I haven't cooked a lot of, what'd'ya call em...well-balanced meals, since Nic went to Egypt. I have mainly subsisted on bean burritos, tuna pasta salad (which I should really post about one of these days), and egg salad sandwiches. But when I was picking up some baking supplies at Whole Foods tonight (for an awesome scone recipe that is coming soon!), I impulsively purchased polenta. I think I was drawn in by the description:
I love that they use "also known as" on the label. Like the polenta is an 80s rock star trying to redefine its image. They wanted to draw in the southerners with the grits, but they didn't want to ostracize the northerners. What to do? Then a crafty marketer came up with the idea to throw on the fancy European term, "polenta." It's a twofer!
I came home, scrounged around in the fridge, pulled out a bunch of broccoli rabe my mom sent me home with after Easter and package of sausage that I needed to use, and I started to cook my first well-balanced meal in three weeks. Unless you count chasing bean burritos with ice cream sandwiches as well-balanced.
This is a fantastic combination of flavors--the sweet and spiciness of the sausage really balances out the slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe, and the polenta and grated Pecorino Romano cheese complete the picture. [UPDATE: This is the most awesomely delicious leftover lunch I have had in a looooooooong time. So make enough for leftovers, mmmk?] Okay, enough food talk mumbo-jumbo, it is easy to throw together, and it makes for a pretty presentation if you cut the polenta into little squares or circles after it sets...or you can just glob it on the plate if you want to skip a step and you aren't worried about such vanities.
The most difficult part of preparing this meal is prepping the broccoli rabe, but it's not that bad once you get the hang of it. My mom taught me to cut about 1/2 inch off the stem end then pull it towards the flowered end to pull off the tough outer skin on the stem. Then, using a good paring knife, you get under the edge of the skin and pull it off in pieces, moving around the stem. Some of the toughest outer leaves will come with it. The skin will come off fairly easily, and it doesn't have to be perfect, but you want to get most of it off because it makes the broccoli rabe tough.
Polenta w/ Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
two large bunches of broccoli rabe (it shrinks when it's cooked)
1/4 cup of olive oil (give or take)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
6 Italian sausages, cubed (sweet or spicy, your choice)*
2 cups of polenta (i.e. corn grits)
2 tbs. butter
1 1/2 cups of grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
-Put a large pot of salted water (about 2 tsp. salt) on to boil on high heat. Clean the broccoli rabe (see above for technique). When the water comes to a boil, throw in the broccoli rabe. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes in the boiling water, until the stems are softened. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.
-Using the same pot, bring 6 cups of salted water (about 2 tsp. salt) to a boil on high heat. Slowly pour in the polenta and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the polenta stirring often until it is very thick, about 25 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the polenta or it will stick and burn.
-While the polenta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and the cubed sausage and cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the broccoli rabe and cook just until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low to keep warm until the polenta is done.
-When the polenta is finished cooking, stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper, then spread in a glass baking dish. Let set for 10 minutes, then cut in squares or use a biscuit cutter (or the top of a glass) to cut individual servings.
-Place a serving of polenta on each plate, top with broccoli rabe and sausage, and garnish with a generous helping of grated cheese.
*Here I actually used spicy chicken sausage.