Monday, August 29, 2011

summer squash ricotta tart.

germany's summer is on its way out (.... did it ever really arrive?!) and taking the overflowing shelves of juicy yellow and green squash with it. while i have to admit my giddiness at starting to spot small tables of funky shaped gourds around town, i can't help but worry that i didn't stuff my face with enough of summer's bounty while it lasted. 

i've been a vegetarian for around five years, and in this time, i've naturally switched over to buying organic produce. i also buy a fair amount local, simply because i can't get enough of the superb selection and cheeriness of farmers' markets. and because i know in my heart of hearts that it's important. but (all locavores please turn away!), buying local hasn't always been my top priority, and i've consciously bought bananas from spain or leeks from holland when they were the only ones there. however, seeing this, reading this, and joining this got me seriously thinking about how to change my ways.

enter: northern california! my new home for the next 5 years (if i'm an efficient PhD student) and maybe the farmers' market capital of the world. hopefully not a bad place to try and meet my new goal.

still, i'm not sure what the situation on oversized, delicious squash will be. so i'm overdosing while i can! i prepared this tart for an indoor potluck, and i was barely able to snap enough photos before it disappeared into guests' bellies. it's delicious both slightly warm out of the oven as well as at room temperature. if there's time again before autumn officially arrives, i'll be making this no cutlery needed, low maintenance dish again to get my last fill of summer.
summer squash ricotta tart
adapted from closet kitchen

1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup crumbled feta
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup herbs (chives and basil, for instance)
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 small zucchini
1 summer squash
1 tablespoon olive oil

preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.

mix the ricotta, feta, lemon, herbs, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl. roll the puff pastry out and place on baking pan or rack. score a line around the dough about 2 cm from the edge.

spread the ricotta mixture over the center of the dough. arrange the zucchini and squash slices on top of the ricotta mixture (you can alternate colors, depending on your aesthetic preferences). brush the outside inch of the pastry with the oil.

bake until the zucchini is tender and the pastry is golden brown, about 15-25 minutes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

soy, fruit, cereal.

i just realized a glaring hole in this blog's recipe repertoire: breakfast! 

not only are there no breakfast recipes, but there isn't even a breakfast tag. not that you couldn't eat this or this or this muffin first thing in the morning... but i suppose i'm more of a raw ingredient breakfast diner. which could explain why i eat (and always look forward to eating!) some variation of pretty much the same things every morning: fruit, soy yogurt, and a medley of cereals. in a cheery mug (this, my friends, is absolutely key).
so while i'm not sure if this qualifies as a recipe, here's one slightly "fancy" version of my simple breakfast to tide you over while i start looking into a real breakfast/brunch recipes to share soon.

a no-hassle vegan breakfast

1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1/4 cup soy milk
1 ripe banana, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup bran flakes
1/4 cup more exciting cereal, like granola or fruit muesli

while you can everything together the morning of, i like to let the yogurt, milk, and fruit blend in the fridge overnight. just assemble the first three ingredients in a bowl the night before, give a stir, and cover. the next morning, scoop the delicious mixture into a bowl and top with your choice of cereals. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the smartest thing i ever did: carrot soup turned curry sauce.

this past week, i have been preparing a number of recipes to post. from an apple couscous salad to a summer squash tart, there have been some nice successes in the kitchen recently. but none perhaps so great and so incredibly unexpected as the one which occurred yesterday.

and thus, i have decided to put the other almost-finished recipe posts on hold and indulge my over eagerness and poor time management tendencies to tell you about yesterday's delicious lunch-turned-dinner-turned-lunch dish. the added bonus? one post, two recipes!

the first is for lunchtime's carrot soup.while this simple pot wasn't quite as minimalist as my (or should i say gordon ramsay's) most recent three-ingredient broccoli soup, it was a certainly in that tradition. more and more, i'm convinced that the best soups are ones comprised of just a few raw foods. i threw this one together in under a half hour with ginger, garlic, shallots, carrots, and a vegetable broth. with a few bread rolls and some roughly chopped cilantro for garnishing, it was the perfect lunch to usher in autumn (which actually arrived in a bremen about a month ago... not that i'm bitter or anything...).later in the day, i received an email from a friend mentioning her desire to incorporate curry into everyday meals. despite being a huge fan of indian spices, i'm not head over heels for coconut milk. 


