Bein’ Fat and Polish: Carb-Loaded Vegan Pierogi

Oh-gy Pierogi! Damn, it’s good to be Polish.

Why?

Because although, yes, Italians have gnocchi and tortellini, and Americans have chicken dumplings or whatever, and Asian cultures have steamed buns and such, there is just not a good comparison between the joys of eating one of those definitely delicious foods and the mind-blowing physical experience of a perfectly pressed and presented pierogi.

Pyrohy

Mmmmm sweet, salty, doughy deliciousness. Even on your thighs.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Polish staples, pierogi are made by letting rise a simple dough, stuffing with any number of ingredients, pressing around the stuffing, and then boiling the dumplings to cook. The best way to enjoy them? Sauteed in the skillet, with some butter, margarine, or oil all up in there to get it snuggled and crisped. Oh, it’s perfection when you get a springy dough, a moist and plump middle, and a bit of crunch on your exterior that’s also a little salty on the tongue. And, of course, you gotta finish it off with a good sauce. Old schoolers will tell you a pyrohy is nothing without sour cream, and while I am inclined to agree, our diet is not. So, here, in addition to providing you with the recipe I used, which is done in the traditional eggless way, I also present you with two different (vegan) fillings I came up with and a fricking fabulous sauce that is creamy, tangy, and utilizes one can’t-live-without ingredient for most Poles (you know, besides sour cream): a good horseradish.

I used the dough recipe from Tasting Poland with MUCH success; the dough was smooth, easy to work with, not too sticky, and yielded very springy, firm pierogi when boiled – which, from my experience eating and making pierogi, is exactly what you’re looking for. Once the pierogi are properly stuffed and pressed into dumplings, drop them into boiling water and allow them to float to the top, stirring frequently enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, sides of the saucepan, their pierogi friends…pretty much anything. They’re sticky while they boil! Once they float, boil them an additional 3-5 minutes, testing them for firmness, doneness, and a touch of spring when you gently push them. Imagine that they should resemble the Pillsbury dough boy in “pushback” when given a gentle but solid poke. Don’t be afraid to burn your finger.
Note: I used 100% whole wheat flour both times I made this dough and only found that I needed to add a bit more water and a bit more rising time, but that is typical of any baking or cooking done with whole wheat flour when a recipe doesn’t necessarily call for it. Expect approx. 1/4-1/2 c. extra water per batch, and about 5-10 extra min. of rising time.

Paper bag pierogis

These are just the leftover dumplings; imagine row upon row of orgasmic pierogi here instead.

Here’s a great reason to ask for paper instead of plastic if you forget your reusable bags at the grocery store (or if you like to walk to the liquor store and need something opaque for your return journey): you can use them to drain all that extra fluid from your freshly boiled pierogis lest you decide to throw them in all wet and end up with tiny burning droplets of oily liquid sun fire reigning down on you like arrows in a scene from 300. ‘Cause that happens. So, you’ll drain the boiled pierogis for a few minutes at least, then saute them on medium to medium-high heat in your fat of choice until they are your desired brown. We love Canoleo Soft Margarine because it’s vegan and genuinely tastes like salted butter, but is both not butter and not made from 100% canola oil like many other margarines. However, olive oil for savory pierogis, grapeseed oil for either savory or sweet pierogis, your favorite vegan margarine, or whatever oil/fat you please depending on your existent or non-existent dietary preferences should work just fine. I can’t recommend grapeseed oil enough for something new to try once in a while; it has a high flash point, neutral taste, and a lot of purported health benefits, including its high level of omega-6 fatty acids.

Sweet Filling: Apple-Cran
3 medium peeled apples, diced
~1/4 c. dried cranberries
margarine
brown sugar
a bit of lemon juice
fresh ground nutmeg

Simmer the ingredients (most of them to taste) on medium-low heat until the mixture begins to get sweaty and juicy, about 20-30 minutes. The lemon juice will keep the fruit from browning due to air exposure, and cuts through some of the sweetness. Fill your pierogis carefully, trying hard not to get any fruit juice on the outer portion of the dough where you will be pressing the dumplings closed. These were very good plain and with vegan sour cream.

