One of those totally serendipitous things—when our backyard plant produced its first squash, I happened to have leftover polenta in the fridge and the snow pea plants still had some pods on them, so this was our dinner yesterday. My future hubby gave it such a rave review I thought I'd submit it to the contest. Sorry for the terrible photo---we'd already eaten most of it before it occurred to me to take a picture! You could probably make this with any summer squash, but the finer-textured it is (I’m growing Lebanese squash, but Korean zucchini or patty pan would also work well), the nicer the contrast will be between the gluey polenta, silky squash, and crisp snow peas. As a lower-fat option, you could skip step 4 and just toss the squash with the still-warm polenta cubes off the heat (e.g. in a serving dish), but you’d be missing out a little: fried polenta is mighty delicious. —ody
4 to 6
summer squash, washed and cut into cubes
med onion, chopped
small clove garlic, sliced thin
snow peas, washed and cut into thirds or halves
basil, sliced into thin strips
half-cup recipe polenta (see below), cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste
Half-cup polenta recipe
corn meal, the coarser the better
water, depending on the coarseness of the meal (more coarse = more water)
On medium-high heat, saute onions in 2 tablespoons oil until they begin to brown, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, give it 10 seconds to warm, then add the squash and sauté, stirring slowly, until just al dente, about 5 minutes.
Add the snow peas, sauté for another minute.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, give it 30 seconds to warm, then add the polenta cubes and fry, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir, until the oil is absorbed.
Stir in the basil strips, turn off the heat, and season to taste.
Half-cup polenta recipe
Fill your kettle, put it to heat and have a heat-proof measuring device (like a pyrex cup) ready.
Put meal, ½ cup cold water, and salt in a smallish saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly.
When the kettle is half way to boiling, add 1.5 to 2 cups of the hot water to the polenta pan in a slow stream, stirring constantly.
Keep stirring as you bring the polenta to a boil.
Once it’s boiling, cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring to keep it from sticking to the bottom at minutes 4 and 6. Taste for doneness—there should be nothing crunchy—and cook a bit longer, adding another ¼ cup water and stirring thoroughly, if needed.
a. For people who like to minimize dishes: turn off the heat and let the polenta sit, covered, for at least 20 minutes.
b. For people who like to maximize prettiness of presentation: pour polenta into an 8 x 8 pan, cover with foil, and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Cut polenta into cubes (an ordinary dinner knife will do just fine): dish-minimizers can cut the circle of polenta into quarters and transfer it, a quarter at a time, to a plate for cutting into cubes. Appearance-maximizers can just cut a grid into the 8x8 polenta.