Monday, February 2, 2009

Polenta Grigliata con Sugo di Melanzane

Grilled Polenta with Eggplant

This dish is a bit more time consuming than the others I have posted, it is a two step process since we are working with Polenta and a sauce. The sauce would actually be great in a slow cooker, but if you are cooking it like I present it here, give yourself at least 2 hours of simmering, plus 40 minutes to cook the polenta. The polenta should be made before the sauce, because it needs time to cool and stiffen in order to be used on the grill. Please DO NOT use quick polenta. It tastes terrible. I made the polenta in the morning and started the eggplant in the late afternoon for dinner.


1 cup dry polenta

8 cups of water

1 large eggplant, diced, which should give you 4 cups

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in one cup if water

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 Calabrian dried red peppers

1/4 cup olive oil

splash of wine

salt to taste for the polenta. I used about 1 tbsp


For the Polenta

Bring for cups of water to a boil in a pot or deep pan. I used my deep pan because it is non stick, which is useful with sticky polenta.

When water comes to a boil, add salt, and slowly stir in polenta, and cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly. Add another cup of water halfway through Stir at least every 3 minutes.

When polenta is complete, pour into a medium baking pan, and leave to cool to room temperature. When it cools, you can refrigerate it for a few hours before grilling

For the Eggplant, you will need to prepare 1 tbsp of thoroughly rinsed dry porcini mushroom in one cup of water. Let the porcini soak for no less than 30 minutes

In a deep pan, put olive oil, splash of wine, garlic and peppers and simmer for a good five minutes on medium heat.

Add can of diced tomatoes, and 2 cups of water. Simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes. The you will strain the porcini mushrooms and pour the water they were soaking in into the tomato sauce. The mushrooms will give the sauce a meatier taste, and make it much easier to pair with a bold red wine. Save the porcini in the fridge for other uses. I used mine in a Minestrone I am going to blog about next.

Add the diced eggplant to the mixture and two cups of water. Add salt to taste, simmer on high heat for about 5 minutes, then on low heat for at least 2 hours. If not, your eggplant will taste watery. I know we are ADDING water, but that is to encourage mixing of the tomatoes, porcini water, and eggplant. If you are slow cooking, add all of the ingredients together and leave it for about 8 hours.

Too prepare meal:

When eggplant sauce is ready, you can bring your polenta out and get it read for grilling.

Grill two pieces of polenta at a time, until brown lines appear on either side. Notice the texture of the Polenta is not like a porridge, but it seems almost like Jell-o. There is no gelatin in Polenta, however.

This recipe is for 4. It pairs well with a St. Magdalener from Alto Adige, a Aglianico del Vulture, or a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo.

Enjoy this delicious winter dish inspired by great food I have had in Trentino Alto-Adige.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Minestrone di fagioli

Minestrone di Fagioli

Beans, beans the magical fruit...

A vegan's best friend is the magical bean. From the bean we get much needed nutrition, including a way to combine with grains to make a complete protein. I personally couldn't live without my pressure cooker. I cook all my broths, beans, soups, rice, and grains with the pressure cooker. It is a money and time saver because in about 2 hours, dry beans can be made into a delicious and simple meal. The following recipe is for a pressure cooker, but you could easily substitute canned beans if you don't have a pressure cooker, or use a slow cooker after you have fried the onions in the olive oil.


1 cup of dried OR two cans Borlotti beans

1 cup of a small soup pasta, I use Ditalini Rigati Grandi

1 small yellow onion sliced lengthwise

2 dried Calabrian red peppers

1 tbsp of double concentrate

1/2 cup olive oil

splash of white wine

1-8 cups of water (depends on use of dry beans)
Salt to taste (will need at least 1/2 tbsp if using dry beans)
In this recipe I will refer to use of pressure cooker, but if you are not using one, then use a medium sized pot, canned beans, and only 2 cups of water.

In pressure cooker pot, put olive oil, splash of wine, onion, and red peppers on medium heat until onions become translucent. Remove onions and peppers when onions become translucent. Add concentrated tomato paste and one cup of water and stir. Stir in the beans and let simmer on medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Then add 5 cups of cold water, salt, and the seal the pressure cooker. I usually will simmer on high heat until pressure builds one time, and then I put the pot on the smallest burner and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, but you should follow the directions of your pressure cooker as every brand is different.

After 2 hours, I open the pot and make sure the beans are very soft, and taste the soup if the salt is adequate, if not, I salt to taste. Stir soup lightly on medium heat, and mash mixture with a masher, and stir again. Add 2 more cups of water and bring to a boil. When soup comes to a boil, add small pasta. Stir while the pasta cooks until al dente. When the pasta is ready, the soup is ready. This makes enough for 4 servings.