Filling 2: A New Spin on Tradition in Potato and Onion
about 5 large red potatoes, cubed
about 3 stalks of green onion, diced very small
minced garlic
a little olive oil
salt, pepper, and basil or parsley to taste
optional: tofu, Boca veggie crumbles, or seitan

For this filling, boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Drain into a strainer, rinse in very cold water, and then mash by hand in a large bowl. Mix in other ingredients (again, most of them to taste, but go easy on the oil) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors get acquainted. Stuff the pierogis, boil, saute, and eat with this awesome sauce:

Saucin’ the Supper: Vegan Creamy Horseradish Sauce
1 ramekin of vegan mayonnaise (we use Grapeseed Vegenaise)
good horseradish (we buy ours at the Broadway Market in Historic Polonia, so we know it’s good)
lemon juice
onion powder

Mix the ingredients until you get just enough kick from the horseradish, and an acceptable consistency from the lemon juice (you could also use apple cider or white vinegar). You won’t want to leave out a bit of onion flavor from the onion powder, or, if you like onions more than I do, you can add some diced green onion to the sauce and enjoy. If eating with people who are unsure about the enjoyment they may derive from horseradish, put the ingredients on the table and have a make-your-own-sauce party. Personally, I add at least 2 tbsp. of horseradish to every 1/4 or 1/3 cup of Vegenaise. I love the slight kick in the back of the nose and the slightly sweet taste of tart vinegar and root that every childhood family get-together was punctuated with in the presence of my Polish grandfather.

Moral of the story? Vegans can still get their Polish on. So next year, when you go out to buy your pussy willows and squirt guns for Dyngus Day, make sure you stock up on more than just Sobieski so you can enjoy these delicious pyrohy.

vodkasobieski.com

commons.wikimedia.org

My Hearty Valentine

Obligatory picture of JM & I

Valentine’s Day. “Singles Awareness Day.” The “Hallmark Holiday.” Any way you slice it, February 14 is just that: a day. It’s only as significant as you make it.

That being said, instead of hanging around and doing nothing last night, we hosted our friends at our apartment and had a small get-together with good food and good wine!! To go along with the homemade pita chips I made the other day, I decided to throw together my chicken salad with homemade mayonnaise. This was met with a bleu cheese dip and a macaroni and cheese with broccoli from our friends that were all to die for!! Thank goodness we offset all the cheese and fats with a nice bowl of fresh pineapple. Even the low fat, low calorie banana muffins I made from sparkrecipes.com were a hit!

Now, yesterday was what a lot of people in the dieting world seem to call a “maintenance day,” in that I did not stick to my diet but also did not eat more than an average, non-dieting day (about 1800-2000 calories for women). I do feel a bit bad that Monday and Tuesday are lost dieting days this week, but I realize that dieting is a process: no one loses all their weight in one day, or even one month. Instead of letting guilt eat away at me all day, I think it’s better to just start fresh today and resolve to get back to my diet. I’m not the kind of person that thinks all these little slips will break my resolve, and I also don’t think you should have to give up a cupcake or a few glasses of wine on a special day just because of your diet (you couldn’t pay me to give up Eveningside Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon or Schulze Winery’s Crackling Niagara)!! Because, let’s face it: I like to eat. And drink. That just ain’t gonna change.

You can access my nutrition report for yesterday here: http://www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/nutrition_food_chart.asp?sidn=3kMClpA6U++++++1]R5Na3++++++++&iMTGoalNum=219540182&dteDateShowing=2/14/2012&bGetElementByID=TRUE

I can’t wait for lunch!

I realized that I have never included a chicken salad recipe here before! And while it is easy enough to make, there are so many variations that it is certainly worth talking about here. It’s not necessarily a health food (it is, after all, made with mayonnaise), but it’s absolutely not a food that must be avoided. In fact, skinless chicken breasts that have been poached are a delicious low fat way to get some much-needed protein into your day. My mother used to make chicken salad for our lunches, and her way was absolutely delicious. The variation I made last night was slightly different, but reminded me of getting those whole wheat chicken salad sandwiches in my purple lunchbox, sinking my teeth into something homemade and awesome, and that wasn’t covered with cheese and intended to be dipped in marinara sauce (most of our cafeteria lunches in high school).

