January 23, 2009

cucina povera

It has been one heck of a busy week. What with the most exciting Inauguration of a President in my lifetime (and the parties that went along with it), and working to fight off the threat of a mean-spirited English-only charter amendment here in Nashville (we won!), I have been running non-stop.

But I managed to cook a few meals that I think are worthy of posting. One of them was this hearty dish of polenta, kale and sausage. Polenta is a staple in Italian homes, mostly in the North where the people are affectionatly referred to as "Polentoni."

Polenta is Italy's "other pasta," and in some regions like the Veneto or Friuli, it is even more common than pasta or risotto. Roman soldiers ate it for sustenance on the go when it was made from a primitive form or wheat or ground chickpeas. It was not until after 1492 that it was made with corn, one of the most recognizable ingredients in Italian cooking (like tomatoes) brought to Italy from the "new" World.

I find it still has that heartiness, that thick, porridge-like consistency that makes you feel somehow more primitive when you eat it. It warms the body, not only as you eat it, but as it is being cooked over the fire while stirring often. I can just see those robust northern Italian women standing over a copper cauldron at the hearth, stirring with a big medieval wooden club.

I make mine using Bob's Red Mill brand polenta that you can find at most stores and follow the recipe on the bag which is pretty traditional: boil water, add polenta in a slow, steady stream, add salt and stir for about 20 min. Add 2 T butter, parmigiano cheese if desired, and serve.

Anson Mills also makes a wonderful "artisan fine polenta" that I've been meaning to order, but I'm not much of a mail-order person. I like to shop locally but this is a business I really would like to support.

Just pile some sautéed kale on top of the polenta, maybe some carmelized onions and a grilled sausage on top (or not) and you've got a beautiful winter dish that can stand on its own. Served with an inexpensive glass of red wine, it's what I call a recession-proof meal.


  1. What a great use of kale!
    Cheers to a great busy week.


  2. i'm a polenta fan - and cary loves it too. and kale. and sausage.

    perfect dinner