Saturday, January 20

Q:"What happened to your neck?" A:"Polenta."

My mom loves to tell this story. One day she went to visit her friend Dee. When Dee opened the door, my mom immediately noticed a half-dollar sized, bright red mark on Dee’s neck. Concerned, she asked her, “What happened?” Gingerly touching the area, Dee answered in one word, “Polenta.”

If you’ve ever made polenta, then you understand. When it boils, it takes on an bubbling lava-like behavior. When the bubbles burst they make a mess of your stovetop (and if you’re not careful a mess of you too). Despite these bodily risks, I make polenta all the time. I typically use regular polenta, but the quick-cooking kind is often not bad. Although heretical to some chefs, I do not cook my polenta for one or two hours; rather, I cook it for about 30 minutes. In his cookbook, “Jamie’s Italy,” Jamie Oliver (whom I have a culinary crush on) says he cooks it for 40-45 minutes; I've done that too. Just be sure that the polenta has absorbed the liquid and has become thick. That’s when it’s done.

Polenta is one of the classic Italian "peasant dishes." Growing up, we often ate it with a simple marinara sauce and grated cheese. It's wonderfully versatile though. You can make it soft and creamy or so firm that you can cut it into slices and sautée until crispy. It can made with just water or a mixture of water and milk, like I did here (it comes a bit creamier that way). The fruit salsa is adapted from an original recipe in Cooking Light. I used Satsuma tangerines (pictured on the tree next to my apartment here) because they're in season. After reading a wonderful blog at Smitten Kitchen, I realize that some people really don't like cilantro; if you're one of them, just omit it or substitute with mint.

Fiery Shrimp with Avocado-Pomegranate-Tangerine
Salsa served over Soft Polenta
Print recipe only here.

1 small Hass avocado, diced
1 Satsuma tangerine or other tangerine
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tsp lime juice
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp honey
½ small jalapeno, de-seeded (omit if the heat in the shrimp is enough for you)
½ tsp fresh grated ginger
1-2 Tbsp each of cilantro and basil
Salt, to taste

1 Tbsp canola oil
14-16 extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ small jalapeno, with seeds (why else would I call it “fiery”?)
1-2 tsp lime juice
A pinch of lime zest
A pinch of salt

½ cup yellow polenta
1 cup water
1 cup fat-free milk*
1 tsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the polenta, simply combine the water, milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking all the while. The polenta will start to bubble and spit pretty quickly. When it does, place a cover on it leaving a little space for the air to escape; reduce heat to a low simmer, and stir every few minutes, making sure to scrape the pan so the polenta doesn’t stick. After about 10 minutes, add some more water and stir to keep the polenta from becoming too dry. Cook another 15-20 minutes or until the consistency is thick and creamy; Jamie says it should “lollop off the end of a spoon.” Most chefs add butter to it at this point, but for this recipe, I find it too rich. It’s up to you.

To prepare the salsa, simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss gently to coat.

To prepare the shrimp, mix the cleaned shrimp with the remaining ingredients. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for 5-7 minutes, turning to ensure that they brown nicely on both sides.

To serve, plate the polenta; add the shrimp and salsa; garnish with cilantro and basil. This makes 2 servings.

*TWO MORE CENTS: I actually have to use Lactaid milk which works fine. Also, I eat mine with tofu instead of shrimp.

Care of polenta injuries: According to my husband Jeff (who has just 5 months left of his Dermatology residency), if you develop a blister, do not pop it. This increases the risk of infection. If the blister becomes intolerable, however, then use a sterile needle to punch a small hole and let the blister collapse back on the wound. (Four years of medical school and four years of residency to learn that).

Note: Food Blogga is not meant to diagnose or cure any diseases caused by careless cooking. If you are injured by polenta, consider dialing 911 and purchasing cover up make-up.


Melting Wok said...

wow, the shrimps sits nicely on the polenta :) The whole meal looks great, yummy ! :)

wheresmymind said...

So, I guess I shouldn't pull the old skool "Rub butter" on it either, eh?? hehe

rachel said...

yum, yum, yum! i LOVE polenta but like you i hate making it because it's exhausting. i've never had it with so many fresh ingredients before. i'll definately have to check out jamie oliver's instructions for a shortcut.

you are so lucky to have a tangerine tree right next to you!

Susan said...

Melting Wok-
Thanks a lot!

Susan said...

I checked with my husband--you're right, butter's not good for it either. But some really good extra virgin olive oil....

Susan said...

