Tuesday, 6 August 2013

3 Easy Pieces

Polenta con Cicoria, Pomodoro Glassato, Sugo di Pomodoro e Prosciutto Croccante
Polenta, Chicory, Tomato Sauce, Glazed Tomato & Crispy Ham

Life can be hard at time- and more often than not... it is. We are faced with stress and troubles every day and the last thing we need to do is to add to them when we get home and when we go into the kitchen. This does not mean resorting to eating junk food or meals out of a box- but there are some "convenience" products out there that can help save you time whilst you make something new... just like this pre-made polenta for example...

There is some "convenience food" that I find really good- like pasta, chick-peas or beans out of a can, canned tomatoes, frozen peas, puff pastry, pizza dough, fresh pasta or even polenta sold in a block. Whether you soak your beans or buy them soaked, if they were not fresh in the first place- if you ask me- just buy a can! If it is a matter of making a pasta dough, pizza base or puff pastry... please- if you live alone as I do- get real! And get yourself to the store!

So, there were a number of elements that went into making this dish- all very easy and cool and all quick and easy. Let me start with the sauce, which was made from tomato paste and juice, honey, lime juice, basil and oregano... a little sweet and sour and delicious. To make it, I fried a finely chopped clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 1-2 minutes, then added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stirred them in well. I added the juice of half a lime and a little handful of both basil and oregano which I chopped up finely. Salt, pepper, a small bay leaf and just a splash of water came next and the mixture became smoother and much more balanced- but very sour still, so I added the final, missing ingredient- honey! A good tablespoonful did the trick... and soon the sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and sour, with aromatic basil and tangy oregano- perfect! And being as it WAS perfect, I turned the heat right down and left it simmering just faintly until I was ready to plate-up.

Next, the chicory, which can also be a very bitter affair. To prepare this, I chopped off the end with the roots and gave it a good rinse! There is so much sand and dirt attached to the leaves always! I then chopped the leaves rather finely and added them to the frying pan with a little crushed garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and sautéed it for 2-3 minutes, then added just enough water to cover the base of the pan. I stirred the chicory until it had absorbed all of the water- or until it had evaporated away, then repeated that procedure 2 more times, adding a pinch of sugar at the end to balance the bitter flavor somewhat. Another simple but yummy ingredient!

Next, for a nice little crunch, I took a slice of the Black Forest ham I had last night and cut it into 3 small pieces- this was all it took! And to crisp it up, I just dropped it into a very hot pan, no fat added, and let it sizzle in its own fat until it became nice and toasty around the edges- then I set it to one side on a sheet of kitchen towel to dry... easy!

Once the ham was done, I took a firm tomato, cut it into quarters and the sliced off the peel using a potato peeler. Crazy how people (including me), go to all the trouble of dropping tomatoes into boiling water to peel them- this works just fine as long as the tomatoes are firm. I then cut the quarters into eighths and dropped them straight into the same hot pan as the ham had been. I added a splash of oil, salt, pepper and a good pinch of sugar... and kept a key eye on it so that it didn't begin to get too dark too soon. Once it was nicely golden around the edges, I also turned the heat off and set the lovely, caramelized slices out to cool off a little too.

As for the polenta, I cut myself 3 nice slices and popped them into a non-stick pan with a little olive oil, and a slice or two of garlic to slightly perfume the oil. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and nutmeg and kept flipping it over and over gently
until it became golden brown... and was ready to serve up together!

I began by spooning the sauce onto one end of the serving dish and then spreading it over to the other end with a flat wooden spoon. I then laid out the polenta slices on top and in turn, added the finely chopped chicory carefully on top of that. Then came a slice of caramelized tomato and last but not least, the little piece of crispy ham... mmmm! Need I say more- other than simply, "Try it- you'll like it", ? Nah... I didn't think so either! Enjoy!

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