My Real Italian Kitchen: Polenta and Sauce

My Real Italian Kitchen: Polenta for Dinner

My Real Italian Kitchen: Polenta and Sauce

WinCo is still one of my favorite places ever. My last two grocery shopping trips stocked my pantry so thoroughly, I’ve not been back for well over a month. When you’re on a budget for time as well as money, that’s a big deal.

Last month, I picked up a tube of ready-made polenta, with absolutely no idea what to do with it. It stared at me from the refrigerator drawer every morning. It begged me for attention every evening. I still wasn’t sure how to prepare it. Luckily, WinCo directed me to their polenta recipes on their website, including how to make it from scratch. I also searched the internet for other creative cooking ideas.

Polenta is an Italian cornmeal that can be made into a porridge, or sliced for baking or frying. As a porridge, it’s a delicious breakfast or side dish. You can slice it extra thin to add to your deli sandwich. Fried or baked, it can replace pasta or rice for an easy lunch or dinner. It’s even a great mini breakfast when topped with maple syrup.

The Polenta I picked up was already seasoned with basil and garlic, so that ruled out a breakfast porridge. For my first experience, I opted to slice and fry the polenta on my stove, and top it with a blend of pasta sauce fortified with additional spices and an extra can of sliced mushrooms. I began by slicing the tube of polenta into 1/2-inch round slices.

Polenta, sliced

San Gennaro Polenta

My favorite pasta sauce is Newman’s Own Sockarooni. It has the perfect balance of seasonings and vegetables. I often add browned ground meat to the mix, or serve it over meatballs. For this polenta dinner, mushrooms were the extra touch.

Paul Newman's Sockarooni Pasta Sauce with added mushrooms and seasonings

Sauce and Mushrooms

While the sauce simmered, I heated up my large frying pan with about 1/2-inch of olive oil. Of course, Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my favorite. It has just the right blend of natural oil and flavor without a heavy, greasy taste or feel.

Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Once the oil was nicely heated, I carefully placed the polenta slices in and covered them to minimize splattering. After five minutes, it was time to fry the other side. This was tricky, because even though I love being in the kitchen I’m not a big fan of cooking with a lot of hot oil. I managed to flip the polenta with very little mess, and after another five minutes of covered frying, I transferred it to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. In just two more minutes, dinner was ready.

Served with a simple slice of garlic toast and a refreshing Pellegrino water, my Italian dinner was complete.

My Real Italian Kitchen: Polenta with Sauce

My Real Italian Kitchen: Polenta with Sauce

The polenta was on sale for less than $4. The sauce was $2.50. Mushrooms $0.69. Garlic toast $6 for 12 slices. The most expensive part was the Pellegrino, at an average of $0.83 per bottle. The polenta dinner, while small in size is big on taste. We were able to get five good meals plus a little extra for a small snack. (Dipping a fried polenta in sauce is heaven, in case you were wondering.)

That’s an approximate $2.75 per plate. Not bad for a delicious Italian meal.

Polenta is so versatile in both flavor and use, no wonder it’s the food of choice for Northern Italy. And, in My Real Italian Kitchen.

San Gennaro Polenta with Basil and Garlic

San Gennaro Polenta with Basil and Garlic

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!

You may also enjoy reading:
Stocking up the Pantry
Stocking up the Cabinet
Too Hot to Cook (June’s Meal Plan)
WinCo Wins: Lunch for a Dollar!
WinCo Wins

“What’s the Word?” Wednesday: Aaron Gansky on Magic and Writing

Welcome back to “What’s the Word?” Wednesdays.

What's the Word? WednesdayWwW was a weekly Blog Hop, where other bloggers were invited to link up their Wednesday posts and share comments on what’s going on in their worlds.

That was then, this is now. Then, complicated back links and sharing was required. Now, WwW will feature a guest blogger every other week.

This week’s guest blogger is my good friend and writing mentor, Aaron Gansky. He’s married to my long-time friend Naomi. He teaches high school English. He writes. And he plays Magic: The Gathering.

He’s teaching me how to nerd out on it, and I must say, I’m finding it to be much more than just a game. Now, I’m still in kindergarten when it comes to learning how to play, but I do know a good investment when I see one. Like those cards I found by accidentally purchasing a foreign-language booster pack.

Mana Confluence in Japanese (Magic: The Gathering)

Mana Confluence in Japanese (Magic: The Gathering)

So when I asked Aaron to be my first guest blogger for “What’s the Word?” Wednesdays and he asked if there was any topic I wanted, this was a no brainer.

Aaron D. Gansky

Aaron D. Gansky

Aaron D. Gansky on Magic and Writing

Okay, I need to make a confession here. I play nerd games. A lot of them. So much so that I don’t even celebrate New Year’s Eve anymore. For my friends and I, we celebrate Nerd Year’s Eve. And I’m totally okay with it. Hours upon hours of nerd games is the best way to ring in a new year.

Of all the geeky past times I enjoy, however, my favorite is a fantasy-themed strategy card game called Magic: The Gathering. When I first played it, the depth and complexity of it overwhelmed me. But the more I played (largely hooked by the captivating artwork on each card), the more I got a feel for it. Now, I’ve spent far too much time/money on the hobby.

So why am I writing about it here? What’s it have to do with fiction? A few things. Firstly, since I write fantasy, it’s a great way to overcome writer’s block. All I need to do, when stuck for a lead, is flip through my binder (okay, binderS) of cards. Something there is bound to inspire me. But more so, studying the balance of power in the game helps me better understand the balance my fiction needs to have.

More than that, here’s what Magic has taught me about fiction—you’ve got to have a clear vision if you want to succeed. The best players, those who go on the pro-circuit and end up making WAY too much money on the “sport,” all build their own decks. While each player must abide by the same set of rules, how they maximize their power within those rules is fascinating. The best players, the best decks, all have a “theme,” be it an aggressive onslaught of creatures, a heavy dose of direct damage from elemental spells, or an intense manipulation of the rules, each deck does one thing really well. And while it may have a few defensive measures, the best defense is a good offense (generally speaking).

Our fiction should also have the same clarity of vision. All fiction has a set of “rules” to abide by, but how we test those rules, press up against them, bend them, twist them, and sometimes even break them, determines how successful our fiction can be. If we play it safe, we may not win. Our clear vision of which rules we’re going to focus on to manipulate and exploit can make for powerful prose. We can do it in short fiction, focusing on one rule, or we can dedicate a chapter in our novel to stretching the boundaries of what our fiction can do. Just make sure you’re doing it deliberately, for a specific purpose, and not just to show off your “gimmicky” writing. Don’t bend and break just to bend and break. It should serve a purpose, just as it does in Magic: The Gathering.

Thanks, Aaron, for being my first guest blogger, and for sharing your knowledge of nerdism.

You can follow Aaron online here:
Aaron on Facebook
Aaron on twitter
Firsts in Fiction on Facebook
Firsts in Fiction on twitter
Aaron’s blog
Aaron/Firsts in Fiction on Youtube
Aaron/Firsts in Fiction on Google+
Aaron’s Amazon Author’s Page

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!

You may also enjoy reading:
MoJo Book Review and Giveaway: The Bargain by Aaron D. Gansky
Doing the Write Thing: Writing Conferences Fundraiser
2014: BETTER.