The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's not even close to quittin' time and I'm thinking about dinner. Sigh...

Tonight I'm going to saute (would be better on the grill!) thin-sliced sirloin with balsamic vinegar and garlic. I'll serve that with polenta fries and a peppery, creamy salad of arugula, watercress, red onion, mozzarella and plum tomato dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. To save time, I'm going to cheat a bit tonight and use a tube 'o' polenta. I'll slice it up, brush the "fries" with olive oil, season and saute them until they're golden and crispy on the outside.

And in case you want to try my longer - and better, I think - version of the fries:

Polenta Fries
2 cups milk (I would say no less than 2% to get the best result - this is not a time for skim...)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more for finishing)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano
1/4 cup melted clarified butter (or olive oil, if you prefer)

Bring the milk and water just to a boil in a large saucepan. Add polenta, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt and reduce the heat to medium or medium-high. Continue stirring until the polenta gets thick (in my experience, the amount of time it takes really depends on the polenta). Stir in the cheese. Remove polenta from heat and spread out 1/2-inch thick onto a baking sheet using a spatula. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour (or you can make it ahead and chill overnight). Cut into wide fry shapes. Brush a big of butter (or olive oil) over each. Bake at 450 degrees until crispy and golden, about 20-25 minutes. (Flip them halfway through baking for even color and crispiness.) Sprinkle with a bit more salt to taste before serving, but while they are still hot!

These are also great with (what else?) burgers. I like them in lieu of a bun...



at 1:49 PM Blogger Kel Klump said...

We are going to use one of our last Crock pot dishes (roast and veggies) and then use the leftovers for soup. Its going to be too warm soon for the ease of the crock pot so this is a finale to the season.

at 2:12 PM Blogger valereee said...

Best. Polenta. Ever.

I've tried every polenta known to man. I'll be cooking it up, my mouth watering because of what I think it should taste like, and I'm always disappointed -- it's always BITTER. Not this stuff. It tastes like corn instead of like past-its-prime corn oil.

I know, I know. It's not local. Not even close -- this stuff is imported from Italy. But it's worth it. I don't know what we're doing wrong with our polenta here in Ohio, but ours can't hold a candle to this stuff.

at 2:14 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

Hmm... I'll have to try that. Thanks!

at 2:20 PM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

I am such a novice at things....I need some help.

Is polenta the same as grits? Does it come dry AND in a "tube" (I think I saw it once and it looked like sausage)?

Which kind did you use in your recipe?

I have some Thai pumpkin soup from Myra's that I think I will make the sauce for a whole wheat pasta dish for dinner tonight. I will add some spinach, and shrimp too. Still carb loading.....

at 2:49 PM Anonymous vudutu said...

Spanish chop salad with tuna, Wow Val, I did not know you could order from Zingermans. Cool, I'll be trolling that site.


at 2:56 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

CinTwin - This is another example of why I love food. It's all about the people, and how food connects all of us. Polenta, grits, mush, etc... It's all the same thing: coursely-ground corn meal. The big differences between them are the courseness and, of course, the preparation.

It does comes dry or pre-made, as it were, and in a tube. I recommend the former if you have time to make it!

For dry, I like Bob's Red Mill (look for it at Whole Foods or bigg's).

For the refrigerated ones, check near the butter at your store... And I think Trader Joe's still has a shelf-stable (and organic) polenta tube (near the pasta). Never tried it, though... And Whole Foods also sells refrigerated polenta tubes.

Maybe you can try it after your race! :)

at 4:22 PM Anonymous lauren said...

Lightly breaded, pan-seared chicken breast stuffed with spinach, provolone and probably some garlic. I'll finish it off in the oven. Maybe some fresh fruit salad on the side.

at 9:47 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

for dinner, I cooked at a wine dinner MCI had tonight. I had the leftovers it was delish.

at 8:22 AM Blogger Veggie Option said...

I had leftover lentil salad with roasted tomatoes and onions.

at 12:06 PM Blogger Julie said...

Nicci, you're wrong about grits and polenta. They're not the same thing. Grits is made from hominy, which consist of corn kernels with the hulls removed. They puff up and are then dried and ground. Polenta, on the other hand, is boiled corn meal, known in the US as corn meal mush. Tyler Florence called boiled white cornmeal "grits" in his shrimp and grits episode and I've been on a mission to educate ever since. I wrote about it in more detail in my Hugo review. I give a link to my favorite grits there. For ground cornmeal, the shelf-stable kind at TJ's is pretty good, but I too like Red Mill.

at 12:33 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

You're right, Julie. And I didn't make myself clear. My point was that they are both ground derived from corn. Which is of great interest to me. I'm always amazed by how many otherwise dissimilar cultures enjoy similar foods.

Thanks for adding clarity and sharing your thesis on the matter. :)

at 1:12 PM Blogger Julie said...

Gotcha! I didn't want to come across as a know-it-all, but there are certain things that hit our hot buttons, and grits is one of mine. :)

Amazing how one grain goes through so many cultures, even though it's native only to the US and discovered by Europeans relatively late in culinary history!

at 2:52 PM Blogger vudutu said...

I never got grits, can't get into a foodstuff processed with lye.

at 3:43 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

Grits can be processed without lye...

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