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Sweet Corn Polenta

12 Jul

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July! I know it’s a little late…but this polenta is a great Fourth of July appetizer. I made it for my family and it was a hit. We took part in the traditional Towanda Fourth of July festivities, I woke up early  on the 4th to bake the cake that would become Pioneer Woman’s Strawberry Shortcake Cake. Then it was time to gather and prepare for the flea market and parade.

We headed down to Towanda in two waves: the first wave (my dad, my grandma and I) set up chairs along the parade route in the shade so we’d be sure to have a good spot. Grandma protected the location while I did an initial flea market scouting mission. The bartering started early when the very first tent I hit had two plates I wanted, marked $2 a piece. The seller immediately offered me 3 plates for $3. This was going to be a good day. I ended up taking 2 of the plates for a dollar a piece. My next find was a yellow glass vintage cake stand. The $12 price tag was reasonable, but it’s more fun when you haggle, so I offered her $10. We settled on $11.

I headed back to drop off my finds and wait for the second wave. Wave two: my mom, my other grandma, my sister and my uncle showed up right on schedule. My sister and I did another quick lap through the park, and I bought two more plates, before taking our seats for the parade. It was a good one: you have your antique tractors, your antique cars, your local sheriff, the septic tank cleaner, the town fire truck, and one float…we’ll still debating whether the people with the sign “TEA” were a local Tea Party branch…or the Towanda Education Assocation. It’s a mystery that may never be solved.

After the parade, those who couldn’t handle the heat headed into town for some last minute groceries, and the remaining four did our last round of shopping. We headed over to the south park to see what they had to offer. My sister picked out a wooden necklace, only to discover the seller was our neighbor, who gave it to her for free. I found two more plates at various other tents around the park, so that I ended up with a nice set of 6 mis-matched vintage plates. Hopefully they will soon be making an appearance on the blog…once I get them shipped here (sadly six plates and a cake stand wouldn’t fit in my carry-on).

Unfortunately, the corn was behind this year in IL due to a very wet spring, so I didn’t get any local sweet corn while I was home, but it has made an appearance here in the mid-Atlantic at the farmers markets. Because it was so yummy the first time, I decided to make the polenta again this past weekend for my apartment-warming party. Except I got impatient, and my electric stove caused it to thicken pretty quickly. I was worried I was going to over-do it, so I didn’t let it go the whole 30 min. Don’t be like me. Instead of pretty polenta triangles, I had…gooey polenta mounds. It doesn’t really work very well as finger food…

This picture is what happens when you’re watching a parade full of tractors and your mom says “act excited about the parade!” We did our best.

Sweet Corn Polenta

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 8-10 (appetizers)
3 cups water
1 cup stone ground polenta
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, cooking for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and corn, cooking an addition 3-5 minutes until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup polenta, whisking to remove lumps. Bring the remaining 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cornmeal/water mixture, continuing to whisk to prevent clumping. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
When polenta is thickened, fold in corn/onion mixture.
Grease a 7×11 pan lightly with olive oil, and spread polenta into pan. Allow to cool for a few hours, or you can make it a day ahead and pop it in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to serve, use a sharp knife to cut polenta into triangles (cut into squares, and then cut each square at a diagonal). Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Top triangles with Parmesan and place under the broiler in your oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and browned. Enjoy!

Black Bean Quesadilla

25 Apr

True story: I eat a lot of quesadillas. Usually I just make a simple cheese ‘dilla for lunch. But yesterday I decided to go for something more substantial.

The reason I needed more substance was this: I got a job. It’s just a job, not a job job.  I’m still looking for a job job, but for now, I’m making money working as a hostess at a Mediterranean restaurant in my neighborhood. Since I work over the dinner hour, I have to eat a big mid-afternoon meal before my shift or else I’m starving by 11pm.  This quesadilla definitely kept me full all evening (and then my manager ended up giving me some lamb quesadilla at the end of my shift, so I kind of ate an absurd amount of quesadilla yesterday).

Being a hostess has been great so far, it’s not too complicated, and I get half-off meals after my shift, which is awesome. Even once I get a job job, I’m going to keep a few shifts a week at the restaurant just to give me a little extra cushion in my bank account (especially after five months of being unemployed).

If there was ever a picture that fully described me as a person it is this one:

The one thing I always have in my fridge is a huge block of colby jack cheese. So good.

And I’m probably a little heavy-handed with my cheese application. Feel free to be healthier than I am and use less.

I’m going to share my super secret guac recipe with you:

Just kidding. I didn’t have time before work to make guac, so I just used a packaged mix. I added some extra red onion…and at least it’s organic? Not as good as the real thing, but still pretty darn tasty.

Black Bean Quesadillas
Serves 2

Print this recipe!

4 small flour tortillas (or 2 large flour tortillas)
3/4 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
½ medium red onion, diced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup black beans, drained and rinsed (more or less depending on your personal love of black beans)
Guacamole, salsa, sour cream or whatever else you like to put on your quesadillas

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Turn heat down to medium low, and put one of the tortillas in the same skillet. Top with half the cheese, half the onions, and half the black beans. Cover with another tortilla and turn the heat back up to medium. Cook until brown, flip, and cook until other side is brown. If the tortillas are browning to quickly, lower the heat.

Remove from heat, slice into quarters or sixths, top with guac, and burn the roof of your mouth on the cheese because you refuse to wait a few extra seconds to let it cool. At least that’s what I did.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Red Wine Onions

13 Apr

I just got back to the District after a nice week at home in Illinois. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my parents, did some shopping with my mom, helped my dad take apart the back deck so they can replace the pool liner, consumed the messiest burger known to mankind, tried to go to a roller derby but it got postponed, ate saffron risotto and beef nachos (weird combination, I know) at our favorite tapas place, got iced chai from my favorite coffeeshop, ate a chicken caesar salad sandwich at my favorite cafe, got a mani/pedi while my mom got her hair done, went on some nice walks around the neighborhood in the evenings after dinner, went to a spin class with my friend, jogged with my mom, watched the Cards games with my dad on his huge tv, got to hang out with this guy:

He was mostly interested in eating, but I think he was at least a little happy to see me.

I also went to a cookout at my friend’s apartment. She lives in this fantastic old house with a huge front porch. I threw together Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cobbler and some of these tasty little stuffed mushrooms.

And you’ll notice how much fancier the kitchen I’m in is. My mom recently remodeled hers and it is fantastic. I also got to use my parents’ camera, which you can probably tell from the pictures is way nicer than what I normally use. It made me very excited for when I can afford to throw down some money on a DSLR.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Red Wine Onions
Makes 30 stuffed mushrooms

30 baby bella mushrooms, washed or wiped off, stems removed
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thin
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup red wine
½ tsp tarragon
½ tsp salt
1 cup grated swiss cheese

In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat, add onions, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once soft, add wine and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Season with tarragon and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In the same skillet, melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter over medium heat and add mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and let cook for about 2 minutes. Remove and place stem side up in a large Pyrex dish.

Stuff each mushroom cap with onions and then top each with grated swiss cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, and then turn on your broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese. Pop one in your mouth to check the levels of deliciousness. Pop another one in just to be sure. Try to save a few for your friends.