I was pretty nervous about this homework (Homework 2 was a bit of an ordeal for me!) until I noticed that polenta is on the list of whole grains that we can choose. And thank goodness for that! Small confession: polenta is basically the traditional food of the people where I come from (Romania), and after dabbling unsuccessfully last week into the unknown yucca and chayote squash territory, I decided to listen to the calling of my roots and pick the road more traveled. That being said, all these recipes were still new to me, so some amount of experimentation remained.
I usually have a hard time finding good corn flour (I like the coarse kind), but there are a couple of places in the Twin Cities that carry it. One is Bill’s Imported Foods in Uptown (I LOVE that place, it’s like taking a stroll down memory lane every time I go there), and another one is a Polish deli in Northeast Minneapolis. The corn flour I used for this assignment was from the latter.
Recipe 1: Polenta with mushroom stew
The first recipe I prepared is a mushroom stew with a side of polenta, recipe found here (sorry it’s not in English): https://pofta-buna.com/tocanita-de-ciuperci-cu-mamaliguta/ . The recipe consists of sautéing onions, carrots, peppers, then add the mushrooms, then diced tomatoes, and at the end some chopped garlic (it’s apparently sacrilegious in Romanian cooking to add garlic from the beginning – legend has it all its flavor will be lost :P) and spices (salt and pepper), and garnish with fresh dill and parsley. Result: DELICIOUS!
Recipe 2: Moldovan “Tochitura” à la Diana
When I heard that one meal has to be breakfast, I immediately thought about a traditional dish of polenta (or “mamaliga” as it’s called in my motherland)) with eggs, pork, bacon, sausage, and grated feta cheese. Traditional recipes tend to be a bit more involved as far as the pork cooking goes (for example: https://www.petitchef.ro/retete/felul-principal/tochitura-moldoveneasca-fid-1194335 requires to fry pork in a complicated way with lard, bacon, some dry wine and garlic) but that seemed like too much work for breakfast, so I decided to do a simpler version where I just fried some smoked Polish bacon and Spanish breakfast sausage in a pan and pretended that’s the pork loin. I did follow the tradition of frying an egg to top the polenta with, grated some feta cheese, and also sided with some pickled red peppers, pickled cucumbers and Calabrian peppers (seems like traditional Romanian cuisine is quite fatty, and pickles are often used to counter-balance the grease :D). Health concerns for fat intake aside, it was the best brunch I had in a while :D.
Recipe 3: Fried Polenta with vegetables and bacon
For the third recipe, I originally wanted to grill the remaining polenta with some veggies to make something similar to: https://www.gustos.ro/retete-culinare/triunghiuri-de-mamaliga-la-gratar-cu-legume-coapte.html . One small problem: I didn’t have a grill handy. But I decided to go ahead and use frying pans. I chopped some onions, peppers, and zucchinis and tossed them in a frying pan. My husband demanded some meat, so I caved and added some of the bacon left over from the brunch – turns out it was a fabulous idea! Towards the end, I added some halved cherry tomatoes. The end result was too watery to be called “grilled”, but it was very good nonetheless. The polenta was cut in slices and friend in a second pan to warm it up.
Overall, all three meals were a success! Thanks for a great class!