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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Taste The Love

Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes

2015-05-07 09.50.18

I grew up eating a lot of Polenta. Polenta can be compared to what we know as grits. It’s an Italian dish made by boiling cornmeal which then becomes a thick solidified porridge. The good news is polenta is a blank canvas allowing you to add all types of flavorings and served in a number of different ways.

Today I thought I’d add flavors like, diced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil, then turn them into polenta cakes. Crunchy on the outside, yet soft and creamy on the inside.

I serve my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes with a simple mixed green salad dressed with my quick and easy Lemon Vinaigrette.

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Sweet Basil (2)

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 2 to 3 minutes per side
Yields: 36 triangles (18 triangles per sheet pan)
Equipment: 2-1/4 rimmed baking sheet pans, 6-quart saucepot, 2 medium-size mixing bowls, rubber spatula, parchment paper, non-stick cooking spray

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of quick-cooking polenta
7 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter ( 2 reserved for frying polenta)
1 tablespoon of olive oil (for frying polenta)
1/2 a cup of heavy cream
2 cups of plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups of (low-moisture) whole milk Mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
1 cup of finely chopped basil, chiffonade-style

Breading:
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup of cornmeal
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200-degrees F.
I like for my Polenta to be a bit looser in consistency than to be too thick. Let me explain. Typically, it’s 1 cup of cornmeal per 2 cups of water. I prefer using 1 cup of cornmeal per 3 cups of water.

For this recipe, I’m using 2 1/2 cups of Polenta to 7 cups of water. This will yield 2-1/4 sheet pans of Polenta around 1 1/2 inches thickness once it’s set.

Spray 2-1/4 sheet pans with non-stick cooking spray. Lay parchment paper over the pans so that the paper will stay secure. Cut them a little larger than the size of the pans, allowing a little extra to hang over the edges. This will allow for easy removal, later, of the chilled Polenta.

Start by dicing the tomatoes, grate the mozzarella, and chop the basil leaves. Set aside.

Bring a large saucepot of water to a boil. Once the water comes to a hard boil add Kosher salt then slowly whisk in the Polenta. You’ll start to see how fast the water gets absorbed and the Polenta starts to thicken.

At this point, turn the heat off and add in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Switch to a wooden spoon, stir until the butter is completely combined and melted into the polenta.

Next, add the heavy cream, continuously stirring until the cream is completely combined. At this point, the Polenta thickens even more. Add the diced tomatoes and grated mozzarella, stir to combine. Finally, add the chiffonade basil, again stir to combine.

Using a rubber spatula, dump the polenta equally dividing it between the two sheet pans. Spread the mixture out so the polenta is evenly distributed throughout the pan. Transfer the sheet pans to the refrigerator allowing the polenta to chill and set.

After chilling for 2 hours, score the polenta into thirds, both lengthwise and crosswise. Then cut each square diagonally into triangles.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, add equal parts flour and cornmeal, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, whisk to combine. together with some Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. In another bowl, add 3 eggs, using a fork, beat the eggs.

Preheat oven to 200-degrees F.
In a non-stick sauté pan, over medium heat melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully dip the triangle of Polenta into the beaten eggs, then into the cornmeal/flour mixture, then into the hot sauté pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. You just want to get a nice golden crust on the outside of the Polenta cakes. Do this in batches of (4) four.

After about 2 minutes of frying the cakes off on one side, take a peek, using a spatula, and see if they need another minute before flipping to the other side. Set the finished polenta cakes on a sheet pan and transfer to the oven to stay warm while frying the remaining polenta cakes

The great thing about this dish is everything that can be done in advance, and you don’t have to make them all at one time. The chilled Polenta will keep in the frig for up to 3 days. Make sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap. You can enjoy these for breakfast, brunch/lunch, or dinner.

To serve. Arrange two of my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes onto a serving plate. Serve with a mixed greens salad. For my Lemon Vinaigrette recipe click on the link below.  There you have it, my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes.

*E.V.O.O. is the acronym for Extra Virgin olive oil.

Balsamic, Cilantro-Lime, And Lemon Vinaigrette

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Pasta Carbonara Souffle

2015-05-01 17.06.16

2015-05-01 17.06.19

Eggs and bacon mixed with pasta that dates back for many years. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Making Pasta Carbonara into a casserole, even better. This is my Pasta Carbonara Souffle. Let’s get started.

eggs

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 48 to 50 minutes
Total Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Equipment: 3-quart baking dish (15″ x  9 1/2″ x  2 1/2 “high), 6-quart saucepot, 3-quart saucepot, colander, 10-inch sauté pan, large mixing bowl, hand-held electric mixer, Microplane.

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1/4 pound of pancetta, diced
1 pound (1 box) of Barilla Cellentani (corkscrew pasta) slightly undercooked, rinsed and cooled (substitute gluten-free pasta)
3 cups of whole milk, room temperature (substitute 2%)
1 cup of half and half, room temperature
1/2 a stick (4 tablespoons) of butter, unsalted, plus 3 tablespoons for the top (extra for greasing the baking dish)
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, (substitute gluten-free flour)
5 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
4 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley plus 2 tablespoons for garnish, finely chopped
1 (8-ounce) package of the Italian blend shredded cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
First butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish.