you still here? if you weren't so gravely offended by this confession that you just furiously slammed your laptop screen shut - or if you're even one of those people who also maybe, sometimes, once in a while doesn't have a hankering for coconut milk (don't worry, i won't tell!) - then first of all, thank you for your tolerance and open mindedness. let's continue.

i did some online research about coconut milk substitutes. soy and almond milk and greek yogurt were all frequently mentioned. but none of these seemed appealing... which was when i realized that the real issue was that i didn't want anything of the dairy variety. which was when the even greater realization dawned upon me that the sauce i wanted was a creamy, vegan indian flavored broth. and then, dear reader, it was crystal clear: the bit of leftover carrot soup would do the trick!lo and behold! tofu and vegetables in a curry carrot sauce. served over a mound of steaming, basmati rice. aka the most heavenly, flavorful, healthy dinner i've had in a very long time. even my boyfriend declared that this was the first rice dish he had ever consumed which he actually loved! and me? well i wiped my plate clean, went back for seconds, and then ate it again today for lunch over a salad. while now i'm flying high from my culinary ascendancy to greatness and pretending like i knew it would work all along, my confidence was less than overwhelming as i prepared to undertake the  soup-to-sauce venture. even as i was pouring the soup into the pan of tofu and vegetables (and ranting about how delicious this was going to turn out), i was secretely regretting not having bought and stored a frozen pizza in the freezer for back up.and yet, frozen pizza ended up not being necessary, and i think there are a few reasons why: we all know that the longer a soup sits, the better it tastes. the flavors meld and the consistency thickens. essentially, it naturally turns into a flavorful sauce anyway. so why not take advantage of that?! secondly, this vegan alternative to a milk or cream sauce gives the hearty dish a lightness that doesn't weigh you down afterwards (aka there's room for seconds! and dessert!). finally, the spices. pan frying the tofu and vegetables in mustard and cumin seeds, and then adding ground spices to the sauce give the dish a kick and reinvent the soup from earlier. so for the next time you'll be home for lunch and dinner, here are two recipes for your day.early autumn carrot soup
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, diced finely
1 tablespoon olive oil
7 carrots, washed and diced
6 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup cilantro, chopped roughly
salt and pepper to taste

in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. once hot, add the ginger, garlic and shallots. sauté for about 5 minutes to let soften up. add carrots and enough broth to cover them. let cook, partially covered, for about a half hour, until carrots are soft but not overcooked.

puree the soup according to your chunkiness preferences. add some more water if you like a thinner consistency. salt and pepper to taste. serve with a sprinkling of cilantro.

*this will leave up to two people fully satiated. leave about 3 to 4 cups in the pot for dinner's sauce.

tofu and vegetables in a carrot curry sauce

1 small head broccoli, in small florets
400 g extra firm tofu
100 g chanterelle mushrooms, washed and halved
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, in long strips
4 cups leftover carrot soup (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground curry
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup cilantro, chopped roughly

begin by preparing the tofu. unwrap and wrap in paper towels to drain the water. repreat 2 to 3 times until the tofu is dry. cut into thick strips for searing. heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. add the mustard seeds. once they begin to sizzle, add the tofu and distribute it to cover the floor of the pan. let cook, undisturbed, for around 4 minutes to sear on the first side. once lightly browned, flip over. when they are seared on both sides, remove and set aside for later.

using the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium-high. add cumin seeds. once sizzling, add all the vegetables. give them a good pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium. sauté for about 10 minutes, until almost completely cooked. if the mushrooms have released some juices, turn the heat up to high for 2 minutes to let the liquid evaporate. add the tofu back to the pan.

