Tag Archives: Italian

Savory Herbed Polenta ~ Creamy, Grilled or Sauteed

Savory Herbed Polenta ~ Creamy, Grilled or Sauteed

Cooking main dishes are pretty easy but sometimes finding good starches that are interestingly prepared are another matter.  I know different types of rice; from Basmati, Jasmine, Wild all the way to Arborio and how to cook them all up (did I mention I’m South Asian and we have this thing for rice?).  I can also whip up a variety of potato inspired dishes.  But Corn based dishes like Polenta or Grits have kind of not worked out for me in the past.  Mostly because I didn’t want to stand around stirring for an hour.  Who wants to dedicate that kind of time to a carbohydrate?  But this Polenta dish is great!  You know why?  THE OVEN.  You don’t have to stand around forever stirring the Polenta, the oven works just as great.  I think a crock pot would work as well but I’ve not messed around with that yet.  What I enjoy about Polenta is you can serve it hot and creamy or you can refrigerate the leftovers and then grill or saute them later in fun little shapes.  What’s not to like about that? I added thyme to mine along with onions and garlic.  Some people are purists and want to have plain Polenta.  I am not good with plain anything.  I have to add herbs, or spices or something! The thyme is mild enough that it enhances the flavor without interfering with any other main dish it is served with.  I had some great pork chops with it last night.

The cast of characters!

Saute the red onion with Thyme and salt. Add garlic when onions are tender and translucent.

Add Chicken stock and bring to a simmer

Add the milk and bring to a boil

Slowly add the cornmeal in a steady stream while whisking to avoid lumps

When all the cornmeal is incorporated, cover with a lid

Put the whole pan in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Make sure and stir every 10 minutes to avoid lumps

After 35-40 minutes, take out of oven and add butter

Add freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and stir to incorporate

Delicious creamy herbed Polenta

Put leftovers (or as an alternative serving method) in a parchment lined 9 x 13 pan and refrigerate

Cut the cooled Polenta into any shape your little heart desires

Grill or saute in a frying pan with a little olive oil brushed on the surface

Serve it with any main dish...This is spiced pork chops with red beans

Here’s the recipe:

Savory Herbed Polenta ~Creamy, Grilled or Sauteed

Olive oil (for grilling and for sauteing)

1/2 red onion chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced

2 cups chicken stock or broth would also work

2 cups milk ( I like a fuller fat version like whole or at least 2%)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (Polenta)

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2-3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

In an oven safe saucepan heat a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons will do) and saute the onions with the thyme.  When onions are translucent add the garlic and saute until all the flavors are released.  I like to add 1 tsp of Kosher salt to this mixture and save the 1/2 tsp to add later.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the milk to this mixture and bring everything to a boil.  Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream as you whisk.  This is very important so the cornmeal doesn’t begin to clump up. Once all the cornmeal is incorporated, cover the sauce pan and place it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven.  The Polenta needs to cook for about 30-40 minutes total.  Every 10 minutes take out the pan and stir the cornmeal mixture so it stays creamy and lump free.

Once the Polenta is creamy (35-40 minutes later) take out of the oven and add the remaining salt (this is a good time to taste and decide if you want to add the additional salt or not) freshly ground pepper and butter.  Stir until all the butter is melted and incorporated into the mixture.  Add Parmesan cheese and stir that in until it’s melted.  Serve immediately as a creamy Polenta with any chicken, pork or beef dish.  Goes great with roasted chicken.  OR…you can pour the Polenta into a parchment lined 9 x 13 inch pan and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.  Once the Polenta is nice and set you can cut it into any shapes (little circles, squares, triangles) brush with olive oil and saute in a non-stick skillet or grill on a grill.  It’s really delightful.  A great way to re-use leftovers!

Spinach Chicken Alfredo

Spinach Chicken Alfredo

It’s Spring Break time.  My house is full of 8 hungry college students who arrived famished from a road trip.  I decided to use the Spinach Basil Pesto http://kolpona.com/2012/03/17/spinach-basil-pesto/ I just put together to come up with a pasta dish.  It turned out great if the empty plates were any indication.

Ingredients at a glance


Heat butter and olive oil together

Saute garlic to release the flavors

Add pesto to the mixture then add flour and stir to cook through.

Add milk and cream until mixture thickens.

Add cheese to sauce and let it melt

Add cooked chicken to the sauce

Add fresh Spinach leaves and take off the heat.