I love my neighbor's tangerine tree too; but Jeff says making him go out at 3 am with a flashlight to get my fruit is getting a little old. ;)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I'm a polenta maniac - I love it to the bones!
Haven't made it lately because it's too hot for that.

When I was single and lived with my father I used to make polenta at leat twice a week - his father (my grandfather) was Italian and my dad grew up eating polenta.

Your dish looks yummy! :D

cookiecrumb said...

I love L.A.! Thank you so much for cruising by my meager blog. I'm "collecting" L.A. food bloggers as part of my expansion project (-world domination-) and you're way-way on my list.
As for polenta pimples? Pop 'em.

Susan said...

Another one of the nice things about living in LA is that it never gets too hot to make polenta. Stay cool!

Susan said...


Thanks so much! I've heard Proactiv is perfect for polenta pimples.

scribbit said...

I had no idea polenta was so deadly--right up there with frying bacon and wild stingrays :)

Thanks for the link, I love discovering good cooks out there and judging from this post I've found another.

veron said...

Look at those succulent shrimp! Thanks for the warning on polenta, I did not realize they could be responsible for bodily injuries !

Susan said...

That means so much, as I really admire your writing at Scribbit.

Thanks for the tasty compliment! Some words are just fun to say, aren't they?

isabilla said...

I've never considered polenta with this ingredients! For me are unusual, I live in nord-italy, Friuli, tipically "the land of polenta", and I love polenta specially with cheese; but, altogether, why not try it?

This tangerine tree is very lovely!

Lucy said...

The little pomegranate 'jewels' on top of the shrimp are divine, and the whole dish lookes gorgeous! I too have been burnt by a bubbling pot of polenta...

Anonymous said...

I loooove polenta. I make it all the time too, even with the dangers it holds. I'm guilty of making the quick cooking kind all the time. I've just got no patience for the other. Anyway, sounds delicious!

Kristen said...

LOL - love your disclaimers.

Your polenta looks well worth any potential injury to me.

Susan said...


Thank you so much for visiting! I am so excited to have someone comment who is from Italy, let alone "The land of polenta." It sounds like heaven on earth to me!

I'd love to know-- how do you make your polenta (water, milk, oil, etc)? Do you have a favorite way of eating it? I have read that the different regions of Italy have specific ways of making classic dishes and each usually thinks theirs is the "right" way. Do you find that to be true?


Thank you for that delicious compliment! Those seeds really are gems.


That's the beauty of it--you don't have to do it the long way. Just keeping eating it!


Wow! Thanks! Feel free to ask Jeff for advice if things should go awry.

sher said...

Fabulous recipe!!! I love polenta, especially when it has shrimp piled on top! :)

Susan said...

Thank you Sher!

Anonymous said...

This looks FABULOUS!!! I will definitely be making this dish along with the others. Should you need someone to test your recipes before printing them, I'm available. Ha!Ha!Ha! I particularly enjoy each story preceding the recipes. Keep up the good work. Jo-Ann No. Prov., RI

Anonymous said...

The stories are fantastic;the photos are "food for the eyes" and I'm sure the food is out of this world PJR No. Kingstown

Susan said...

I'm game for you being a taste taster. But it depends... Is K&K gonna pick up the airfare?:)

Thank you so much for the compliment! I'll look forward to hearing from you again.

P.S. Say "hi" to Lou for me.

Thanks! What a nice thing to say!

anna l'americana said...

In 20 years living in Rome, I always knew (and ate) polenta served with pork. I remember being at someone's house in Bracciano for holidays once and making polenta in a huge cauldron on a special low cooker so you could reach to stir - we all took turns stirring with a massive stick especially for that purpose. Something like pork butt (I think - the cuts are different from the States) was made in a tomato based sauce and served over the polenta and then grilled sausage (with no fennel as it is truly made in most of Italy) and other different cooked porks added to the same plate - a sort of melange of pork preparations...IT WAS DELICIOUS. The porky tomato sauce provided all the fat needed (without being at all overwhelming or greasy) for the polenta which was just made with water and salt. I know this is regional and there are other authentic preparations...this is just one version in answer to your question to Isabilla of - oops - almost a year ago....(I'm always late!) I'll send this anyway, you may be re-inspired.

Susan said...

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply, Anna. My husband would love it prepared that way. I always thought the fennel was from Italy; I guess it's an Italian-American creation? I love it though. Consider yourself fashionably late. :) You have re-inspired me, indeed.

Joe Horn said...

Susan, Love the story. I just made polenta with Gorgonzola and heavy cream a few days ago any put it on our blog. Would love your for you to come check it out.

Keep up the good work. Thanks!