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Some Earthy, Fall Comfort Food

Posted Sep 27 2009 12:00am

It’s raining. I start on the surgical floor in two days. I need to get my act together. I spent the day mostly pouring over my old Medical Nutrition Therapy textbooks and defining terms like pancreatoduodenectomy. Comfort food was imperative.

I decided on seared polenta topped with sauteed balsamic portabellos, paired with some fresh kale cooked in veggie broth.

Now, I usually just cook the polenta and eat it as it comes out of the pot, something like grits. But there are definitely more interesting ways to cook it which I have never bothered to tackle.


Polenta setting

I put on “How I met Your Mother” season 1 episodes, 1. because I’m addicted, and 2. to drown out the music from our loud upstairs neighbors who claim that we’re loud. I set to work boiling the polenta. This part, I’ve done plenty of times. Add a cup of polenta to 3 cups of water (depending on the package’s directions), turn down the heat, and simmer until it’s nice and thick. Now for the interesting part: pour the polenta into a lightly oiled bowl and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, so it sets.  Turn the thing out onto a plate–it should keep its shape–and continue to let cool. Come back to that later.



Next, the kale. This I kept real simple. Put some olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan, and add the kale (torn into bite sized pieces). Sautee for a few minutes, until wilted. Add some broth (I used veggie broth) to the pot, and steam just until tender. Done!



Mushrooms sauteeing, with polenta searing in the background

For the mushrooms: Chop 1/4 of a yellow onion, a clove of garlic, and thinly slice a portabello mushroom. Heat 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil and 1 1/2 tsp butter (read: Smart Balance) in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add your onions and garlic and sautee until onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until they begin to brown. Pour in 1/2 cup of veggie broth, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme, which is all I had); bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Only one more step, I promise. Remember that polenta we were leaving to cool? While the mushrooms are simmering, slice that into 1/4 inch slices, brush lightly with olive oil, and sear (high heat) for 5 to 6 minutes on each side.

Top the polenta slices with the sauteed mushrooms, and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired. Serve with kale.


There you go. Some warm, earthy, fall comfort food. The mushrooms’ broth is light but flavorful, and compliments the creaminess of the polenta. Bon Apetit!

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