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Home-dried tomato polenta with mushrooms

February 14, 2010

Making up a quick list for errand-running yesterday evening, I added mushrooms and polenta to my list.  The grocery store was peripheral to this trip, but I never pass up an opportunity to grocery shop.  I have a bit of an addiction.  Though I do prefer to do my grocery shopping early in the morning–less people to trip over and shopping cart obstacles to swerve around.

There was a vague idea floating in my mind about a polenta dish with those home-dried tomatoes loitering in the back of the cabinet next to the home-dried cranberries, apples, and cherries.  In the grocery store, I ran across a display of tightly closed artichokes.  And the meal solidified in my mind.  Artichokes with a lemon aioli to start and dried tomato polenta topped with fried mushrooms and onions.  Perfect.

Because I was in a chain grocery store, all I could find was quick-cooking polenta (with pre-c0oked grain), so I worked around that.

Home-dried tomato and garlic polenta:

  • 1/4 Cup very dry home-dried tomatoes (we’re talking crisp, not leathery–must work on my drying skills)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 Cup quick cooking polenta
  • about 3 Cups water + more as needed
  • salt to taste
  • grated pecorino romano cheese, about 1/3 Cup

Slice the dried tomatoes into halves or quarters.  Heat oil in a small sauce pan; add tomatoes and garlic.  Let simmer briefly, then turn off the heat and let hot oil sit and plump tomatoes.  Or, if you’re clever enough to plan ahead, the night before or morning of, combine oil, tomatoes, and garlic and let sit.  Or, if you haven’t any dried tomatoes, you can buy the kind jarred in oil and add some garlic of your own.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan.

When boiling, whisk in polenta meal gradually.  Add water as necessary/if necessary.  Once the polenta meal is incorporated, whisk or stir in the tomato mixture.

Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, while you prepare and fry 1 onion and about 6 ounces of baby portabella mushrooms in butter, salting to taste.  Stir in cheese before serving.

Before both of those cook, unless you use traditional polenta meal in which case start the polenta first, prepare the artichokes and aioli.

For artichokes, you can cut off the tops and the point tips of the leaves, but I’m too lazy to do that and just tug the leaves carefully.  Also, leave the stems on–they’re soft, delicious, and edible.  Steam artichokes in steamer basket with copious boiling water beneath (add lemon juice to the water for flavor and color) until leaves separate from the bulb with a gentle tug.

The cheater lemon aioli is slightly more work:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • sprinkling of salt
  • 1 inch thick wedge of lemon
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/3 Cup mayonnaise

Using the flat of your knife, work the minced garlic with the salt sprinkled over it into a paste (or approximation thereof) or use a mortar and pestle to the same end.  Mix the garlic paste with the squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and the mayonnaise.  Taste, and adjust as you like.

Serve the steamed artichokes with the cheater lemon aioli.  Follow up with the Home-dried tomato polenta topped with fried mushrooms and onions.

EDIT: sent into to the Grow Your Own Roundup #39!

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