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Polenta and Vegetables with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

May 16, 2008

While my chocolate creme brulee may have been a triumph, since then I’ve experienced nothing but culinary catastrophes. “But that food doesn’t look catastrophic,” you may be thinking. That just goes to show that my new camera has more talent in the kitchen than I do. That, my friends, was a burned vegetable, bitter sauce disaster. In fact, the original sauce is NOT the sauce pictured above. The original sauce had to be thrown away because it was horrible and could not be salvaged with all the spices in my gigantic spice rack. I ended up using basic tomato sauce, because I needed something to cover up the taste of burnt asparagus.

I hate it when meals I’ve been anticipating turn out to be completely not rad.

Well, ok. The polenta turned out well, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was anticipating. And the vegetables would have been lovely if I had been paying attention and removed them from the fiery oven before burning them to a crisp. The bits that weren’t burnt had a wonderful, summery lemon flavor. I don’t know what happened with that sauce, though. The recipe sounded simple enough, but I have never produced something so inedible, so bitter, so unsalvageable. Even the Frozen Banana Disaster of Aught-Seven and the English Muffin Troubles produced some edible food product. I should have followed my instincts, and made the same red pepper sauce I made last summer, but this one sounded so much easier. And I can’t for the life of me figure out what went wrong. (And honestly, it isn’t that much different than the one I made last summer. I am bewildered.)

Now, this could prove to be a great addition to the summertime, healthy eating repertoire, and I may try this again. Just because I am occasionally a screw up in the kitchen doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with this innocent bystander of a recipe. Well, there might be something seriously wrong with the sauce recipe, so if you don’t want to take any chances, maybe find another one. Or at least be sure you have a jar of tomato sauce in the refrigerator to serve as back up if necessary. And seriously, don’t burn the asparagus. It gets weirdly stringy and tough and it is just not a good thing.

The original recipe called for instant polenta, which I am a little afraid of. It just looks too weird, sitting unfridgerated in its tight plastic tube. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and making polenta from scratch isn’t even that hard or time consuming, so I just went ahead and did it. And while I might maybe bake it instead of sticking it under the broiler, as the original recipe directs, it turned out just fine.

Polenta with Vegetables and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

(From Self via Epicurious.com)

  • a bit more than 3/4 c. coarsely-ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • about 2 T. fresh thyme, stripped from stems
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • about 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small eggplant, sliced
  • 1 summer squash, sliced
  • about half a large bunch of asparagus (probably 20 stalks) cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces

For the sauce:

  • 1 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/3 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • about 3 T. chopped parsley
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar

First, the polenta: Heat the water in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Lower the heat, and let it bubble away. Give it a stir every now and then, and try to scrape the bottom with a spatula so it doesn’t stick too horribly. Let it cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s smooth and creamy and the water is absorbed. Then remove from the heat, stir in the butter (and perhaps a bit of salt) until it’s thoroughly melted, and pour the whole mess into a buttered 9-inch pie pan.

Now, the vegetables. Whisk the garlic, lemon juice, thyme, and olive oil (and perhaps a bit of salt) together in a large mixing bowl. Toss all the vegetables together with the lemony oil, and let them sit for just a few minutes to absorb some of the deliciousness. Turn the broiler on, and spread the vegetables out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Stick those vegetables under the broiler, and then pay attention! You might want to stir them around a bit, and flip the big slices over, after about 3 or 4 minutes. You want the eggplant and zucchini to get a nice char, but you certainly don’t want to burn the crap out of everything, like I did.

While the vegetables are broiling, you can make the saucy sauce. Basically just put everything in a food processor or blender and hope for the best. Get that jar of tomato sauce out, just in case. I don’t know, I think perhaps I just had some bad peppers? Or…um…the parsley decided to act up? I tried doctoring the stuff with garlic powder and cayenne and pepper, and extra salt, but all to no avail. So in the trash it went, and out came my tomato sauce. I actually attempted to make roasted red pepper tomato sauce, with one lone roasted red pepper that was hanging out in the refrigerator, and a bit of tomato sauce, and some balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. But it pretty much just tasted like jarred spaghetti sauce. Sigh.

Now check on those vegetables! Once they’ve achieved a nice state of browned-ness, without straying into the territory of burned-ness, take them out of the oven, and replace them with your pie plate of polenta. Let it sit it’s turn under the broiler until it is nicely browned on top. I thought it would be a little firmer inside, but it was still pretty darned tasty. Thank god, because nothing else on my plate really was.

I attempted today to make Pioneer Woman’s Apricot Oatmeal bars, which also ended up being pretty much a disaster. I even burned my toast this morning. So I hope this bad kitchen streak is on its way out. I have way too many culinary projects planned for this summer to be dealing with my ineptness. After all, I have to break in the new camera!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2008 5:24 pm

    I love the fact you post the bad and the good, that singals to me culinary greatness.

  2. Crimson permalink
    May 17, 2008 8:20 am

    This is similar to the Disaster that was “Making Homemade Ravioli,” I had never worked so hard (and I’m talking upwards of 4 hours) for so little. Or actually it was a lot, but of crap. You should check out the blog Thursday Night Smackdown. Not great recipe wise, but you will laugh your tucchus off. Love, Crimson
    PS – I am planning to make Ceviche for your visit – this could turn out bad. Really bad.

  3. crystalbrooke permalink
    May 18, 2008 11:22 am

    What a bummer! It looks SO great!! I’m so sad we can’t roast veggies when you’re here… siiiigh… Although, on second thought, we might never really be sober enough to care. Heh. xoxo

  4. May 22, 2008 7:51 pm

    WCD – I figure if I post the eff-ups, someone more knowledgeable than I might be able to show me the errors of my ways!

    Crimson – I have been plotting homemade ravioli for months, and now I’m afraid of it. Thanks. And you’re right, Thursday Night Smackdown is hilarious. Thanks for that, too. And, um, well we’ll just have to wait until next week to decide whether I should say thanks for the ceviche.

    Crystal – I don’t need to roast shit, I’ll have tinto. I can’t believe I’ll be there in less than two weeks!

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