now it’s time to add the sauce aka the soup! pour at least 4 cups of it into the pan and give it a good shake to coat the vegetables. add the curry, turmeric and coriander and give the mixture another stir. cook for 4 or 5 minutes on low to medium to let the sauce heat up and the vegetables absorb the spices. the if the sauce is too watery for your taste, turn the heat up to high for the last two minutes before serving to thicken up the dish. 

right before serving, add the cilantro to the pan. serve with basmati rice.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

a chunkier peach jam.

 i must confess: i'd never given much thought to jam before last's not that i don't eat it - i certainly enjoy a hunk of marmalade on a slice of freshly toasted bread as much as the next person. perhaps it's just that my relationship to jam has always paled in comparison to my strong - and dare i say emotional - attachment to honey. honey has been the condiment that has stuck with me through the years, from its kid- and priya-friendly bear squeeze bottles to its thicker, spoonable jar varieties. the heavenliness of honey has always been a no-brainer. but what about jam?! i'm not overflowing with childhood memories of the condiment. i remember treasuring the jars after we finished them off as a family (was that the reason i ate from them in the first place?!), and using them for drinking lemonade or collecting stones. but what was in the jars before i turned them into vases... can't really remember. still, it's a condiment people seem to love! and jams and jellies are in no short supply in german supermarkets and organic shops. so i figured there must be something i was missing. indeed, it seemed like about time that i get up close and personal with this morning spread, to spare my future children the quarter life jam crisis i now found myself in.peaches, a few empty jars, and a packet of pectin were all that needed to be picked up at the supermarket. the lemon juice and sugar were already in the cupboards. my afternoon was cleared. jam time was upon me.i have to admit that the process of making the jam was less than relaxing for a first-timer. the steps weren't particularly demanding, but there are certainly a lot of them. and the first one, involving sterilizing the jars in boiling water (and wondering if glass is going to explode all over your face in the process) isn't the most relaxing way to kick off an afternoon. but once you cross that bridge, it's pretty smooth sailing. with this recipe, you end up with about 4 medium sized jars of jam, 2 of which i gave away as gifts, and 2 of which have almost been completely devoured by my roommate, who has apparently adopted a elimination diet that involves eliminating all other foods except jam. as the pictures suggest, the jam turned out very chunky. this is because i did not fully puree it. at first, i was disappointed by its chunkiness - until i tasted it! it's delicious, and the chunks really remind you that you're consuming fruit. still, if you'd like a less chunky (and thereby more attractive) version, just make sure to completely cream the peaches in the blender before cooking them with the sugar and pectin. i also made what was called a "low sugar" version, which, quite honestly, is plenty sweet (though i note alternative measurements in the recipe below, in case you'd like to take a more sugary route). not only am i pleased with the how well the jam turned out, but knowing how much effort goes into making just one jar has definitely sparked a newfound appreciation of it! i'm not sure if jam is ever going to hold the same place in my heart as honey - but for now, i'll be letting the two of them split my piece of toast down the middle... at least until i figure out how to make homemade almond butter.

homemade peach jam

5 pints ripe peaches (about 10 cups)
¼ cup juice of a lemon
½ cup water
4.5 cups sugar (you can use up to 7 cups, depending on your preference for sweetness)
2 packets pectin
4 empty jars with lids

the first step is sterilize the jars. give them a good wash by hand or in the dishwasher, and then bring your biggest pot of water to a boil. drop an open jar (or 2 or 3, depending on how much room you have) in there and let boil for 10 minutes. remove jars and place in another pot of hot water until ready for use. to sanitize the lids, place them in a pot of hot, but not boiling water for 5 minutes. once all of your jars and lids are sanitized, it’s time to start jammin’!

wash the peaches. you’ll have to peel them, and the easiest way to do that is by placing them for 60 seconds in a pot of boiling water. remove using a slotted spoon and placed in a bowl of ice (or just very cold) water. the skins will slide right off if they peaches are ripe! if they aren’t ripe, then you’ll need to boil them slightly longer.

