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.