Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

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 with boiled corn meal which then becomes a thick solidified porridge. The good news is that it’s a blank canvas allowing you to add all types of flavorings to it and serve it in a number of different ways. I thought I would add  flavors like, tomato, mozzarella, and basil, then turn them into cakes. Crunchy on the outside, yet soft and creamy on the inside. I served it simply with a mixed green salad, with a lemon vinaigrette.

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I like for my Polenta to be bit looser in consistency than for it to be too thick. Let me explain. Typically, it’s 1 cup of corn meal per 2 cups of water. I make mine using 1 cup of corn meal 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 in thickness once it has set. So here I have the water that I’m going to bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a hard boil, I’m slowly going to whisk in the Polenta, but first I want to get all the ingredients prepped that are going to go into the Polenta.

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I have 2- 1/4 sheet pans that I’ve sprayed with non- stick cooking spray, then I’ve laid parchment paper over the pans, so that the paper will stay secure. I also cut them a little larger than the size of the pans, allowing a little extra to hang over the edges. This will let me remove the chilled Polenta later.

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For the flavorings for this recipe, I chose to do a play on the ingredients of a Tomato Caprese. I’ve seeded and chopped some plum tomatoes. I also have some basil from my herb garden that I have chopped fairly fine. Along with these, I have some freshly shredded Mozzarella cheese.

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Now, going back to the boiling water. I add in Kosher salt then, slowly whisk in the Polenta. You will see how fast the water gets absorbed and the Polenta starts to thicken. This is why I like to start out with a little more water than the packaged instructions require. At this point I turn the heat off and add in a few tablespoons of unsalted butter. I whisk that through util the butter has melted completely. Next I add in some heavy cream, still continuously whisking. The Polenta thickens even more. Now here’s when I switch to a wooden spoon. I add in the tomatoes and cheese first, then finally the chopped basil.

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Using a spatula, I dump the Polenta, dividing it evenly into the two sheet pans. Spread the mixture out evenly so the Polenta is equally distributed throughout the pan. Place in the refrigerator until it has chilled and set.

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Once the Polenta has firmed up completely. I score the Polenta into thirds, both length wise and cross wise. Then I cut each square a cross into triangles. In a large bowl I have equal parts flour and corn meal that I whisked together with some Kosher salt and black pepper. In another bowl, I have some beaten eggs that I’ve seasoned with salt and pepper. In a non-stick saute pan, I’ve melted some unsalted butter with a little olive oil. I let that come up to temperature over med heat. Next, I carefully dip the triangle of Polenta into the beaten egg mixture, then into the corn meal and flour mixture, then into the hot pan with the oil and butter. I let that cook for about 2-3 minutes per side. You just want to get an nice golden crust on the outside of the Polenta cakes. 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 cooked of Polenta cakes on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven to stay warm while making the rest. The great thing about this dish is everything 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 a few days. Make sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap and you can enjoy these with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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In a bowl, I’ve just made a quick vinaigrette, with some fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, black pepper, and some E.V.O.O, and whisked that together to pour over the mixed greens of baby spinach, baby kale, and baby Swiss chard that I had. There you have it, my Caprese Style Polenta Cakes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours
Yields: 18 triangles per sheet pan
Equipment: 2-1/4 sheet pans
2 sheets of parchment paper
non-stick spray
Cooking Time: 2-3 minutes per side
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 seeded plum tomatoes
2 cups of  freshly shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup of finely chopped basil
3 beaten eggs
1 cup of corn meal for breading
1 cup of all- purpose flour for breading
1 tablespoon of kosher salt for breading
1 teaspoon of black pepper for breading
Directions: Have all the ingredients prepped that are going into the Polenta cakes. Have the salted water at a hard boil. Whisk in the Polenta until all the water is absorbed. Turn the heat off, then add in the butter whisking that thought until combined. Next add in the ingredients. Have the sheet pans prepared with non-stick spray and parchment paper. Divide the Polenta evenly between the two pans. Spread the Polenta out evenly into the pans. Next refrigerate for 2 hours. Score and then cut out the triangles for the Polenta cakes. Then bread each triangle dipping into the the egg mixture and breading mixture. Finally fry them off in butter and olive oil for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while preparing the rest of the cakes.

Ingredients for my Lemon Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, (3 juicy lemons)
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of Agave nectar
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of E.V.O.O
Directions: An easy method is to place all the above ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid ( like a jelly jar). Shake everything together really well until all is combined.

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Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen- Classic And Twisted Americana

2015-05-12 14.10.092015-05-12 14.11.07

A very unique restaurant opened up recently in College Park, at 2603 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, Fl. 32804., called  Outpost. Celia, a good friend of mine, and I visited there recently. We wanted to experience Outpost first hand. I arrived first. Julie, the owner, greeted me so graciously when I entered, and allowed me to take some pictures for my blog.

