Tag Archives: cornmeal

Spanish-style chicken with mamaliga

19 Apr

chicken before passover

Planning meals right before Passover is a challenge. We do our best to use up all our chametz — stuff that is forbidden during Passover — which leaves us with little to chow down on just before the holiday starts.

We usually get our kitchen squared away for Passover on the weekend, though now that we’re retired it’s more out of habit than necessity. But here we were, with a kosher-for-Passover kitchen on Monday and very little that is not kosher-for-Passover in the pantry. Hmm, no pasta or noodles allowed, not even matzo before the holiday starts, and we hadn’t done our big fruit-and-veg shopping and so I didn’t have any potatoes. What could I serve with chicken breast?

Then I had a bright idea. Why not eat kitniyot? This is a word that refers generally to rice, beans and seeds — things that are not forbidden on Passover by law but have become taboo among Ashkenazi Jews (from central and eastern Europe) by custom.

The powers that be in Conservative Judaism, of which I am a member, recently ruled that it’s OK to eat kitniyot at Passover. But my daughter and her family follow stricter kashrut standards and won’t accept that ruling, so we’ll go by our long-standing tradition and abstain during the holiday.

BUT…kitniyot are not the forbidden chametz, and so cooking with them will not invalidate the kosher-ness of my Passover pots and dishes. And since it’s not Passover yet, why not eat kitniyot until Friday night, when the festival begins?

Our custom has always been to open fresh packages of foodstuffs for Passover, and I didn’t have any unopened packages of rice, so that was out. But I did have a nice big bag of stoneground cornmeal from the Livesay Grist Mill at Fiddlers Grove in Lebanon, Tennesee, a sourvenir from the Wilson County Fair where my musician son played last August. I hadn’t opened it yet because I was waiting to use up the box of Quaker cornmeal I had just bought before he presented me with this gift — and how often do we use cornmeal?

All this is prelude to tell you why I came up with this dish that we had for dinner last night. And I made enough to have once again before Passover. Since we’re in Jewish mode, I’m calling it mamaliga, which is a Rumanian-origin cornmeal mush similar to polenta, but without any cheese added.

Ingredients:

3 cups water
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped (I used two mini-peppers)
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large chicken breast halves, cut in half horizontally to make thin, flat pieces (about 1 lb. total)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

For the mamaliga:

Bring the water with the salt to a full boil. Slowly add the cornmeal while stirring briskly with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps.

Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 10 to 20 minutes until the cornmeal is thick and pulls away from the side of the pan. Keep on very low heat until ready to serve.

For the chicken:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over  medium heat and saute the onions  for about 3 minutes.

Add the pepper, celery and garlic and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or so until the vegetables are soft.

Shove the vegetables aside and add the chicken slices to the pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until no longer pink.  Add the tomatoes and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mamaliga among four plates (or make two plates and save the rest for another meal). Top each serving with one of the chicken slices and a generous amount of vegetables.

Serves 4

 

 

 

 

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Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake

7 Jan

Eggplant Mushroom Polenta 2I love the Internet! I found myself with an aging eggplant and some aging mushrooms that had to be used quickly. So I googled “eggplant mushroom recipe” and found more than a dozen possibilities, including this one, originally posted by Amy Wisniewski on chow.com. It was described as an “Italian take on a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.” It’s a little time-consuming to make because there are a lot of steps, but it’s not difficult, and it’s delicious.

You can easily halve the recipe to serve 3 or 4. If you do that, you can use a smaller skillet, but for the first step, you may want to roast the eggplant on a baking sheet because a smaller skillet may not be big enough to hold the eggplant before it’s cooked. I made half the recipe. I roasted the eggplant in a 10-inch skillet before I realized it would be too large, then used an 8-inch skillet for the rest of the process, and it was perfect.

You can use regular cornmeal, like I did. If you don’t have fontina cheese, substitute Swiss, Monterrey jack or cheddar.

Half the recipe made four good sized servings. There are only two of us so we had leftovers, and it was good reheated too.

Eggplant and Mushroom PolentaIngredients:

3 Tbs. olive oil
1½ lb. Japanese eggplant, cut in large dice (I used a medium-sized regular eggplant for half the recipe)
1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
⅓ cup dry red wine
Small onion, diced fine
1 tsp. dried oregano
¾ tsp. red pepper flakes (if you like extra zing, use a little more red pepper)
Kosher salt
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 (14-15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups milk
2 tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ oz.)
1½ cups grated fontina cheese (about 5 oz.) (I used Swiss cheese)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Place a large, well-seasoned cast iron or enameled skillet in the oven while it is heating.

When the oven is hot, drizzle 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet and let it heat for a few minutes. Add the eggplant and arrange in an even layer. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once.

Remove the skillet from the oven to the cooktop. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl and set aside.

Add 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and place over high heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the eggplant.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and heat for a minute. Add the onion, oregano and red pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute.

Add the olives, the reserved vegetables (along with any juice in the bowl), the tomatoes and water, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. As the stew cooks, start making the polenta.

Place 3 cups of water and the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat and slowly pour in the polenta or cornmeal while whisking or stirring, until all the polenta is incorporated and there are no lumps.

Cook, stirring frequently, about 15 or 20 minutes, until the polenta pulls out from the sides of the pan and the grains have softened (if it gets too thick before it is soft, add a little hot water, ¼ cup at a time). Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Heat the oven to broil; keep the rack in the middle.

Pour the polenta over the eggplant and mushroom mixture and spread it into a smooth, even layer. Evenly sprinkle the fontina cheese over the polenta.

Place the skillet in the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8