peel off the skins, remove the pits and other mushy brown spots, and chop finely. add them to a large bowl and mush them up by hand or using a blender or hand mixer. i’d recommend pureeing them as much as possible, leaving some small chunks in there for a kick. to prevent them from browning, add ¼ cup lemon juice to the bowl and give it a good stir to let the peaches absorb the juice.

grab your sugar and pectin. combine the pectin packets with ¼ cup sugar. put the other 4.25 cups sugar in another bowl.

add the pectin mix to the peaches and place in a pot. stirring often, bring mixture to a rolling boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away). this should take about 10 minutes. add the remaining sugar and bring it back to a boil. then boil it hard for 1 minute.

fill the jars with the mixture and seal them tight. at this point, you can add them back to a pot of boiling water to seal them for shelving. i didn’t do this – meaning they will last about a month in the fridge.

let jars sit in a dry place and cool at least 3 hours. place in fridge. enjoy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

tahini yogurt pasta salad.

there are few things i enjoy more than a sunny day, a new city, and a farmers' market. the sights, the smells, (the free samples), the assorted unrecognizable produce: it's all so intoxicating. i've been lucky to have spent the past two weekends in cities outside of cozy bremen, where my hosts took me to some food markets i'd probably pay a cover charge to enter again. for those in the area, london's borough market and munich's viktualienmarkt are both delightful places to go completely broke buying fruits, veggies, cheeses, honey, jams, etc. the former also boasts the world's greatest granola (helloooo shameless plugging!).

whether it's a new cheese or an unfamiliar chili, it's inspiring encountering new foods and trying to figure out ways to cook with them. unfortunately, the reality of having lived in bremen for three years is that i generally know which produce i'm going to run across at which time of the year. 

and yet! this little german city seems to still have a few tricks up its sleeve! if you remember my giddy astonishment upon finding portobello mushrooms earlier this summer, you can also probably imagine how excited i was to run across romanesco broccoli last week. granted, romanesco broccoli isn't the most exotic vegetable around, but it isn't easy to come by in these parts. i immediately purchased a head and ran (or more realistically: skipped gleefully) home to find a recipe for the evening.

this creative pasta salad (originally from the culinary genius that is 101 cookbooks) calls for broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. i left out the latter two and swapped in some romanesco. the recipe was a hit - even my broccoli skeptical boyfriend was taking extra helpings! really though, the best part is the sauce, which comes together in minutes from tahini, yogurt, and fragrantly cooked spices. you can mix the sauce into the salad before serving, but i followed the original instructions and served each plate with a large dollop of it on top. there wasn't a trace of pasta left, and the extra sauce only lasted one day in the fridge before being devoured atop a frittata the next night.

broccoli pasta salad with tahini yogurt dressing

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oi
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 big handfuls of romanesco broccoli florets
1 handful broccoli florets
225 g short pasta
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

start by chop the cherry tomatoes and drizzling a little olive oil and salt and pepper over them. place in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes.

now bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.

while the water is coming to a boil, you can make the sauce. heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. add the garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. stir well, and saute for about 30 seconds, or until the spices are toasted and fragrant. transfer this mixture to a medium mixing bowl and stir in the water, tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, and salt. taste and adjust to your liking. set aside.

when the water is ready, boil the romanesco and “normal” broccoli for about 30 seconds. fish out with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to stop cooking. drain well and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

return the water to a boil and add the pasta. cook until al dente, then drain and run under cold water. add to the vegetables. add the tomatoes, cilantro, and basil. toss gently. mix in the sauce at this point or serve the salad with the sauce on the side. everyone can take as much of a dollop as they like.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

(could be) gordon ramsay's broccoli soup.

it's been a british kind of month. the reasons (note: only the first one approaches legitimacy):

1. i took a weekend trip to london to visit my cousin.