Last night’s chicken salad was: chicken, mayo, curry powder, garlic powder, apples, dried cranberries, and dry coleslaw mix with a good grind of pepper. However, mix it up! Other good combos include: chicken-apples-cranberries-celery-onion-mayo-ground ginger, chicken-apples-grapes-walnuts-celery-Greek yogurt, chicken-cucumber-celery-pineapple-Greek yogurt…..these are my favorites! I love the combination of chicken, fruit, and veggies together, and honestly, any vegetable that does not require cooking would be great in the chicken salad because it will maintain a crunch. You can of course use store-bought mayo (I would suggest olive oil mayo), but you can also use Julia Child’s time-tested mayo recipe to make your own. I have begun to make my mayo with lemon juice instead of white vinegar, which gives it a whole new kick and tasted great with the chicken salad!

Chicken Salad
3 chicken breasts
approx. 1 cup mayonnaise
half an apple
handful of dried cranberries
handful of dry coleslaw mix
curry powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
black pepper (and salt, if desired) to taste

-Place defrosted chicken breasts in a large pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil.
-Boil chicken breasts for 30-45 minutes, depending mostly on thickness. You can lift a breast out of the pot with a pair of tongs and cut into the middle with a knife to see if they are fully cooked.
-Remove chicken from water, and cool the chicken by placing the breasts on a cutting board or, as I did last night, in a bowl that you place inside another bowl of cold water to create a water bath.
-Cut and shred the chicken into very small pieces. Add the dry ingredients and mix together well. Add mayonnaise until you are satisfied with the consistency of the chicken salad (I estimate you will use at least a cup).
-Season to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.Tip: The chicken salad will taste better onday 2, so if you make it the night before you intend to use it, it will taste even better! Letting the flavors meld together is highly suggested. 🙂

So, yes folks, I am embarrassed by the results of yesterday’s meal, but considering the drinks and the very large meal, it’s good to know that I was still able to “maintain.” Let this serve as a warning to those who drink more than a couple glasses of wine or a couple beers more than once a week and intend (or not) to diet: think “beer gut.” I was pleasantly surprised by my cupcakes, as dry as they were: they were less than 250 calories even with peanut butter frosting! But still.

For anyone who is wondering about the homemade pita chips, I simply cut pitas into 12 triangles and baked at 375 degrees F for between 10-15 minutes (depending on your pitas and the intensity of your oven). Yum! Make sure that pan is non-stick so they don’t burn.

More weekly progress

It’s Been a Summer…and a Fall

Taken moments after our engagement…I swear we love each other

You all know as well as I do, if not better – it’s been six months since my last post. And, contrary to what it may seem, I did not lose interest in blogging, or cooking, or writing. Rather, things have simply been pretty busy, and the messy tornado-torn cache of memory I possess of this time seems barely piece-together-able. Since July 11: work…vacation…school’s beginning…the end of both of my jobs, and the beginning of unemployment…moving into the perfect apartment…a tortured first semester of grad school…a mysterious bout of fatigue that lasted over a month…a grueling job search that has only just been fruitful…a temporary position working with admissions…the long-awaited holidays…the planning and (finally) beautiful marriage of my two good friends…and probably the closest event to my heart: our very own engagement!! Jonmark and I engaged on our two year anniversary, this past July 24th, and now, we begin our own wedding planning.

My return to Concise Slice is not necessarily related to these changes. Rather, in spite of all the happy things that have happened in the last six months, I have severely missed my food blogging hobby here, and decided while waxing nostalgic around the new year that I absolutely must return to the smaller joys in life. Consequently, Jonmark and I have also set the date of our wedding for October 27, 2012! So, ironically, my return to Concise Slice coincides with a diet that inevitably limits the delicacies in which I can indulge (and, thereby, cook). I mean, yes, one day last week I may have cut back the calories throughout the day so that I could have my treasured deviled eggs with homemade mayo, plus chicken salad and my new cheese biscuit recipe…..but in general, things are changing.

