After indulging in a lot of junk and convenience food lately, I was feeling the need to eat better, to get back to the way I prefer to eat.
Craig would eat burritos or pizza every night of the week; throw in some chicken fried rice for variety, and also his daily bagel, and you've pretty much got his eating regimen. He also likes burgers. He eats like a college kid, which I can personally vouch for 'cause I've got one of them, too. Even though they're both capable of branching out and are both, truth be told, willing to try new things, Jeremy and Craig would happily eat only three foods for the rest of their lives.
I'm not like that. I have a very low boredom quotient, so I almost never want to see the same thing again. Even if I go to a favorite restaurant, I try new dishes. And as much as I like sweets and chips and other stuff I shouldn't eat - and I completely take responsibility for baking and for buying the naughty items at the grocery store! - I also really love simple but sophisticated dishes with spices, vegetables, and other nice things.
And so, for an evening when I was eating and working alone, I had a vision of what I wanted for dinner. It started with the notion of pumpkin, which is ubiquitous now; but I wanted to go beyond pumpkin muffins and such. So I thought of stirring it into polenta, a.k.a. cornmeal mush. (Everything sounds better in Italian!)
To top this warm comfort food, I wanted lots of vegetables - the stuff that Jeremy and Craig are none too keen on. Neither will eat peppers, one will eat only white mushrooms, neither is keen on greens, one can't eat spicy food or have alcohol ... groan. But they weren't having dinner with me and imposing their little quirks! I threw it all into the mix!!!
I'd looked forward to this meal all day long while I was at work. I turned on the tunes and danced a bit as I chopped and stirred, since I had the house to myself. The kitchen smelled amazing as everything bubbled and simmered, and then it was ready. I tasted the dish and it was everything I'd hoped for - comforting, warm, and elegant. Full of nutrition and color and flavor.
A perfect dinner for fall!
Pumpkin Polenta with Sausage, Peppers, and Greens
2 links hot Italian sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1" pieces
1 small red pepper, seeded, cored, cut into 1" pieces
8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups chopped kale
1 cup baby spinach leaves
freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
generous pinch of kosher salt
2/3 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage on all sides; set aside.
Add the oil to the skillet, then add the onion and red pepper; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softening and starting to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and the salt; sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the kale and the spinach, cooking for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and the wine to a boil with the salt. Turn heat down to medium-low, then slowly whisk in the cornmeal; cook for 1 minute, until thick. Whisk in the pumpkin.
To serve, place a generous dollop of polenta onto a plate, then top with the sausage mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan.
Serves 2 generously.