2. netflix has offered up instant viewing of all six seasons of gordon ramsay's kitchen nightmares.
3. i'm now on season 3 of the above mentioned show.

while there's always been a warm and fuzzy place in my heart for jamie oliver, whose endless optimism and jolly cockney slang i try and replicate in my own kitchen, i'm growing to appreciate the edgier - if not more fowl mouthed and offensively sexist - form of entertainment gordon ramsay offers. 

for those unfamiliar with his kitchen nightmare gig, it involves ramsay roaming the homeland searching for failing, disgusting restaurants on the verge of shutting down. he shows up as a charmingly sassy knight in shining armor to save the day by teaching their owners to, for instance, reduce the menu from 130 items to 15... or not to serve a dish featuring shrimp and a chocolate dipping sauce. sometimes he teaches the head chef how to make an omelette.

amazingly, through the use of simple lessons ("keep it f%#*ing simple!"), he gets them back on track to culinary success! it's inspiring, horrifying, and a great way to make yourself vow to never again eat in a restaurant with a dirty bathroom: if they can't keep that clean, then what's going on behind the scenes with your food?! 

even though i'm sort of hooked to the series (surprise surprise), the only downer is that i rarely learn any recipes or techniques from it. i mean, there are certainly cooking tips to be picked up - and my knowledge of how to run a kitchen staff has gone from none to slightly more than none - but it's uncommon that i'm brimming with new recipe ideas after an episode (or six).

that is, until a most recent episode, in which ramsay challenged some "twat" chef to a broccoli soup cook off! while his opponent whipped together some "bloody mess" using 11 ingredients, ramsay's soup consisted of a mere 3: broccoli, water, and salt. 

inspired by the simplicity, i took a gander at it the other afternoon. the only thing is that the whole sequence of him making this soup was about 20 seconds. he did explain the steps (recipe below), but details about measurements and timeframes weren't exactly explicit. which is why my broccoli soup may or may not actually be the one he was referring to. in any case, it was delicious! the broccoli flavor is bold and the soup is simple, super quick to make (tops 7 minutes!), as rich as can be in vitamin c, and surprisingly filling. while i might transform this next time into a 4 or 5 ingredient soup with a touch of garlic or a sprinkling of cilantro, i will definitely be making it again. and maybe, just maybe, dissuading ramsay from infiltrating my kitchen next season.

3-ingredient broccoli soup

1 head of broccoli, stem and all
1 large pot of water
1 tablespoon of salt (or more to taste)

chop up your broccoli. the smaller the pieces, the better. bring a pot of salted water to a boil. blanch the broccoli for about 3 or 4 minutes, until bright green. 

now here's the key part. the water you just used for blanching has formed a broccoli broth. so when you drain the broccoli, drain it over another pot where you will keep the broth. then, working in batches, add some of the broccoli and the broth (depending on how thick of a soup you'd like) to a blender. blend until smooth or slightly chunky. return finished soup to a pot to keep warm and salt.

enjoy with a chunk of toasted bread and an episode of kitchen nightmares.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

greens macaroni salad. (and what to do with all that pasta).

it's common blog practice to offer the occasional post on pantry staples and standbys. i think it's common practice all around to keep a pantry stocked with some items that can be pulled out in dire culinary need or moments of un-inspiration.

the problem is that i tend to like to cook with mostly fresh produce. in case you haven't noticed, the majority of recipes here revolve around a bit of vegetables, complimented by more vegetables, and finished off with some fresh herbs. all of these things don't have the longest shelf lives. and with a fridge that doesn't always close fully, their refrigerator lives are often cut tragically too short as well. so i find myself going grocery shopping quite often and only very rarely relying on the assumption that we have backup ingredients at home.

still, if i had to mention the few items you can pretty consistently find lining the pantry shelves, it would be: lentils, chickpeas, rice, flour, sugar, (cookies), an old trader joe's rice noodle bowl that i can't bear to part with, corn kernels for popping, and: pasta. 

so. much. pasta. if we bought some other staple (canned tomatoes, quinoa, more cookies!) for every time we picked up a package of pasta, i'd be the most stocked blogger this side of the atlantic. but instead, we have about 15 packages of opened pasta at any given time, and i've turned into that sad person whose favorite monthly past time may just be organizing and grouping already opened packages...

