Failing at Kitchen: Polenta!

16 Aug

I see you, tubes of polenta.  Winking at me at the Trader Joe’s.  Beckoning me at World Market.  Looking so fly in the “gourmet” section of the ol’ supermarket.  I see you, yet I’ve never attempted to work with you.  Me?  I figured if I opened you, you’d ‘splode, and then I’d have to spend several hours cleaning up after your Dead Alive cosplay.

But then I researched.  Apparently there are two types/styles of polenta: the creamy kind that looks like grits, and the sturdy planks…that look like firm grits.  A friend said “polenta is a fancy Italian word for grits”, and she’s not wrong.  Same stuff, different day.  Okay, polenta typically uses fancy-schmancy corn meal especially ground for the purpose.  Grits uses corn meal.  Then I saw this article at Serious Eats, which said that regular ol’ corn meal is just fine for polenta, and it’s all about the liquid/meal ratio.  So I jumped in.  And polenta happened!

Here’s my step-by-step (cribbed from Daniel Gritzer over at Serious Eats):

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1) Put your water and polenta into a pot. Put pot on stovetop. Turn on stovetop. Whisk polenta and water together. Amounts? 5 parts liquid (I used water) to one part corn meal.

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2) Keep whisking ’til it starts to bubble. Then turn down the heat, give it one super-good whisking, and then you’re good for checking it every few minutes or so.

3) Keep stirring and checking the polenta-to-be. See it start to thicken? Groovy. Now add a few nobs of butter (or two tablespoons per 1 cup o' meal, as I did.) The glossy is thanks to the butter. Delicious, delicious butter.

3) Keep stirring and checking the polenta-to-be. See it start to thicken? Groovy. Now add a few nobs of butter (or two tablespoons per 1 cup o’ meal, as I did.) The glossy is thanks to the butter. Delicious, delicious butter. Or margatine. Do you.

4) When it starts to pull away from the sides -- and has a consistency that is not too runny, not too gloppy -- you're done! BTW, I never encountered a lump during this test batch. Either I whisked 'em out, or I whisked enough during the process that they never appeared. Score!

4) When it starts to pull away from the sides — and has a consistency that is not too runny, not too gloppy — you’re done! BTW, I never encountered a lump during this test batch. Either I whisked ’em out, or I whisked enough during the process that they never appeared. Score!

I love cheese, so I put some shredded cheddar on top. Reduced fat cheddar, because that’s just me. The polenta was light and fluffy, totally worth the hour it took to whisk my way to creaminess. (Note: the Serious Eats piece says that you can soak your meal overnight, and that’ll cut your cooking time in half.  I may try that next time.)

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BTW, if you want to add a touch of cream/half & half/almond milk to your polenta, go for it! It’ll make the end result that much creamier.

The only problem with my polenta? It’s so creamy that it won’t stiffen up. So the plans I made for grilling/frying the leftover polenta are not to be. No problem; microwaving the leftover squares — I poured the polenta I didn’t immediately devour into a jelly roll pan and let it set, then cut them into wobbly squares a few hours later — produces the same creaminess I had before.

Now let’s see if I can duplicate it… Which reminds me, I made a pretty darn good pork, carrot & broccoli stir-fry a few nights ago. But as I made it immediately after hiking, I scarfed it down before I could think about taking pics of the process. If I can duplicate it, I’ll post later this week. Emphasis on if.

Community garden-ness

14 Aug

Guess what happens when you overplant a community garden?  Stuff gasps, then dies.

2015-08-13 15.03.12I’d be more upset about the passing of my squash vines if they’d actually produced something.  But now I know better; ONE squash plant per small surface area.  I also notice that the “free” tomato plants are spindly.  Guess that’s what happens if you 1) let last year’s tomatoes go to seed and sprout next year, and 2) don’t selectively pinch off stems when the plant starts growing.  Seriously, they’re like vines!  Kinda cool, but not very productive.  I’m looking at this season as my “let’s see what happens!” season.

But the popcorn from last year is up!  Yes, the lone stalk o’ popcorn is hale and hearty.  And has a single ear that I’m dying to watch dry…so I can pop it later.

