out of season, but not out of style

Last night, John and I got up at 4am, and sleepily wandered into our living room (the only room in the house to possess an A/C unit).  We’d woken up, and then tried to fall back asleep in the oppressive heat of our bedroom  (which, at 4am, with sweat trickling down your neck, feels fairly impossible).

Needless to say, yesterday was hot.  I mean, stonking, the air-feels-thick-when-you-breath, uncomfortable heat.  I’d had a whole plan for dinner, which John and I scrapped when we got home in favor of some cheese and pate with seaweed (our new favorite snack from Trader Joe’s).

Today is better, and so I think that I am going to dive right into my next culinary creation.  My idea is pretty basic ~ make some sort of shrimp and sauce, and serve with polenta.  Now, I’ll be honest ~ I haven’t braved making my own polenta yet.  Someday I will, but that day is not today.  Right now, I have organic polenta in my cupboard, and it taunts me every time I open the doors.  Last fall, I was craving a dish I’d loved at a restaurant I no longer patronize.  (Long, boring story).  I sort of remembered what was in it, and so (in my old school style), I went to the grocery store and bought my supplies.  I remember it was Monday Night Football, and the Giants were playing (normally, John and I don’t watch Monday Night Football unless either his team, the Giants, or my team, the Steelers, are playing ) so I distinctly remember this because I was in the kitchen all by myself.  Which was good, because I wasn’t really sure what I was doing.  I ended up muddling my way through, and the result was scrumptious.  We’ve since had it a number of times.  But …. it’s a little heavy for this time of year, so I’m trying to find a summer alternative.

For John, I’ll call this recipe  “Monday Night Football Polenta.”  (We did actually make it a couple times for football games, so it’s fitting!)  And tomorrow, I’ll let you know how my new version turns out.

What I used:

1 package polenta

1 package sweet, Italian sausage (or, if you like some kick, hot Italian sausage)

2 packages portobello mushrooms

1 ball fresh mozzarella

1 jar spaghetti sauce (I’d like to pause for a moment, as I know my grandmother is rolling over in her grave at the thought of her half Italian granddaughter using store bought sauce, but as I’ve mentioned, cooking is a little new to me, and I haven’t really done the whole ‘sauce’ thing yet … stay tuned, because it’ll probably happen someday for the purposes of this blog!)

**Note on sauce:  I like to get sauce that’s hearty ~ Paul Newman has a four cheese blend that’s really nice, and there’s also a portobello mushroom sauce that’s full of goodness.  But it’s really about what you prefer.  I made this dish once (for my annual Oscar Night dinner) and I used a much thinner sauce than normal.  I was hugely disappointed with the results, but everyone else seemed to like it.  Ce la vie, right?

Olive oil or vegetable oil

Garlic (again, fresh cloves used in a garlic press is best, but garlic powder or jarred minced garlic will also do the trick)


Salt & Pepper to taste

How I did it:

1. First, I covered a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  I pretty much do that all the time, because it expedites clean up.

2.  Preheat oven to 375.

3.  Cut mozzarella into cubes.  Set aside.

4.  Cut polenta into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay flat on cookie sheet.  Arrange with room on the sides.  Put one cube of mozzarella on top of each slice of polenta.  Save the rest for later.

5.  Cut sausage into bite-size pieces.

6.  Cut portobello caps into thick slices.

7.  Cover base of large sauce pan with thin layer of olive oil/vegetable oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic (in any form).  Add sausage bites.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until then begin to brown.

8.  As sausage begins to cook and brown, add potobello slices.  Cook for a few minutes (portobello will begin to soften).

9.  Add jar of pasta sauce.  Heat through, but don’t bring to boil.

10.  When sauce is fully warm, spoon mixture over polenta slices on cookie sheet.  Spread remaining mozzarella cubes evenly over top of mixture.  Sprinkle with basil.

11.  Cook in oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until sauce begins to bubble.

12.  Remove, and allow to cool momentarily.  Sprinkle with some parmesan.  Enjoy!




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