which is why the following recipe is perfect for this household, one where short noodles flow off the shelves in their various fusilli, macaroni, and farfalle forms. any and all types of noodles can be thrown together in this green, refreshing, and slightly tangy pasta salad. i enjoyed it mildly warm on a summer evening, but chilled and at an outdoor potluck would be just as delicious.

assorted greens macaroni salad:
adapted from 101 cookbooks

300 g macaroni pasta (or a mix of short pasta noodles, as seen here!)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 bunches green onions, sliced
1 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of one lemon
3 handfuls greens (arugula, spinach, etc)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
10 large basil leaves, chopped roughly
1/3 cup grated parmesan, for topping

bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package instructions. once al dente, reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.

heat the olive oil in a large pan. add green onions, leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt. cook about 5 minutes, until the onions and leeks are soft and the garlic is browned. remove from heat and let cool. 

add in the pasta, tomatoes, greens, lemon, reserved pasta water, basil, and salt and pepper. at this point, you can either stir in the parmesan, or let individuals top their dishes themselves.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

summery polenta casserole.

corn has been on my mind lately after watching the 2003 documentary, king corn. the film documents the journey of american corn from its farm origins in iowa to its feeding of cattle in colorado to its conversion into high fructose corn syrup in a disturbing number of packaged goods we consume. i'm continually shocked by the realization that the vast majority of corn grown in this country is unedible off the cob and yet ends up (in excessive amounts!) in our bodies via other things we eat (but probably shouldn't!).

when i was younger, my favorite dish was my mom's mashed potato and corn casserole. looking back, the signs of my future vegetarianism weren't all too hidden (the rest of my family's favorite meal was grilled steak...). i loved the creaminess of the potatoes and the crunch of the fresh corn. it's been years since i ate that dish, and i have to admit my love of corn has largely waned in that time. i think i may have even once heard myself claim to dislike corn!

but the thing is that there are a lot of reasons to warm up to corn: grilled corn on the cob, for one. and for anyone following a gluten free diet, there's cornmeal, or polenta (whatever you call it, it's got a ton of iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamin b6!).

with corn on the brain, i decided to try out a summery corn and polenta casserole. this dish is bursting with summer flavors, from the fresh tomatoes to the fragrant green peppers to the sizzling cheese on top. plus, it's the kind of meal to restore even the biggest disbeliever's faith in corn. while i'm still planning on keeping my distance to its canned and sweetened forms, fresh corn is getting a renewed invitation into my diet.

summery polenta bake
adapted from dana treat

oven-baked polenta (recipe follows)

1½ cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ears of corn, kernels shaved off the cob

1 green pepper, chopped

¾ pound tomatoes, cored and seeded

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 chili, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup grated cheese

first make the polenta. do this early in the day (or at least 3 hours ahead of time) to give it time to harden.

heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the corn and pepper. sauté over medium heat just until tender, about 5 minutes. season with a pinch of salt. 

meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into chunks and place in a small bowl. toss in the sauteed corn and peppers, half the basil, and the chiles. add salt and pepper to taste.

preheat the oven to 375ºF. pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of large casserole dish. arrange the polenta triangles any way you like, using up all of the polenta. spoon the vegetables on top and into the spaces between the polenta triangles. give another slight salt and peppering, and sprinkle with the cheese. 

cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. sprinkle on the remaining basil and serve immediately! (this dish is also heavenly a day later, so don't worry for a second about what to do with leftovers!).

simple oven-baked polenta
adapted from nytimes recipe for health

1 cup polenta
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. combine the polenta, water and salt in a 2-quart baking dish. stir together, and place in the oven. bake fifty minutes. remove from the oven, and give it a stir using a fork or spatula. return to the oven for 10 minutes.

remove from the oven, and stir again. check that the grains are soft. if not, return to the oven for 10 minutes. remove and let cool, either in the same dish or by pouring it into another (lightly oiled) one. i left it in the baking dish to cool for an hour, then put it in the fridge for another hour to harden. once hard and cool, cut into squares (and then into triangles by halving the squares) and place on parchment paper for use in casserole.