Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Plenty of Potential
6 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, slivered
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups julienned red bell peppers
3/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 pound chorizo sausage links (or other Mexican flavored sausage), sliced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Hot pepper sauce and lime wedges for serving
Bring 4 cups water and the salt to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add the corn meal slowly, whisking continually so that no lumps form. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently and adding more hot water as the mixture becomes too thick to stir. At the end of the cooking time, allow the polenta to thicken to desired consistency (it will thicken up as it cools).
Meanwhile, place oil into a hot stir fry pan. Add onions, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add spices and continue to stir and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in peppers, celery and corn and cook, stirring frequently for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove veggies from pan and set aside. Add sliced sausages to hot pan and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Return veggies to pan along with the olives and tomatoes. Simmer sausage and veggie mixture while finishing up polenta. To serve, spoon or pour polenta onto a large serving platter, top with sausage and veggies, then cheese, avocado and cilantro. Serve immediately. Pass lime wedges. Have hot pepper sauce available for those who want to ratchet up the heat. Serves 6 to 8.
Hints: This is a Mexican flavored version of an Italian dish and can easily be converted back to Italian by using your favorite Italian herbs and spices, Italian sausage, zucchini instead of corn, green olives, mozzarella or Romano instead of cheddar, etc. The switch fits well though and is reminiscent of tamales. The polenta is so easy to do and will taste good even if it gets too thick or is a bit thin so don't worry about making a mistake, learn through experience how to get the consistency you want. It is all a matter of water or heat to adjust the thickness. It will get more solid as it cools, so go a bit thinner than you think. I have used chicken and green chilies sausages and they were very good in this recipe. You can throw in other veggies or some black beans and still maintain the overall feel and flavors.
This type of dish is age old and yet still fresh and current. Using ingredients that are on hand and in season will always be the best way to cook, the best way to eat and the best way to be economical. Serving something out of a common pot or platter is a great way to connect with those at your table. This dish allows for all the food groups to feed your bodies and your souls.