Commis...

Creamy Polenta with Sausages, Mushrooms and Marinara Sauce
adapted from Mark Bittman
serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
2 good-quality Italian sausages
1/2 cup medium-to-coarse cornmeal
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/4 cup Parmesean
freshly ground black pepper
several fresh basil leaves for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium-high in a skillet. Add the sausages and cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally and lowering heat if necessary. After about 10 minutes, add the mushrooms and brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and marinara to the pan during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with 1/2 cup water and whisk well to to eliminate any lumps. Put pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking frequently and adding water as needed to keep mixture loose and free of lumps, between 3 and 4 more cups. If mixture becomes too thick, simply add a bit more water; consistency should be similar to sour cream’s.

Polenta will be done in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on grind. Add the cheese. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and lots of pepper; serve topped with sausages, mushrooms and sauce. Garnish with pepper and basil leaves.

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