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Posts tagged ‘polenta’

Adventures In DEET

Today’s post is brought to you by whatever brand of bug spray I just yelled at and threw over my shoulder.

The mosquitoes are here in biblical quantities, y’all.  I spritz a thin, oily layer of insect repellent on myself daily, but it doesn’t work.  Nothing does.  Not even bug spray with DEET, which–by the way–will probably make me infertile.

Because this is what wikipedia has to say about DEET:

DEET was developed by the United States Army following its experience of jungle warfare during World War II.  It was originally tested as a pesticide on farm fields, and entered military use in 1946 and civilian use in 1957.  It was used in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

I mean, please.  Jungle warfare? Pesticide?  My uterus wants to slap me across the face.

And that’s not all wikipedia has to say about DEET.  According to one study, it may cause insomnia and “mood disturbance” among employees of Everglades National Park, in Florida.

But I wonder about that.  You know what else may cause insomnia and mood disturbance among employees of Everglades National Park?  The crocodiles and panthers that live up in there.

If your workplace were full of man-eating beasts, you’d probably check the box for “insomnia” and “mood disturbance” too, right?  If not, I want to know what kind of antidepressants you’re on and how many martinis you’re having for breakfast.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you what I’m having for dinner.

Tomatoes! Each one of these beauties comes from a local farm.

I pick up a fresh stash of them every Thursday, when I sell local goat cheese at the farmer’s market (Belle Chevre, to be specific).

Thursday is my favorite day of the week now–especially because we’ll have something packed with farmers’ market vegetables for dinner.

This was my first time making ratatouille.  It wasn’t the watery, eggplanty stuff that kept me away from ratatouille before.  It was rich and tangy, like a good pasta sauce.

I was inspired by Amelia at Bon Appetempt: Ever since she wrote about Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet corn polenta with eggplant sauce, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I mixed it up a little: I wanted to use my fresh tomatoes, so instead of the eggplant sauce (which I made a few weeks ago and liked) I played with a ratatouille recipe from The Essential New York Times Cookbook.  And instead of Ottolenghi’s corn and feta purée, I threw feta and fresh corn kernels into regular polenta.

It was good.

Be forewarned: this dish is a bit labor intensive– a fair amount of chopping.  To speed it up, you could serve the ratatouille with crusty bread, and forgo the polenta. Or you could make the polenta but not put fresh corn in it.  But if you do prepare it as written below, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  It’s a wonderful way to combine the vegetables that are in season right now: eggplant, yellow squash, tomatoes, corn. . .

Cheesy Polenta with Ratatouille {Download & Print Recipe}

Ratatouille adapted from a recipe for ratatouille niçoise in The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

Ingredients for the ratatouille: (serves 4)

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1/2 large yellow onion

1 small eggplant (mine, diced, came out to 2 1/3 c.)

2 small yellow squash

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. coriander

1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. kosher salt (regular salt is fine too), plus more to taste, and pepper

3 large fresh tomatoes

6 fresh basil leaves

1 tsp. brown sugar

6 black or green olives (French, Greek or Italian), pitted (optional)

Ingredients for the polenta: (serves 4)

1 c. polenta

3 c. water

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. feta

1 c. havarti or monterey jack cheese

cream or milk (I used 3 tbsp. cream and at least 1/2 c. milk)

kernels from 4 ears corn, boiled and kernels removed (optional)

Directions for the ratatouille:

Trim off the ends of the eggplant but don’t peel it.  Dice it up finely.   Also dice the onion, and cut the yellow squash into rings (mine were about 1/4″ rings).  In a large skillet over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil.  Pass the garlic through a garlic press and add it to the oil.  (If you don’t have a garlic press, just dice it.)  Add the diced onion and sautée until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggplant and the yellow squash.  Sprinkle with the salt, coriander, leaves from the sprig of thyme, and some pepper.  Add the bay leaf and simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, peel the tomatoes.  To do this, boil a few cups of water in a small pot–enough that you can submerge a tomato in it.  Once the water boils, turn the heat off.  Stick a fork in the top of one of the tomatoes and plunge the tomato into the water for about 40 seconds.  Pull the tomato out and let it rest for a minute so you don’t burn yourself.  Pierce the skin with a knife, and you should be able to peel the skin right off.  Repeat with the other tomatoes. Then roughly chop them.

Add the tomatoes and the basil to the skillet with the eggplant mixture.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and stir.  Hold the pitted olives, if using, in your fist and crush their juices into the skillet before tossing them in.  Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes to an hour, until the ratatouille has thickened.

Taste it and add more salt or seasonings if desired.  Remove the bay leaves.  Serve over polenta (or however you want).  It’s also good cold, or on a sandwich, and it’s great the day after it’s made.

Directions for the polenta:

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium to large pot.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the polenta slowly, while stirring.  Let it cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes (note: the package of polenta I used said to let it cook 20 minutes. Mine was done way before then for some reason.)  Add the butter, feta and havarti.  The polenta will be really thick, so slowly add cream or milk to thin it out to your desired consistency.  I added at least 1/2 c. of milk and a little cream.  Add the corn kernels, if using and add more dairy if desired.  Taste it and add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the polenta onto plates, top with ratatouille, and serve.


A basic recipe for polenta is just water, salt, polenta, and maybe butter.  But you can add any cheese or dairy that you want.  Havarti is our favorite cheese, so that’s what we tend to use, but it’s also great with cheddar.  We used feta here as well, to complement the Mediterranean flavors in the ratatouille, and corn kernels because we had some ears lying around.  If you go this route, boil 4 ears of corn and let them cool.  Stand one up vertically, on a large plate, and run a knife down the cob to remove the kernels.  If you’re going to put fresh corn in the polenta, cook them first and use the left-over hot water for peeling the tomatoes that go into the ratatouille.


These two have started digging holes in the shade together.

At first I allowed it because they seemed to be bonding, and I am a huge sucker.

But the amount of dirt and mud they are producing is bonkers.

The number of mosquitoes that bite me while I’m supervising Dig Fest 2012 is also bonkers.

Not to mention that Thunder gets so much mud in her wrinkles that she has to lick it off while she waits for her turn to dig.  (They have a system, you see.  They’re very organized).