Not bad for a 2nd generation plant!

Not bad for a 2nd generation plant!

But I did get one gloriously red tomato, and the brussel sprouts are looking happy to finally see the light of day. (The brussels are the bluish low plants in the center of the first photo.  Let’s hope I actually get sprouts…)

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I chopped up the tomato and added it to a bunch of purple cherry tomatoes I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market.  A bit of fresh-picked basil and a splash of basalmic glaze, and it was time to eat.  I love when it’s time to eat.

2015-08-13 16.07.25BTW, that little tomato wasn’t the only thing turning red.  My backyard habaneros are doing the same thing.  Hooray!2015-08-14 10.48.57Which begs the question; what’ll I do with all those super-duper spicy peppers?  Hmm…

Ravens free practice day. Perks of living down the street.

3 Aug

Yep. Living hipdeep in B’more city has its perks. One is I can see Ravens Stadium from my window. Which means I can walk there.

I walked there today, for Ravens training camp practice thing. Go sportsball!

And I’ve found my favorite player. He’s gigantic, ginger, and I love that. (Always had a soft spot for redheads, from my first crush in the summer before 3rd grade, to Emma Stone. Yeah, I know she’s actually blonde. But I’d like to grow up to be her, even though I’m like 500 years older…)

I’d stay for the fireworks, but I’m melting. I’ll just watch them from my window.

Anyway, TADA – training pics!

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I have goalpost antennae! I'm 5.

Sexiest microwave ever!

1 Aug

I should have done this sooner. But if I had, I’d have missed Cher.

Yes, Cher. Because that’s what my microwave is (read: over $150, double that for installation.) But I needed a vent above the stove, and Cher has a killer one.

But first, TADA!

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In all her radiant splendor!

I love her because she’s got buttons on the bottom, and I’m short. I love her because she’s shiny, but brushed (because I fingerprint smudge stuff like a 5 year old.) But she really turned my head when… BAM.

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Yeah baby. That's an extendable venting system.

I love.

Because I don’t have venting to the outside? She vents inside. (Apparently all above-the-range ones do.)

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Tough to see, but vents.

Yes, I had it professionally installed. Because back surgery in ’13 plus me being a klutz equals better safe than sorry. But I did manage to do a good job on the grounding plug I wired earlier this year. Booyah!

The installer guys even took away my old, rusting tabletop microwave for me. Woot! So now? Nothing but popcorn y’all.

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I now have a popcorn setting. Hello.

UPDATE: another thing I love? The space on the buffet. Buh-bye, table micro!
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#1 Pumpkin: from July 19th to today

28 Jul

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Dang. That’s a heckuva lot of growth for 9 days. But go sling go!

Sorry. But I wanted to document Punkin progress. I may only have one pumpkin after alllll the vines…but it’s a cute little sucker, isn’t it?

Speaking of vines, here’s today’s backyard. No, I actually don’t know what I’m doing. You’re 100% correct.

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How to make a pumpkin sling hammock thing.

25 Jul

I have a horrible plague-like cold right now. So of course I’m thinking about the project I forgot to flesh out: pumpkin slings! Or hammocks. Or supports. Do you.

As I’m lazy, I just whipped up a photogrid. But that means you can save it if you want to try! And if it makes sense. ALL THE BENADRYL.

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I’m still only seeing this one pumpkin. No other squash around. But I did notice some shrivel and die while they’re still wee.

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Poor thing.

Happy weekend – may yours be plague free!

Pumpkin Update: of course they’re all up high.

19 Jul

When I planted a boatload of squash like items, I didn’t think things through. I didn’t mind that they’d be everywhere. But I didn’t think about what would happen if pumpkin vines started growing up high, on the tips of said vines.

So of course they’re growing not low on the ground, but waaaay up high.

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The wee one on the upper left is lower than the rest. So we’ll see how that goes. But the others? I’ve read that you can sling them, using stuff like old t-shirts, pantyhose (Note to self: buy pantyhose) and repurposed netted onion bags. I’ll try a bit of each if/when I need to.

And am I greedy because I want a few butternut and petit pan in among the pumpkins? Yeah. First Garden World problems…

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