So, for my first post of 2012, we’ll be discussing the new low-fat muffins I baked so that there would be some extra breakfast foods in the house when our old friend from Oswego, Jon Walda, came to visit! And for any of you following my life from Facebook, you may have already noticed my decisive opinion about these muffins: despite their low-fat and eggless benefits, and despite their orange zesty and cranberry-y kick, low-fat muffins in general just don’t compare to a good old full fat, crazy buttery muffin. However, for those of you who love the taste of oats (and who like to bake with them), these are pretty good. The very nutty flavor from the oats and nuts brings out the fruity tang of the dried cranberries and fresh orange zest…mmmmm. I added extra liquid because I was out of muffin papers and didn’t want the oats to absorb too much moisture, but if you like your oats a little more firm, go with just the 3/4 cup of milk. Also, I happened to have macadamias lying around from the holidays, but feel free to use whatever nut you choose; I would have preferred the more robust flavor of walnuts myself 🙂

As you might see in the photos (which are soon to come), the muffins stayed in the oven for 4 or 5 minutes too long because, well, I tend to forget about what I’m baking and our oven timer isn’t working properly, but they were definitely salvageable. I’ll be posting the nutrition facts for anyone who’s keeping track or using a tool like sparkpeople.com as I am!

Cranberry Orange Oat Muffins
1 cup white or wheat flour (I ran out of wheat and used white)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I’d avoid Craisins – added sugar)
1/4 cup nuts (I had cashews, but walnuts would probably be better)
2 tbsp. nonfat plain or Greek yogurt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water (if not in possession of muffin papers)
3 tbsp. canola oil
at least 2 tsp. orange zest (I added more to taste)

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
-Mix all dry ingredients together well and make well in the center.
-Mix wet ingredients separately to be sure they combine well; add to dry ingredients, folding the dry over the wet just until combined. Don’t overmix!
-Line muffin tin with paper liners if on hand; if not, be sure you added a little water! Spoon batter into the cups, being sure not to overfill (about 75% of the cup should be filled).
-Bake about 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out dry and the edges begin to turn a bit golden brown. Don’t overcook! Even 23 minutes made them very dark.
Servings: 12

Funnily enough, these muffins didn’t really get eaten. They weren’t a total bust; they were just a bit burned for our tastes. Also, with my calorie restriction, it was hard to justify 2 160-calorie muffins for breakfast only to find myself hungry 2 hours later. I’ll post some even lower calorie muffins soon that pack a lot of flavor!

Here’s the nutrition info for one muffin:
Calories: 166
Total fat: 6.4 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4 g
Monounsaturated fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium: 52 mg
Potassium: 124 mg
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Dietary fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 16.5 g
Protein: 2.5 g

Artichokes and Hollan-daze

Prior to last night, I had never really eaten an artichoke before. And if you’ve only had artichokes marinated in jars, or done up in dishes with sauces or pastas, thenyou’ve never eaten an artichoke either. When my partner suggested in the produce aisle that we buy artichokes ($1 each at Price Chopper this week) I was a bit skeptical; I had never prepared an artichoke before, in spite of how much I love them, and their spiny, poky leaves seemed….well a bit difficult. But, always ready for a challenge, I agreed. My mind immediately wandered to artichokes and hollandaise sauce, a classic and probably one of the most involved ways to eat an artichoke I could think of. I looked up the recipe and the results were to die for.

As you pull off each tender leaf, there is a small bit of “meat” at the end: this is the stuff. I dipped the leaves in the hollandaise, which I made thicker for the occasion, and scraped the last third of each leaf off, the succulent cream-colored parts the treasure to be discovered in every bite. It may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. I truly believe that artichokes anywhere else, served any other way, are not really artichokes. As you scrape, the whole thing melts in your mouth, the soft plant and smooth egg wedded in their own way. Unforgettable. And it’s funny how, immediately after you’re done, you just want another artichoke even though your stomach is bulging and you don’t want to think about the fat and cholesterol in the steaming bowl of hollandaise.

I opted for a “healthier” hollandaise: I cut the amount of butter to be used by at least half, and the results were delicious anyway! The hollandaise was very flavorful and particularly lemony, thick for scooping and smooth. Plus, there was leftover!

