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polenta

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

After last post’s summer-in-a-bowl, I was immediately ready for round two.

When the growing seasons’s at its prime, produce combinations fare to rarely ever bore me. As [insert singer of your choice here] says, “Gotta get it while the gettin’s good.”

In the August, the garden is good, and my fork is gettin’ it.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

Ratatouille remains a yearly favorite. It’s easy. It’s flexible. It’s quick, healthy, beautiful, and a million other adjectives.

To it, you can add chickpeas. You could add eggplant. You could add fresh thyme, pair it with bread, or top it with cheese. None of this I did. But you could, if you so please.

That’s the beauty of ratatouille.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

For my ratatouille, I generally do a combination of summer squash, tomatoes, onions and eggplant. I didn’t have eggplant available this time around, but I did have corn, so I whipped up this fancy-but-not-actually-fancy topping.

The corn adds an extra sweetness and crunch, which pairs well with the creamy grains placed beneath it. It’s also adds just one extra summery touch to a bowl full of already natural August goodness.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

Again, when veggies are fresh and local, you really needn’t do much to them but put them together and let their flavors swim free. Ready in 45 minutes or less (depending on your grain choice), this recipe lends itself well to a weeknight meal that’ll leave you feeling great. Pair with a side of protein, or sprinkle some toasted walnuts on top and call it a meal. Then most importantly, let your fork get in on that good.

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Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Oh man. A whirlwind of travel mayhems transported me to my mom’s garden this past weekend.

I was out in San Diego last week for work (consider me sunshine-swooned), and my layover flight home ended up terminated due to poor weather. My choices were: 1) Struggle to keep my eyes open till 4a.m. at the airport and achieve automatic world-class traveler status; or 2) Switch my flight destination from Philly to Baltimore and persuade my mom to come pick me up, just before the strike of midnight. Family for the win. I chose to forgo the world-class traveler award as soon as my mom gave me the go-ahead. That accolade can wait, especially in circumstances where a spring garden awaits. Oh, and let’s not forget that a ton more places are waiting for me to visit, too.

Spring greens

Naturally as soon as my jet lag wore off, I was outside inspecting the garden, and cooking up lunch with my findings. It happened to serve as a good thank you to my mom, and a pre-Mother’s Day gift. That deserves an accolade in itself, right? Just kidding.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

I dream of days where I have my own garden. Or even just a yard. But for now, my mom’s will likely have to do until I migrate away from Philly. Luckily, it holds its own with an uplifting plethora of baby greens and herbs, all of which gave inspiration to this meal.

At their youngest, kale and collards simply can’t be beat. And now is the time to find them.

Spring greens

It’s been said life hardens you, and apparently this goes for greens too. You see, babies are inherently soft-skinned and sweet in nature. Apply this to greens, and you get leaves that are far more tender than when they grow older, and generally less bitter, too. (And since this seems to apply to humans as well, I’m keeping a “big kid” status forever.)

The soft and sweet characteristics make early spring greens perfect for raw preparations and for quick 2-minute sautes in recipes like this. From kale to spinach to swiss chard, any green that might be sprouting up in your garden or making its way to your local farmer’s market will work here. If available, go for a mix. That may just mean throwing in a few red lettuce leaves, too, and turning your mushrooms a strange shade of magenta. Es la vida.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Pile those greens and mushrooms on top of St. Andres cheese, already working to melt its way into creamy polenta, and you’ve got a spring meal that’s memorable, to say the least.

My best description for St. Andres is “a more heavenly version of butter”. However, if for some reason you can’t find it, opt for a soft cheese, one that’s ideally slightly stronger in flavor than brie. If baby greens aren’t at your disposal, feel free to use the big guys. Just add a few extra minutes to your saute time. Then tell those big babies to stop growing up so fast!

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Summer Squash Ratatouille with Polenta Cakes




Ratatouille is by far a summer fav. It’s quick to pull together and the freshness of the season’s bounty lets its simplicity warrant a plate full of flavor. That’s truly the key to this recipe—garden-fresh veggies. If you aren’t growing your own, get to your local farmer’s market and grab a squash or two, a few vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil. It will make all the difference.

I paired this summer squash version of ratatouille with slightly charred polenta cakes, simply crisped up under the broiler. I can totally see these thrown on the grill too, just be sure to also throw a sheet of aluminum foil below them to prevent any dismantlement. If you decided to stick with the oven route, avoid getting sidetracked during the cakes’ baking time. This girl over here ended up setting off the smoke alarm. Twice. Ooops.

As a light summer dish that comes together in no time, this is one I ideally picture eaten outside, catching the sun before it goes down and perhaps paired with a glass of red wine. Despite the brief ear-piercing episode from my smokin’ oven, my polenta cakes ended up perfectly charred. With each bite from these, picturing the romanticized Italian backdrop from your own yard gets easier and easier.

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Rustic Vegetable Polenta Soup



It’s funny how quickly things can change. Life changes, the plan changes, the song playing on my playlist changes, the amount of toothpaste in my toothpaste tube changes, the ending of this sentence changes. Every minute, something is changing.

No, I’m not going to go all into some revolutionary life change I’m having at this moment (although, I’m sure somewhere, even subconsciously, that’s happening for us all right now). But, I am going to talk about the simple changes taking place outside my window this very second.

From the time I started doing the slicing and dicing for this soup to the time its contents made it onto my spoon, the wind had turned the cherry tree in my front yard from a pink-petaled beauty to a bare naked tree. It was like one of those days where Britney Spears could simply remove her pink wig, and bam, she was bald. Just like that, my spring-embellished tree was gone!

Spring breezes were never something I romanticized. They are a pain in the butt to bike against and they suck the rosy opulence out of my cherry trees. Every single year. Within minutes! But that is life. I am sure I will endure bigger changes in the next few months, weeks, days, and probably minutes.

Something else that’s changing quickly too are the diningscape’s menus. Soon, sangria will be overtaking restaurants’ happy hours and spring veggies dominating the special boards (both changes I am happy to romanticize). However, there’s definitely still time in your own kitchen to squeeze in a hot soup before a cold one becomes more apt. This is the one I’ll be eating while I ride out the cool spring weather.

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Pan-Fried Spinach and Mushroom Polenta Cakes


I always grew up on polenta in its uncongealed form. My dad would make it as a quick breakfast, throwing in a dab of butter and pairing it with a side of scrambled eggs. Polenta was our household version of grits.

When my friend came over to make this polenta recipe with me, he was surprised to see a mushy mixture cooking away on the stove. “What’s that?” he asked. I told him it was polenta, assuming he had never eaten this version of ground corn before. But I was wrong.

“That’s polenta? Shouldn’t it be sticking together?” I began to realize that today, most people are exposed to polenta in its caked form. Either in its tubed shape you can grab at the grocery store, or the little circles that the lonely few restaurants will occasionally feature, polenta is almost always served as a pan-fried or baked slab, with maybe a topping or two to go with it.

For some unexplainable reason, polenta doesn’t appear to be a common item in most households or restaurants around where I live, which is why a lot of people are unfamiliar with its pre-caked form. However, I enjoy it either way, each lending a slightly different epicurean experience. If for some reason you decide not to crisp this polenta up, I recommend adding a dab of butter to your bowl before consuming. It will just add a touch of richness that will draw out the creaminess of the polenta. However, if you have the time (or the leftovers), I definitely recommend the pan-fried version too. It makes a great meal for any meal of the day.


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