Italian food has long been a favorite of our family. It is tasty, flavorful, can be healthy and usually non-fussy to put together. What can possibly be wrong with that. So it was no coincidence that Patrizio’s, a local favorite is where I proposed to my wife. Over the years since then we have gone there many times and always been satisfied. There was plenty of vegetarian fare to be had. However, a few visits back I cringed when I saw a grilled vegetable platter on the menu. What a cop-out, or so I thought. To us vegetarians, going to a restaurant which has limited vegetarian options and being served steamed or grilled vegetables is the culinary equivalent of being stood up by your date on prom night.
Anyway, I did not try it that first time I saw it. The second time we went after that, the dish was still on the menu and I was thinking, how bad can it be, this is Patrizio’s after all. So I tried it. Man, am I glad I did. The flavors were amazing and the dish was light. I loved it. I had to try it at home. So I went to the Food Network website and got tips on how to make the polenta cakes from Anne Burrell and the dressing for the vegetables from a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis. My take on this recipe is below. It is broken down in three sections so it may look a little intimidating. It is actually very easy and something even beginner cooks can pull off with ease.
One comment – Have the veggies and dressing ready before you start making the cakes. The polenta cakes should be served hot. The other stuff can be served at room temperature.
INGREDIENTS (Enough for 2 adults and 2 kids)
For the Polenta
1 Tbsp cooking oil (preferably Olive Oil)
1 small sprig rosemary chopped fine
1/4 tsp minced garlic
A pinch of red chili flakes
1/2 cup water
1 cups 2% milk (you will need more)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup corn meal
2 sage leaves chopped
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil
2. Add garlic, rosemary and pepper flakes
3. Add water and milk
4. Add bay leaf
5. Bring to a boil
6. Take off heat and add corn meal
7. Whisk, whisk, whisk
8. Put back on low heat.
9. Whisk, whisk, whisk
10. Add salt and pepper. Oversalt the polenta slightly.
11. Whisk, whisk, whisk
12. Add more milk if needed
13. Whisk, whisk, whisk
14. Switch to a wooden spoon and start stirring if you like.
15. The polenta should be done in about 20-25 minutes from start.
16. Line a baking pan with plastic wrap and pour this mixture in.
17. Cover with more plastic and chill in a fridge. This can be done in advance.
18. Cut into the cake shape of your choice and pan fry before serving.
NOTE: Only fry two cakes at a time. These things are STICKY and you will need room on the pan to work them off. Also, this could probably use some shaved Parmigiano Reggiano towards the end. Please let me know if anyone tries to add that.
For the Grilled Veggies
INGREDIENTS (for the Veggies)
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and cut longitudinally
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cut longitudinally
16-20 asparagus stalks
1 yellow squash – sliced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1. Green and red pepper, yellow squash, asparagus, stir fried or grilled with garlic, pepper, salt and olive oil
For the dressing
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp minced Garlic
A little chopped rosemary and basil
1. Mix 1:2 ratio of oil to balsamic vinegar (1Tbsp:2Tbsp)
2. Add rosemary, basil and garlic.
1. Drizzle some dressing on the veggies and serve with hot polenta cakes.