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Italian Grits: I’m a Fast Cook, I Guess

My grandfather who was a great maker of polenta called it "mush",  as it was commonly eaten during Roman times. It seemed as though he stood at the stove for hours stirring and stirring until it was just the right consistency. No fancy sauces were put on this delicacy; it was just pored out hot onto a wooden board and you raced to dig right in before it disappeared. Later in life, Grandpa loosened from his traditional roots. He added red meat sauces and other salted meats; such as bacon or pancetta, and even anchovy to dress the polenta. He passed his pot on to me, so I ran with it and continue the family tradition today.

Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and is often cooked in a huge copper pot, known as paiolo, for even heating. Traditionally polenta is a slowly cooked dish; it can take an hour or longer, and constant stirring is a must. The time, dedication and arm-stirring labor of traditional preparation methods has sparked the way for many shortcuts today. There is now instant polenta available from Italy that allows for quick cooking - kind-a-like instant grits, or there's fully cooked polenta in a tube that requires only slicing and reheating. I suggest reheating by grilling, roasting, sautéing or baking, then top with your own creative sauce. It may not be Grandpa’s, but if in a pinch, try it with my favorite recipe; grilled topped with a sauce of creamy gorgonzola and crispy pancetta. 

I'm a fast cook, I guess - reminds me of the classic line from the movie My Cousin Vinny. Mr. Tipton: “I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess.” AS IF THERE IS SUCH A THING AS MAGIC GRITS!

Vinny Gambini: "So obviously it takes you 5 minutes to cook your breakfast."

Mr. Tipton: "That's right."

Vinny Gambini: "That's right, so you knew that. You remember what you had?"

Mr. Tipton: "Eggs and grits."

Vinny Gambini: "Eggs and grits. I like grits, too. How do you cook your grits? Do you like them regular, creamy or al dente?"

Mr. Tipton: "Just regular I guess?"

Vinny Gambini: "Regular. Instant grits?"

Mr. Tipton: "No self respectin' Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits."

Vinny Gambini: "So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world 20 minutes?"

Mr. Tipton: "I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess."

Vinny Gambini: "I'm sorry I was all the way over here I couldn't hear you did you say you were a fast cook, that's it?"

Mr. Tipton: "Yeah."

Vinny Gambini: "Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the earth?"

Mr. Tipton: "I don't know."

Vinny Gambini: "Well, I guess the laws of physics cease to exist on top of your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?"

credits, IMBD image

Good as Earth, Grilled Asparagus

Earth Day is a time to take note and act in support for environmental protection, not just one day a year but in our everyday experiences. Eating and cooking more veggies for our diet is a healthy and fun way especially when grilling.

George Hirsch Grilled Asparagus

Serve this easy make-ahead dish as a starter or a side.  The asparagus is enhanced by the marinade and grilling.

Grilled Asparagus
Makes four servings

chefgeorgehirsch.com | From George Hirsch Living it UP! TV series

1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 cup olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon  of fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup calamata olives, pitted and split
Fresh ground black pepper

Cut the stem ends off the asparagus and discard; peel the asparagus up to the beginning of the tip ends with a vegetable peeler. 

 Combine a 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano in a shallow rectangular dish. Marinate the asparagus in this mixture for 1 hour. 

Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium temperature.

Remove the asparagus from the marinade and grill for about 5 minutes, basting with the marinade. Turn the asparagus as needed so they do not burn. 

Remove the asparagus from the grill, top with lemon zest, parmesan cheese and olives. Top with remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve at room temperature.


Queen of Dressing

A tribute to a mix of green herbs, specifically parsley and chives. Prior to the popularity of ranch dressing, Green Goddess was the queen of dressings, gracing salads worldwide.

Let me get this out of the way first; Seven Seas did not create the original Green Goddess Dressing. It’s earliest roots stem from a classical French cooking cold sauce (dressing) called Sauce Au Vert; created for Louis XIII of France circa 1640. That's just around the time of the legendary Chef Vatel (more on him next week). This cold sauce gained popularity in the 1920’s with help of a theater production by the same name, The Green Goddess, which ran in San Francisco.  

Basically - all cold sauces are created equal, with just a few adjustments in the ingredients. For example, if you think Thousand island Dressing with a reduction of a few condiments and an addition of a larger quantity of fresh washed herbs; such as chives, tarragon, chervil or parsley - you’ve got Green Goddess!

The herbs should be chopped fine and squeezed dry in a cheese cloth or clean kitchen towel; while reserving the juice exiting from the herbs to color and more importantly flavor the cold sauce. The herbs are then added to the base sauce. Viola!

Green Goddess aka. Sauce Au Vert

Mix, 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 pureed anchovy fillets, 4 cloves Caramelized Garlic, juice of half a lemon, dash of hot sauce and fresh ground black pepper. Add 1/4 cup each finely chopped chives and parsley, with squeezed juice into dressing.

image: Glane23