Friday, November 7, 2008

I am my own Italian grandmother

Not having come from a longstanding culinary tradition (my mother and grandmother almost died laughing when I told them I wanted to be a cook), I usually have to make my own "old country" fun; this time I chose to channel the spirit of la nonna to whip up some broiled polenta cakes with sun-dried tomato pesto and maple-walnut biscotti!

Broiled Polenta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

To make the polenta:

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup corn grits (polenta) with 2 cups water and a dash of salt. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Once at a boil and quite thick, slowly stir in another 1 cup of water. Now cover the pot and simmer for about another 20 minutes, stirring often (and carefully - polenta likes to bubble and pop in a scalding way). Mix in 1/2 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar. Transfer polenta mush to a baking pan, mix in 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and spread out evenly across pan with a spatula. Put in the refridgerate for at least 30 minutes to cool and harden.

Once set, lightly oil a baking sheet and turn on the oven broiler. Cut out your polenta cakes (you can use a knife to make squares, the rim of a glass to make circles, even cookie cutters - be creative!) and place them on the baking sheet. Bru
sh with olive oil and put under the broiler until golden and crisp. Flip them over with a spatula, brush the other side with olive oil, and broil again. Remove from baking sheet and spread out on a serving platter.

To make the pesto:

In a food processor, combine 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 2 cloves pressed/minced garlic, 1 cup fresh basil leaves, and 1 tbsp. sea salt. Pulse until well blended. Serve in dollops on top of of hot polenta cakes, with a small basil leaf or sun-dried tomato as garnish.

Maple-Walnut Biscotti

Truth be told, any real Italian grandma would probably scoff at my using whole wheat flour to make my (vegan!) biscotti, but I tell ya: they'sa goooooood!
Start out by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oiling a baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tbsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup applesauce, 2 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Toast and rough chop 1 cup walnuts. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and add the nuts. At this point, the dough will be impossible to mix with a spatula/spoon, so just use your hands.

Now de-stick your hands by wetting them with cold water and shape the dough into a log of about 12 inches by 3 inches by 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. Put on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, till the top is firm and the bottom is slightly browned. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Now cut the log across in 1/2-inch wide slices and place the slices cut-side down back on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Turn the slices over and bake another 15 minutes. Cool on racks and store in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

*Side note: My maple-walnut biscotti were inspired by some delicious pecan biscotti I recently tasted, made by the two awesome ladies of Tall Order, a Brooklyn-based catering company that offers "a unique and healthy approach to cooking, entertaining, and living"!


1 comment:

Sandy said...

I AM the mother spoken about here, and I must say that, given that my mother and I have the same favorite recipe ("call for reservations"),my kid's doing some good stuff.

Imagine...I get to taste all this stuff, not feel competitive (why would I?), and feel proud too.

What a deal!