Artichokes and Hollandaise
2 artichokes
3 egg yolks
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. + optional 1 tsp. lemon juice
salt + pepper

-Cut the stem off the artichokes so they balance, snapping off the bottom two rows of leaves with hard pulls so they don’t string.
-Cut the top inch or so off the artichoke and snip the sharp points off the leaves that remain unclipped.
-Bring large saucepan of water to boil and drop the artichokes in. Cover and boil for 35-45 minutes. To test for doneness, take a pair of tongs and try to pull off one of the outer leaves – if it comes off very easily and you’re within the 35-45 minute time span, remove the artichokes from the water. Place in strainer upside down.
-Turn down the heat on the water so that it is simmering lightly. In a metal bowl, combine the egg yolks, water, and 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, whisking around for a few seconds until they are combined and pale.
-Place the mixture over the pot, whisking constantly so the eggs get thick. Make sure the eggs do not begin to scramble; if this happens, remove from heat quickly and continue to whisk. Having a bowl of cold water ready is advisable, but it probably won’t be needed.
-Once the eggs begin to get frothy, begin adding the butter slowly. The butter should be completely melted so it can be dripped into the mixture. Whisk constantly. The sauce will begin to get thick. This should only take a couple of minutes.
-Once all the butter is added, remove from heat (if not already removed) and add salt, pepper, and another tsp. of lemon juice if desired. Serve the hollandaise sauce in a bowl immediately so it stays hot.

Almost too good to be true

To eat the artichokes, peel off the leaves and scrape with your teeth toward the bottom. The leaves are soft and fleshy, and will be easy to pull the meat off of – even better if you dip in hollandaise first! You will get to the tender inner leaves, which are yellow, and you should remove them and scrape the inner parts out. The inside will be “fuzzy” and you will see what looks like unformed leaves – scrape all this out. You will be left with the artichoke heart and the bottom remaining stem; this is all edible and delicious!!

I served this with my polenta, which I made with only 1 and 3/4 cup water to make more firm. On top of the polenta I put a simple cheese mixture of gorgonzola and cream cheese, mixed and melted with dried cranberries and dolloped on top of the polenta. If you like blue cheese, you’ll love this!

Gorgonzola & Cranberry Spread
2:1 ratio gorgonzola and cream cheese (I used 4 tbsp. gorgonzola and 2 tbsp. cream cheese)
dried cranberries to taste

Just mix and melt!

Oswego is for Lovers…Valentine’s Day Dinner Part Two

Well, folks, this weekend has been an eventful celebration of Valentine’s Day for this blogger. First, I ran into fellow classmate and blogger Samantha at the grocery store; turns out we both had some cooking to do 😉 It was nice to see someone other than myself in the produce section for a change.

Yesterday was the big show: I cooked a four-course meal for our Valentine’s Day celebration, which we scheduled for two days ahead of time. Before heading off to a lovely folk show, we stuffed our gluttonous faces with pan after pan of food. The feast was spectacular, a hodge-podge of dishes from multiple cultures and tastes that, quite frankly, only really “went together” by chance. We started the evening with a delicate and molten brie en croute, which, based on its name, I can only assume is of French origin. The term “croute” translates to “crust,” and crusty it is: brie en croute is a dish where an entire wheel of brie cheese is wrapped and baked in puff pastry, then served with crackers. Our brie en croute was made with cranberries, walnuts, and maple syrup, and the way the ammonia of the brie was dulled but not quieted by the sweet berries and almost popcorn flavor of the walnuts was so mouthwatering that I salivate just thinking about it a day later. I scoured many sources for Brie en Croute, including my Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics cookbook and the Internet, but no recipe had the combination of flavors or ingredients I wanted. So, this recipe is, as usual, inspired but not copied from any source specifically.

Course #1: Brie en Croute
1 8 ounce wheel of Brie
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. real maple syrup
2 wheels or 1 sheet puff pastry (this depends on which brand you have available to you; I used wheels)
1 egg

