Polenta with Cauliflower Puttanesca
I tried! I failed! The juice/smoothie cleanse that I was amping up for here and alluded to wanting to try here just didn't work for me. I've learned that my body does not benefit from not eating in fact all hell breaks loose! Yes, I know that some ill feelings are to be expected but when you just can't function and feel like tiny monkeys are banging on every part of your head with hammers that's a bit extreme. You know what helped me? Eating! So I knew something had to give. I've decided that eating super-clean for one week a month will be our new sustainable method of detox. FYI, super-clean for us will be no dairy or red meat and no sugar. We normally eat clean in that we eat almost completely organic and very little processed foods (I haven't quite convinced my two giant men-children of this fact and a few things do find their way into their bodies) but this new thing will be next level. I have actually gotten them to drink a smoothie with cauliflower in it so we are taking baby steps.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with Polenta. Well, wonder away because I honestly don't know. I've just been thinking about my health the past few days since I got a nasty sinus infection shortly after the cleanse and while on my lovely trip to California. (A.O.C was amazing by the way!) I ended up having to take a steroid shot and antibiotics when I got back to Texas after taking a ginormous amount of OTC meds while on my trip. All of this made my body feel like it needs to be detoxed again. Cauliflower and all cruciferous vegetables are great for detoxing so lets call that the liaison between my ramblings and this post, shall we? The polenta is simply a vehicle for the cauliflower and makes this a bit more kid-friendly and lachanophobic-friendly (yep, fear of vegetables is real, people).
I originally created this recipe when we lived in California and literally had no money. We had a box of vegetables delivered for free to our house because I was the host home for the CSA and that along with whatever inexpensive filler I could find would feed us for a week. Thankfully that season of life is over (although I still LOVE California and miss it every day!) and I can make veg-centric meals because I want to not because I have to. Unfortunately, the vegetables I am using now don't compare to the beauties in that box that still had bits of dirt and were only hours out of the ground when they arrived. Even more the reason to make this recipe. Vegetables purchased from anywhere but a farmer (or pulled out of your own backyard) aren't as sweet and naturally delicious so it does help to amp up the flavor a bit with other ingredients. In this case we are using briny olives and capers, fresh herbs, garlic and tomatoes. To make this Paleo, simply don't serve it with polenta but as a side dish for roasted chicken or fish.
Polenta with Cauliflower Puttanesca
Author: Christi Flaherty
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk (or dairy-free alternative)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (major player in sauce, so don't cut)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
sprigs of rosemary, thyme and/or sage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more)
1 head cauliflower, core removed and sliced into flat 2" pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of hand-crushed, canned plum tomatoes (BPA-free can if possible) or 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
a handful of briny olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
sea salt to taste
toasted sliced almonds or pine nuts, optional
To make polenta, whisk the water and cornmeal together in a 3 quart saucepan. Turn heat to medium high and keep whisking for a bit. When you see the first bubbles whisk again. Whisk in salt, milk and herbs, turn heat to low and continue to cook, whisking when you think about it to keep it from sticking and seizing up. Make the sauce while it is cooking. When it is very thick, add the butter and cheese. Keep warm.
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil with garlic, red pepper flakes and whole herb sprigs. It will pop a bit, but let it go until garlic starts to turn golden. Stir and cook one more minute until garlic is golden brown and herbs are starting to crisp up. Remove the herbs and keep them whole then remove garlic, leaving all the oil behind. Reserve the garlic and herbs for garnish.
Return pan to stove. Add cauliflower in one layer. Let it cook untouched for 3-4 minutes until you smell it carmelizing a bit. Toss it and cook for another 3-4 minutes then add onion. Cook until onion is cooked through then add reserved and remaining ingredients except salt and herbs. Stir and cook for another few minutes until everything comes together. Taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary.
Serve over polenta garnish with crumbled fried herbs, coarse sea salt and pine nuts or toasted almonds.
If you don't have polenta, feel free to use your favorite gluten-free pasta or just eat it as is for a Paleo side dish that would go very well with roasted chicken or fish.