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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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