-Defrost the puff pastry in the refrigerator at least half an hour ahead of time.
-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
-Sprinkle your work surface with flour, coat the puff pastry lightly on both sides with it so there is no sticking, and roll the puff pastry out with a rolling pin, making it no less than a 1/4 inch thick. It only needs to be big enough to wrap the wheel of Brie, berries, and nuts.
-Melt butter in a saucepan and saute the walnuts until brown.
-While the nuts cool, beat an egg in a bowl and use to coat both sides of the puff pastry. This helps the pastry turn a delicious golden brown.
-Place the wheel of brie in the middle of the puff pastry, and add the maple syrup, cranberries, and walnuts to the top. Wrap the entire “package” with the puff pastry. Tip: For those using wheels of puff pastry, place the brie in one wheel, and cover with the other. Make sure you use the egg liberally but not to a point of excess, where it drips off. A decent amount of egg will help seal the two parts of the pastry together so that the cheese doesn’t leak out just in case. For those using a sheet, you can tie the top together, or use the egg to seal the package. But, make sure your hole is on top, not the side 🙂
-Place the “parcel” on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until your puff pastry tells you it’s done – it will be a shiny golden brown and crisp. Cut into it and serve with crackers if you like (I eat it with just the puff pastry quite often).

The next course was pigs’ feet, a delicacy to few and staple to many, particularly in the American south. Pigs’ feet are also eaten in Irish and Korean cuisine, but for this recipe, we got down and dirty Southern style. I had to summon my bravery not to buy these “trotters” in the first place, but rather to open the package and actually get them started. As I pulled back the cellophane, I was greeted with an aroma neither welcoming nor culinary to say the least. Somehow, the pigs’ feet don’t smell like pork; they smell like…pig. Only someone who has been on a pig farm would recognize this, as no smell that comes from grocery store or even most butcher pork ever smells like this. As I turned each hoof over, rinsing it in the sink as suggested and shaving off the remaining hairs with a disposable razor, I was very close to tossing them into the garbage and hauling them out of the apartment, their squishy insides exposed and positively nauseating to look at. But…I persevered, was able to clean them to an edible level and threw them in the pot as quickly as possible. The result? Difficult-to-maneuver but delicious meat that was packed with porky flavor. The skin, while still a bit squishy, was probably one of the most flavorful parts of a pig I have ever eaten, the meat dark and not at all oily, as much pig product tends to be. When served alongside a steaming pan of polenta, which is another Southern-associated dish of boiled cornmeal, the result was a well-rounded course that was certainly the result of hard work. My recipe is unique for a couple of reasons: 1) It is cooked in a crockpot, and 2) The stock produced is spicy but not barbeque, as many Southern versions are.

Course #2: Pigs’ Feet with Onions and Herbed Polenta
Pigs’ Feet:
1 pound pigs’ feet
1/2 sweet onion (you may use others if you prefer, but this works well with the meat, herbs, and polenta)
water
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 – 1/2 cup hot sauce (I use cheap hot sauce from Aldi’s, no point diluting expensive hot sauce)
dried herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil – as many as you have on hand. Mine come in one shaker, also from Aldi’s)
salt and pepper to taste
crock pot

-Thoroughly clean and shave your pigs’ feet. You will not want to take a bite of this dish only to get a bristly hair stuck in your palate! I recommend using a disposable razor, as you can then just throw it away without throwing away 3 dollars from using your nice razor. Rinsing also ensures anything “nasty” (use your imagination) is gone from the skin.
-Place the pigs’ feet in your crock pot (should be at least 2 or 3 quarts) and cover completely with water.
-Add chopped onion, vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce, and a good amount of herbs to the pot. It is impossible to add too many herbs to this dish, so do not skimp! The pigs’ feet soak up the flavors of whatever you put in.
-Simmer on high for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. The pigs’ feet are done when they begin to pull away from the bones easily.

Creamy Polenta:
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 – 2 and 1/2 cups water, depending on how “stiff” you want the polenta
1 tbsp. canola oil
dried herbs to taste
salt and pepper to taste

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Mix cornmeal, water, oil, herbs, salt and pepper to a shallow glass baking dish (a 9×9 or pie dish work great). You will notice the oil floating on top of the water; this is normal. It actually forms a bit of a crust on top with the herbs, which is absolutely delightful.
-Bake in oven for 40  minutes. Serve next to the pigs’ feet and onions. Tip: Polenta is also great with chili, or goat cheese and dark meat poultry.

Our main course and dessert were completely inspired by the Food Network, and so those recipes will not be re-created here. But, in case anyone wants to know: perch with artichoke, lemon, tomatoes, and capers. Homemade tiramisu. ‘Nuff said.