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Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions on Quinoa Polenta

sausage with peppers & onions on quinoa polenta by The Culinary ChaseI bought a bag of sweet baby peppers the other day and knew that if I didn’t use them soon, they would go off. Sausage, peppers and onions are perfect for a sandwich (hoagie) but I was thinking of something more for dinner. I’ve made many versions of polenta over the years but as I was grilling the peppers, it suddenly occurred to me that I could use quinoa, too. Before you go and turn your nose up at the notion that quinoa isn’t a substitute for polenta, let me say this, it can! Especially when you have a sauce like this over it. If you want it to be creamy like porridge, then you’ll need to add mascarpone and more water or chicken stock. I know, if you’re an Italian reading this, I can imagine you gesticulating and horrified that I even made the correlation. That said, confirmation from Mr. S. to make this again is all I needed to hear.

Serves 4
4 bell peppers, roasted or grilled
large onion, sliced
olive oil
450g Italian sausages (casing removed)
1 can Italian cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Quinoa Polenta

1 cup white quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

sweet baby peppersAfter roasting or grilling the peppers, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle, peel skin and remove seeds. Cut peppers into strips and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions with a pinch of sea salt and cook until soft. Remove from pan. In the same pan, add sausage meat. Stir, breaking up chunks of meat and cook until meat is browned. Add tomatoes and stir. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes then add onions and peppers. Simmer until heated through.

For the quinoa polenta, rinse quinoa in cold water, drain and add to saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered 12 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir and add cheese.

Arrange quinoa on a plate and spoon over the sausage sauce. Top with chopped parsley.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Use bulk Italian sausage meat to save time from having to remove the casings. If you can’t find canned cherry tomatoes, use chopped tomatoes and cook 10 or so minutes longer to allow the juice to reduce. Enjoy!

Shrimp on Polenta Rounds with Sun-Dried Tomato Relish

It was one of those days. I needed some sort of dinner inspiration (read nudge) and feeling too lazy to leave the house (I had already been out), I leaned forward to inspect the contents of the fridge and noticed a jar of sun-dried tomatoes right at the back.  I usually keep these sort of condiments closer to the front…things in the back tend to get lost or worse, have gone past their expiry and start growing some interesting fungus within!   I had shrimp in the freezer and polenta (cornmeal) in the pantry.  These would go perfectly with sun-dried tomatoes but I needed to ‘spice’ up the tomatoes – just a bit.  Sun-dried tomato relish, of sorts, sprang to mind.  After surveying the contents of the refrigerator, I finally felt I had enough ingredients to pull it all together.

shrimp on polenta rounds with sun-dried tomato relish by The Culinary ChaseAs tempting as it might be to pick up store-bought polenta, consider making your own.  It is easily made and takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook.  When its finished, add butter, chopped herbs and cheese for optimum flavoring.  Pour polenta onto a greased plate and let cool.  When it’s cool, it’s ready and can be used as a base for pizza, cut into polenta fries, grilled etc.  Once you make it you’ll find it difficult to go back ready-made.  For more home made polenta recipes, click here.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

8 to 12 medium-sized  shrimp, peeled and sautéed until pink and golden (keep warm)
firm polenta (already cooked), cut into rounds
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), drained and chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
splash of olive oil
small shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

  1. In a bowl combine relish ingredients. Allow to sit 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  2. Preheat broiler.
  3. Cut polenta into 3-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or the top of a glass. Spray olive oil on the top and bottom of each polenta round. Place on a baking tray and broil until tops are bubbling and starting to brown. Remove from Oven.
  4. Arrange a spoonful or so of sun-dried tomato relish on top of the polenta round topped with shrimp.  Drizzle with juice, if any, from the relish.

shrimp on polenta rounds by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  The relish ingredients are easily tweaked to suit your own palate.   Enjoy!

Polenta Sticks with Mozzarella and Salami

polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella wrapped in salami by The Culinary ChaseI love simple ingredients as they tend to work symbiotically to create great flavors. Less is more…I know this sounds cliché but it’s true and not just in the food world. The more ingredients you use the greater the risk of losing the essential flavor of your food. When the ingredients are good, they need minimal help to make them better.  This recipe is easy to make and with only five ingredients, it’s a winner.  These polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella peeking out of the salami will be a hit at your next dinner party.  Cornmeal, the golden-yellow polenta, is a culinary staple in Northern Italy. Polenta is a neutral flavored dish that can be used as a base to carry other flavors. Using a medium grind cornmeal will yield the best results. Look for ‘stone ground’ cornmeal on the label.

Serves 4 as an antipasto

1/2 cup cornmeal (packaging may also say polenta)
2 cups water or chicken stock
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or aged cheddar cheese
smoked mozzarella
fennel salami (or favorite salami), thinly sliced

polentaTo make the polenta sticks, place water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil then slowly add the cornmeal, stirring occasionally. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes (if using instant cornmeal, the time is shortened to about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir until butter is melted then add the cheese. On an 8-inch plate, grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil then pour polenta on top. Smooth to edges of plate and allow polenta to cool to temperature. Once cool, cut into strips.

polenta sticks by The Culinary ChasePreheat oven to 400f (200c). To assemble, place a thick slice of mozzarella on top of the polenta and wrap a piece of salami around it. Place on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese has softened. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly…you don’t want these piping hot when you serve them as the flavor intensifies when warm.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  You can make the polenta the night before.  When ready to assemble, remove from fridge and slice into sticks. To keep things looking more uniform, cut the polenta based on the length of the mozzarella slices. If the salami slices are larger than the polenta sticks, fold under (like I did) to make it fit before wrapping. Enjoy!