 Julie Casey, a longtime resident of the College Park area, and also known as “the restaurant mom” has fulfilled her longtime dream of having her own place. Executive Chef, Richard Felshaw, and Chef Ken Barnett have brought seasonal menus that feature the farm-to-table concept to reality. Locally resourced produce, fresh bread made daily and locally, handcrafted beers. vintage sodas, bottled teas, a variety of wines. The attention to detail shines through from the appetizers, to the entrée, and finishing with the dessert.

After the appetizers and entrees, we were so full but that didn’t stop us. The s’mores, Outpost s’mores!  Peterbrooke chocolate from Winter Park, homemade graham crackers and Wondermade marshmallows from Sanford. You can bet we’re going back! For more information visit their website at

Let me give you a sneak peek into The Outpost.

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Here’s are the items that chef Ken helped with, in the decision making.

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To start, fried green tomatoes served with a delicious remoulade for dipping. A smokey Poblano, with a kiss of Sriracha, Pimento cheese spread with their fresh baked bread. For the entrees we shared, the fish and chips, along with a beer pairing that chef Ken recommended. Finally, my choice was the meatloaf melt on Ciabatta bread. That sandwich was absolutely delicious.

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Even the check presenter book was locally made from a local artisanal leather shop. For more information, visit their website at

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Pasta Carbonara Souffle

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

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I start  with a small cold saute pan with a tiny bit of olive oil in it. I have some diced Pancetta that I’m going to render the fat out. Using a slotted spoon I just remove the Pacetta and place it on to a plate lined with a paper towel to remove any extra grease. I’ll come back to this when I’m ready to add it into the dish.

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I have a here a deep casserole dish the I’ve buttered really well. First I want to add some egg whites to the sauce to make it in the style of a souffle. I’m going to do this by hand because it’s not a lot of egg whites and a little exercise for my arms couldn’t hurt.

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I have some egg whites in a clean glass bowl that I’m whipping up into soft peaks. I’m looking for them to be nice and frothy. As they start to become frothy but not quite to soft peaks stage, I add in a pinch of cream of tartar to stabilize them. This just makes sure they won’t fall or deflate. Now for the sauce for this delicious dish.

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In a large pot I’ve added some butter, on med heat, that I’m melting. Once that’s melted I add in the flour (optional, gluten free flour). Whisk that together until the raw flour has combined well with the butter. Next, I’m adding in milk and half and half, continuously whisking. At this point I’m also adding in Kosher salt, black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, Still whisking, the milk sauce is starting to thicken. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat off because that’s as thick as it’s going to get. I remove the pot from the heat, then add in some grated Parmesan cheese. Switch to a spatula and stir in the grated cheese. Now, I fold in the egg whites.

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I also add in some finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, (dried it fine too). You want to fold the egg whites very gently into the cheese sauce. For the pasta, follow the directions on the box. Cooking in salted boiling water but, under cook it a bit from what in box instructions say. It will finish cooking while it’s baking in the casserole.  By the time the dish comes out of the oven, the pasta will be perfectly cooked.

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For this recipe, I’m using a regular cork screw style pasta, but, I’m posting this recipe under the “gluten free” category, because it’s equally delicious with substituting gluten free flour, and gluten free pasta for this dish. I drain the pasta in a large colander. I 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.

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First goes half the cooled pasta, then half of the cheesy souffle sauce. On top of that I sprinkle half of the cooked Pancetta. I repeat this process one more time. Now for the topping. I add some finely shredded Italian cheese blend, a little more of the grated Parmesan cheese, and dot the top all over with some unsalted butter. Place into a 375 degree oven for around 25-30 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 minutes. You want the dish to rise beautifully as a souffle should.

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Yields: 6-8 servings
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour
Oven Temp: 375 degrees
1/4 pound of Pancetta diced
1 box of short cut pasta or substitute gluten free pasta (slightly under cooked, rinsed, and cooled)
3 cups of whole milk, room temperature
1 cup of half and half, room temperature
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter, plus 3 tablespoons diced for the top
1/2 cup of flour or substitute gluten free flour
5 ounce container of grated Parmesan cheese ( reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
4 egg whites beaten to soft peaks
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated nut meg
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1/4 cup of finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley plus 2 tablespoons for garnish on the top (dried is fine too)
1- 8 ounce package of the Italian blend shredded cheese
First butter a deep dish casserole dish. Cook of the Pancetta and let rest on a paper towel to drain off any excess grease. Prepare the egg whites to soft peaks in a bowl. On med heat, make the white sauce using the flour, milk, Kosher salt, pepper, and nut meg, Off the heat add in the Parmesan cheese. Fold in the egg whites with the finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley. First layer half the cooled pasta into the casserole dish. Spoon on half the souffle sauce all over the first layer of pasta, then sprinkle with half the cooked diced Pancetta. Repeat this process once more. Top with the shredded Italian cheese blend, Parmesan cheese, and  finallydot the top with diced butter. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden brown. Do not open oven door for the first 20 minutes of cooking. When the casserole comes out of the oven garnish with some more parsley and let rest for about 15 minutes or so, giving it time to set.

