Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: Crisp little nuggets made from leftover polenta.
This week, ladies and gentlemen, we'll be talking yet again about The Mush Factor. I could probably write about this topic for every single column -- it's the greatest challenge I've faced since we started feeding Clara solid food a year and a half ago.
I can't think of a single mushy thing Clara will eat: no oatmeal, no mashed potatoes, no overripe bananas, none of it.
The problem is that I love mushy things. Nothing makes me happier than a cozy bowl of risotto or cheesy grits. I crave nursery food. (Even the name implies that Clara should like it!) But she doesn't, and my husband doesn't either. So I reserve these comfort foods for nights when I'm home alone for dinner and not indulging my other solitary pleasure, cheese and crackers. Try to contain your envy -- I know my evenings alone are pretty exotic.
Lately I've been lusting after polenta, perhaps because I've run across this recipe a few times. So for a solo dinner one night, I made a pot of it, enriched with a little mascarpone and some grated Parmesan. Because why make just a little polenta when you can make a lot? It'll be great as leftovers for lunch all week, I told myself, even if no one else but me will eat it.
Then it occurred to me that I might be able to turn that leftover polenta into something Clara wouldn't turn up her nose at. The next night, I brushed cubes of the chilled polenta with olive oil and broiled them until they were crispy little nuggets. She took one in each hand. She looked at them, and then at me. She took a cautious nibble of one of the cubes.
Did I correct her? No, I did not.
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups polenta (yellow cornmeal)
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Photos by James Ransom