Polenta Florentine

This is a quick, low calorie, delight that is also budget friendly – easy and quick enough for mid-week, good enough for company. Leave the Parmesan cheese off and it is even vegan. For those who just can’t imagine a meal without meat, this has enough substance and flavor to satisfy most.

Most mix the spinach and tomatoes into the polenta, I wanted it more attractive, it worked.

Crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, warmed (not fried) in olive oil to infuse the flavored into the oil.

Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, let them absorb the flavors in warm pan with heat off while you prep the spinach, a few minutes.

Turn heat back on low for 1 minute, then off. Add chopped spinach, stir a bit then leave to wilt while preparing the polenta, spoon off excess liquid.

Stir ½ cup polenta into 2 cups boiling water, whisk until the polenta does not sink back to bottom when you stop stirring. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, no less, stirring every 10. It will be creamy without adding cheese.

Heat the spinach tomato mix. Spread polenta on plate, using a slotted spoon cover polenta with tomato and spinach blend, top with Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Roma tomatoes, 1 inch cubes

Full bunch of cleaned spinach

Pinch Red pepper flakes

Herbs – oregano, Tyme, etc.

½ cup polenta

2 cups water

Parmesan cheese

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On Crepes and Crepe Pans

Thin pancakes are ubiquitous around the world. The Mexican tortilla, the gold rush flapjack, and Indian nan are just three styles of bread requiring a simple batter and the convenience of a griddle over a fire. The French, naturally, turned the simple into the elegant – voila le crepe.

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Brittany is usually credited with being the home of the crepe, yet crepes are popular throughout France. Traditionally they are served on February 2nd, Candlemas, Virgin Mary’s Blessing Day. If you could catch the crepe in the frying pan with your right hand when it was flipped, while you were holding a gold coin in your left hand, you would have a wealthy and prosperous year. Of course these days, if you actually own real gold coins you must be doing quite well already, but it is a delightful tradition.

Crepe dough is a basic combination of eggs (2), flour (1 cup), milk (1¼ cup) , salt (¼ tsp). It should have the consistency of heavy cream, quite thin for a batter. (This is important) There are those who embellish it by using beer, and if making sweet crepes vanilla or sugar may be added. (I have eaten more savory crepes than sweet) I find that a wire whisk in a large bowl is faster and just as effective as the KitchenAid Mixer. Be sure to refrigerate for at least one hour for the best results. For those with lactose issues, unsweetened  soy milk works just fine, and I have used gluten free flour and all was well.

The real key to success, other than not having the batter too thick – I mention that again thanks to many disasters when it was too thick – is technique and the right crepe pan.  There are two pans in my kitchen dedicated to specific tasks, which I tend to be protective of, cringing when others want to use them. One is my egg pan, a cheap 8 inch, non-stick fry pan with rounded sides. In my days as a fry cook I learned to flip eggs, without breaking the yokes. I prefer that this pan is used for nothing but eggs.

My crepe pan is mine, no sharing, don’t even ask. It is new, replacing other nonstick pans, or a round cast iron griddle, all of which have produced admirable crepes over the years. But my new “de Buyer” from France is special. 6144prxibwl-_sl1500_

The de Buyer family has produced ironworks and cookware in France since 1810. In 2015 the de Buyer family sold its shares to Edify; thankfully they have continued the tradition of high quality that was established long ago.

My pan is from the deBuyer Mineral – B collection. The B is for beeswax which protects the finish of the pan until the pan is seasoned for use.  It is the 11.8 inch size, I like the largest diameter as you can make crepes of all sizes in it. De Buyer’s are iron pans, you treat them much as you would cast-iron, they need seasoning, and you never use detergent on them. They develop non-stick properties without chemicals. My first use was a success, limited only by a bit of user error in the cooking.

Cooking crepes takes practice, but that does not mean you should fear it. The first key is to have the batter thin (did I mention that already?). Most cook the crepes in a bit of butter, over a medium high heat, this is a quick process which throws many people off. My pan takes about ⅓ Cup of batter.

There are various techniques, find yours. Some say pour the batter at the top of the pan, which is tilted away from you, letting the batter run down, evening it out by tilting the pan to make it round. You have to work quick as the batter will begin to firm up immediately. Another is to pour the batter into the center of the pan in a circular motion, then spread it out by rotating the pan, letting it run to the edges; I have had better results with this than the edge-pouring method.

At the creperies on the streets in Paris, they spread the batter with a spatula. My new de Buyer came with a wooden spatula, so that is my next challenge, I am expecting great results.

The crepe should cook for less than a minute on the first side, then be flipped (gold coin optional) or turned to cook the other side. This is when you add the fillings – cheese, ham, mushrooms, the list is pretty much limitless. When it is brown, fold the crepe over , slide onto a plate, pour a glass of wine, enjoy.

Give crepes a try, they are a wonderful quick meal, fun to make, and a pleasure to eat. theWinesketcher wishes you Bon appetit.