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Sweet Potato And Chorizo Hash

2015-04-30 16.18.29

Whenever I make any kind of “so called” hash, it’s a great way for me to clean out my frig and root pantry. Sometimes I’ll find a few extra potatoes, onions, and garlic that need to be used. I’ll look in the crisper drawer of my frig and find pieces of bell peppers that I didn’t use up for a particular recipe. So it these times when I decide it’s time to make a hash. I’m using Choizo sausage today. I thought with the sweetness of the potato and the spiciness of the sausage, this would be a perfect match.

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To start, I filled up a pot with cold water and threw my sweet potatoes, and brought the water up to a boil. Once they started to boil, I added in some Kosher salt and let them boil for around 30 minutes. I have 3 fairly large sweet potatoes so it can vary on the time. What you’re looking is for the potato to be almost completely cooked through. After around 30 minutes of boiling, I stick a knife through one of the potatoes. If the knife starts to go through the outer part of the potato easily, but not completely through, then I turn the heat off and let them sit in the hot water for another 15 minutes. I don’t want the potatoes to be completely cooked because, they’re going to get peeled and diced for the hash. The potatoes will peel easily since they have been boiled.This is where they will caramelized, finish cooking there. Now while the potatoes are boiling away, the other component to this hash is the Chorizo. I have a cast iron skillet, on med heat, getting hot and ready for the sausages to go in. I want them to be fully cooked before adding them into the hash. I take them out of the skillet when they’ve reached 155 degrees internally, because there will be some carry over cooking time. So while the potatoes are going to take about a total of 45 minutes to do their thing, I can be browning and cooking off the Chorizo and prepping all my veggies.

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As you can see, I diced all my veggies for the hash while the Chorizo sausages were cooking. The Chorizo also takes around 30-40 minutes in the skillet to and get brown on all sides, and be cooked completely.  After the 15 minutes of potatoes sitting in the hot water, I removed them to let them cool off enough where I could handle them for the peeling and dicing. While the potatoes were cooling off I sliced the Chorizo up, slightly on the bias. By the time I’ve done this, the potatoes were ready for me. Now it’s time to make the hash!

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I decided to get a head start on sauteing the veggies up for the hash. I’m always trying to keep everything moving forward. I have a little vegetable oil in a large saute pan on med heat. I throw the diced onions in first and let get started. After about two minutes with them in the pan, I add in all the rest of the veggies. Now is where is season with some Kosher salt, and pepper. Stirring all this around for around 5-7 minutes, just enough time for them to soften. I’m not worried about getting any color on them, that will happen in the cast iron skillet. Now that the skillet has finished its job with the sausage, it’s time for the potatoes to go in. I first like to drain any fat they may be left in the pan from the cooking of the sausage.

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To the skillet, on med heat, I’ve added in some butter. Once the butter has melted I throw the diced sweet potatoes in. I stir them once through just to get all the potatoes coated in the butter, then I don’t touch them for about 3 minutes so they will brown nicely. Once they have browned on one side, I move them around so all sides of the potatoes will brown. This process can take about 10 minutes.

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At this point the process goes pretty quickly. To the browned sweet potatoes, I add in all the veggies that I precooked in the other saute pan. I stir those through for a couple of minutes with the potatoes, letting them get some nice color. Finally adding in the sliced Chorizo. I turn the heat down to med low heat and toss all the ingredients together. This all cooks for another 5 minutes and the hash is done.

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Yields: 4 servings
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes ( potatoes, boiling and sitting in the hot water)
Prep Time: 15 minutes (5 minutes to prep veggies while potatoes and sausage are cooking. 5 minutes to slice Chorizo, and 5 minutes to peel and dice sweet potatoes.)
Cooking Time For Chorizo: 30-40 minutes or the internal temperature is 160 degrees
Cooking Time For Hash: 15 minutes
1 package of fresh Chorizo sausage cooked and sliced
3 large sweet potatoes peeled, cooked, and diced
1/2 cup of diced onion
1/2 cup each of red, green, and yellow bell pepper
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
Directions: The most important thing I can say about making this recipe is the timing of all the precooking that needs to be done. The hash itself takes no time at all, it’s making sure you have all the ingredients prepped, diced, peeled, and sliced. Have the potatoes boiling on the stove first. While that’s going start browning and cooking of the Chorizo. As those two items are working away, prep all the veggies. After the 30 minutes of boiling the potatoes, let them then sit in the hot water for another 15 minutes. Then remove them from the water to cool. Finish working on the sausage making sure all sides are brown and the sausages are at 155 degrees before removing them from the skillet to cool. Now peel and dice the sweet potatoes, next slice the sausage. Drain the excess grease from the skillet and melt the butter in the skillet on med heat. Throw in the diced potatoes, stirring them around to coat with the butter. Let them cook and brown without touching them before flipping them to brown the other sides, about 10 minutes or so. Once the potatoes have browned nicely, add in the veggies, let those cook together for a couple of minutes to get some color on those too. Finally add in the Chorizo. Turn the heat down to med low and let cook together for another 5 minutes. You hash is complete and ready to serve. Sweet and spicy this hash is so delicious.

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