Start with a small cold sauté pan add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and diced pancetta. Cook over medium heat allowing all the fat to render out and the pancetta to become crisp, around 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisp diced pancetta to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain any extra grease. Set aside.

Place 4 egg whites in a clean glass bowl. I’m looking for them to be nice and frothy. With the mixer on low, beat the whites until they become frothy but not quite to the soft peaks stage. At this point, add the cream of tartar. Continue beating the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted add the flour (optional, gluten-free flour). Continuously whisking until the raw flour is cooked out and becomes blonde in color and paste-like forming a *roux.

In a 3-quart saucepot bring milk and half-and-half (*scald) up to temperature. Pour the hot milk mixture into the *roux all at once. Add 1 teaspoon each of Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Double-check the thickness by dipping a wooden spoon into the sauce. Take your finger and make a line down the back of the spoon, if the sauce stays separated and doesn’t run together. Turn the heat off.

Remove the pot from the heat, then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley. Switch to a spatula, stir to combine. Next, gently *fold in the egg whites.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta one-minute shy of al dente according to the package instructions for about 8 minutes. The pasta will finish cooking during the baking process.

Drain the pasta into a large colander. Rinse the pasta under some cold water to stop the cooking process for just a minute before adding it into the casserole dish. Once the pasta is somewhat cooled, it’s time to put this together.

To assemble, add half the cooled pasta, then half of the cheesy souffle sauce. On top of that, sprinkle half of the cooked Pancetta. Repeat this process one more time. Now for the topping, add the finely shredded Italian cheese blend, a little more of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. *Dot the top all over with butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Do not open the oven for the first 20 minutes. You want the dish to rise beautifully like a souffle should.

Allow the dish to rest for 15 to 20 minutes to set.

*Dot is to place little pieces of butter on the top of a casserole dish or pie.

*Fold or folding is a very precise term in cooking and baking. It meat that you have to carefully combine two mixtures of different thickness and weight into one (relatively) smooth mixture. This is accomplished by a specific technique of using a spatula to lift the two mixtures together, turning them over so they combine.

*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour used in making sauces.

*Scald is milk heated to a near boil. Small bubbles will appear around the inner rim of the pot.

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Chorizo And Sweet Potato Hash

2015-04-30 16.18.29

Whenever I make any kind of “so-called” hash I can use up a lot of ingredients that I may not have needed in a previous recipe. Hash is a great way to use up those leftover ingredients.

Every now and then I’ll find a few extra potatoes I didn’t need or in I’ll find a zip-lock bag with pieces of bell peppers in the crisper drawer. It’s these instances when I decide it’s time to make a hash.

I’m using chorizo sausage today for my Chorizo And Sweet Potato Hash. I thought with the sweetness of the sweet potato and the spiciness of the sausage, this would be a match made in heaven.

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Cilantro

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 12-inch cast-iron skillet and lid, 12-inch sautépan, 6-quart stockpot, chef’s knife, non-stick cooking spray

Ingredients:
1-pound of fresh Chorizo sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock, unsalted
3 large medium-size sweet potatoes, boiled and skins removed, 1 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup of onion, diced
1/2 cup of green bell pepper, diced,
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, diced
1 clove of  garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped for garnish

Directions:
Start by dicing the onions and peppers. Mince the garlic then transfer all the prepped vegetables onto a plate, set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, add the sweet potatoes. Cover and boil for 12-15 minutes or until just tender on the outside but resistant in the center when pierced with a knife. Transfer the potatoes onto a plate, and let cool, about 10 minutes. Remove the skins then dice into 1/1/2-inch cubes, transfer to a bowl.

Tip: Cook the chorizo while potatoes are boiling.

Spray a cast-iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Turn the heat to medium-high. Using tongs carefully add the whole chorizo sausage links to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning the links frequently until brown (careful, they will burn easily) on all sides and mostly cooked through. This happens quickly.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock to the pan, cover and simmer for another 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and transfer the links to a meat-safe cutting board (usually plastic). Slice the chorizo 1-inch thick on the bias. Place the chorizo slices into a bowl.

In a large sautépan over medium-high heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and diced onions. Stir and cook the onions for 2 to 3 minutes until soft and translucent. Next, add the diced bell peppers and continue to cook allowing the peppers to start to soften, season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste, another 3 to 5 minutes. Last, add the minced garlic, stir through and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sautéed vegetables to a plate. Set aside.

Drain any fat from the skillet that may be left from cooking the sausages. Place the skillet back over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan to melt. Toss in the diced sweet potatoes. Stir to coat all the potatoes with the butter. Allow the potatoes to cook and brown nicely before flipping them to brown on the other side, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, but make sure they get nice and crispy.

Next, add the sautéed vegetables to the skillet. Stir the vegetables with the sweet potatoes and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes allowing the vegetables to get crispy around the edges.

Finally, add and mix in the sliced chorizo. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for another 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped cilantro. There you have it my Chorizo And Sweet Potato Hash.

Serve hot.

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