Add Pasta and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve immediately! Serves 6


Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Chicken Alfredo

16 oz of Fettuccine

3 whole cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

4 tablespoons of Spinach Basil Pesto (see recipe)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons of flour

1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken cut into pieces

large handful of fresh Spinach leaves

1 pint of Heavy Cream

2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of Parmiaggiano Reggiano Cheese

1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese

In a 5 quart pan boil water with 5- 6 tablespoons of salt (should be like sea water) and cook pasta for about 8 minutes.  In the mean time, in a large skillet heat olive oil and butter.  Add salt, fresh cracked pepper and minced garlic and sauté about a minute until garlic releases its fragrance.  Add spinach pesto and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add flour to the mixture and cook for about a minute to get the starchy flour smell out.  Slowly begin to add heavy cream and whole milk and stir until mixture begins to thicken.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.  When mixture has thickened nicely, add parmiaggiano Reggiano and mozzarella and stir until melted and incorporated into a smooth sauce.  Add chicken to the mixture.  Add in cooked pasta and toss.  Serve warm with fresh grated cheese on top.

Spinach Basil Pesto

Spinach Basil Pesto

I was recently at Whole Foods and I couldn’t believe how much they were charging for a 6 oz container of pesto.  I am NOT about to pay almost $5 for something that can be made in seconds and taste so much better fresh.  I love fresh Spinach and since today also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to make my version of fresh pesto. After all its so green!!  Spinach and basil makes a great combination.  So delicious, so versatile!

Ingredients at a glance

Toast the Pine nuts in a dry skillet

Mix all ingredients in food processor

This is the glamour shot.

I love to store the pesto in individual packages, usually in a 1/2 cup or 1 cup servings along with the date.

Then I put the individual packs inside a bigger ziplock bag and freeze them.  They keep for 3-4 months in the freezer and you can just heat it up to use it with pasta, as a pizza sauce, with chicken dishes.  The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Basil Pesto

4 cups tightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves

1 cup of fresh basil

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

½ cup olive oil

½ cup Parmiaggiano Reggiano cheese

In a dry skillet add the pine nuts and heat over medium high heat until lightly brown and toasted.  Should only take about 4-5 minutes.  Let cool.

Place all ingredients except for olive oil in a food processor and turn it on, in a slow drizzle begin to add olive oil through the dispenser until mixture is well incorporated.  Take out and serve immediately with any type of pasta, with chicken or pizza sauce or can put in individual ziplock bags and freeze for up to 4 months.  Cost per 1 cup serving (8 oz)  is only 50 cents.  A far cry from the price of $5 for 6 oz.

Lemon Artichoke Shrimp Pasta

Lemon Artichoke Shrimp Pasta

My friend Diane Hubbard told me that she was inspired to make Preserved Lemons  http://kolpona.com/2012/03/08/preserved-lemons/ and now she wanted more recipes that used Preserved Lemons besides North African or Middle Eastern dishes.  I took that as a challenge and decided that for tonight’s dinner I was going to make a dish with Preserved Lemons and anything else I had on hand in the kitchen, WITHOUT going to the grocery store.  It felt like a pasta kind of night.  A few minutes after cooking dinner, our friends Tasi and Soloa dropped by.

They ate all the pasta, Banana bread from this morning, Onion Dill bread from yesterday, Double Chocolate Chili cookies and took home some Lentil soup I’d made. I love feeding people who like to eat.  Let me tell you, when two big Samoans come over from the gym, they can eat some stuff.  So, Diane here’s a recipe inspired by you. Tasi and Soloa seem to think it’s pretty darn good and I think it’s a keeper.  By the way, it serves  a family of 6 or two hungry Samoans.

Ingredients at a glance.

Saute shrimp in olive oil with a little salt, garlic and ginger.  Take it out as soon it barely turns light pink.

In the remaining oil add tablespoon of butter.

Finished pasta dish.

Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Artichoke Shrimp Pasta

1 lb of pasta (Linguine, Spaghetti, Fettucine – I only had Spaghetti on hand so I used that, next time I think I will use Linguine)

8-10 Large Shrimp,  cleaned with tail on

3 whole garlic cloves minced

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 tomato, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound young Asparagus, trimmed

4 oz jar of marinated Artichoke hearts

1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

1 tsp Rosemary, chopped

1/4 cup chopped flat leafed Parsley

1/2 tsp salt

fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup crumbled Feta

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

In a 5 quart stock pot boil water with 5 tablespoons of salt (should be like sea water salty) for the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute shrimp, salt, garlic and ginger until the Shrimp turn into a light pink shade, about 1 minute or so.  Take Shrimp out of the pan and set aside.  In the same oil add tablespoon of butter.  Add chopped onion, preserved lemon and tomato along with Rosemary and fresh cracked pepper and saute 2-3 minutes until flavors are released and onions are translucent.  Add roughly chopped artichoke hearts and asparagus tips and the tender parts of the stem cut into 1 inch pieces and saute another 2-3 minutes.  Add the Shrimp back into the mixture and saute an additional minute or until the Shrimp is cooked through.  Toss in Feta Cheese and stir then add the pasta,  Parmigiano Reggiano and Parsley and toss to coat.  Take off heat and serve immediately.