Sunday, March 24, 2013

Creamy Polenta with Sausage, Spinach and Pecorino

March is such a teaser month.  Temperatures may fluctuate anywhere between the 20's to the 60's.  One day it could be snowing and the next people are walking around in shorts and tank tops. The change in the weather and the arrival of spring always gets me amped up for all of the new vegetables that will be coming our way soon, like asparagus, fennel and artichokes.  I begin to crave salads, cold noodle dishes and spring rolls instead of soups, stews and hot tea. 
As much as I'm ready to start eating lighter, the temperatures haven't gotten much above the 30's for the greater part of the month.  So, until I'm able to wear any less than three layers outside, I'm still sticking with comfort foods to get me through this last bout of cold weather. 

Polenta is one of the foods that I always have in the cupboard for a quick meal.  With the addition of a little butter and cheese, it is transformed into a creamy base that goes with just about anything! I'm a big fan of topping my polenta with sauteed greens and a poached egg, or a sautee of wild mushrooms or come summer time, stirring in a drizzle of pesto and topping with roasted vegetables like red pepper, fennel and zucchini.  It's a great meal to make when you have little odds and ends in your fridge that you're not quite sure what to do with, which is exactly what I did this time around.

I had very few things to work with other than a bag of spinach, some spicy sausage links and a small hunk of pecorino romano.  My first intuition was to throw these together with pasta but since I ate an entire baguette doused in olive oil for lunch, I decided to cut back on the wheat and make it gluten free with some polenta, and it totally hit the spot.

Creamy Polenta with Sausage, Spinach and Pecorino
Serves 2-4

Creamy Polenta:
1 c. polenta
4 1/2 c. vegetable broth
3 T. butter
1/2 c. grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley

Place vegetable broth in a medium sized heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in polenta. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook polenta for about thirty minutes, whisking every couple of minutes to prevent it from clumping up or sticking.  When the polenta is soft and creamy, whisk in the cheese and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low while you prepare the sausage and spinach.

Heat 1 T. extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until cooked through and browned on the outside. Transfer to a paper towel to drain excess oil.  Wipe out the pan and heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and spinach and cook just long enough for the spinach to collapse.  Season with salt and pepper.

Before serving, give the polenta a good stir (if it has thickened up too much, you can thin it out a bit with more vegetable broth). Divide the polenta evenly between shallow bowls. Top with the sauteed spinach, sausage parsley and an extra dusting of pecorino romano.

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