This month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge was centred on cornmeal – something I’ve been devouring in large quantities recently, thanks to a particularly inspiring episode of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita. He’s my new TV chef crush… That grin… That scruffy little jawline… The whole Italian thing… Right. Back to the cornmeal – hot little David was cooking polenta, and I remembered having some of that creamy corn goodness during last year’s trip to Italy. Since that episode aired, I’ve eaten it with a nice spring ratatouille, had it sweetened with honey for a hearty breakfast, and now, I’ve made it into croutons.
My WCC recipe comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special (which I just realized I’ve used before for a WCC challenge…) and is for a Venetian seafood stew, topped with crispy, crunchy polenta croutons. These things are dynamite. They’re slightly soft on the inside, golden brown on the outside, and nicely flavoured with crushed fennel seeds. I think I’ll be using the remainders later in the week for a chicken caesar salad.
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the 3 cups of water to a boil.
Turn the heat down to low, and pour in the polenta in a slow, steady stream, stirring continuously.
Simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Oil an 8×8 inch baking pan, pour in the polenta, and smooth into an even layer with a silicon spatula.
Let the polenta cool for at least 20 minutes, then cut into small cubes.
Flip the cubes out onto a baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 450ºF, or until crispy and golden.
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 cups diced green pepper
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 cups hot water
2 cups roughly chopped white fish
1 cup small scallops
1 cup shrimp
juice of one lemon
chopped fresh parsley
grated parmesan cheese
In a large soup pot, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft.
Toss in the fennel seeds and green peppers, cooking for another 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and water and bring the stew to a light simmer before adding the white fish.
Cook the fish in the broth for at least 20 minutes, then add the scallops and shrimp.
Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked.
Stir in the lemon juice and a handful of fresh parsley immediately before serving.
Top the stew with the polenta croutons and a grating of fresh parmesan cheese.
The real recipe called for mussels and clams instead of white fish and scallops. I made the substitution because I’m living on the prairies at the moment. I’ll try it with shellfish when I’m back in Halifax.
The white fish I used was fresh cod, but you could use any firm fish that would stand up to a chowder-like cooking method.