Polenta . part viii . almond polenta cake

. Sweet polenta ideas from Biagio d’Angelo . 

Polenta is the new yellow and my Marostica memories 

You might been to the small town of Marostica, one of the most fascinating and romantic places in the Veneto, famous for it’s real-life chess game event. Back in my university days I had the luck to actually live there. It was here that I became friends with Claudio, a true artist and art critic, who decided to Economics to make his family happy, despite his aesthetic heart. Many years have passed since then, but I it is with Claudio that reminisce, sharing the marvelous memories of our university days.

Claudio tells me that although many are familiar with his home town, I lived the life of a “prince” with the place. Allow me explain what he meant. When I was a student, I was unable to travel home to Sicily very often to stay with my parents, so I spent many a grateful weekend at Claudio’s parents’ house. It was here that I enjoyed holidays and late nights, where Daniela cut my hair, where I made my first meringue and ate nonna Maria’s crêpes. . . .Much later, when I broke my arm and couldn’t stay alone in my apartment in Venice, I sought refuge once again to Marostica, where Claudio’s parents and sister welcomed me like a son.

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Polenta . part vii . a summary of basic recipes

This post marks the fourth and last story on polenta planned for the wintry month of February. At the outset of the project, four savory and four sweet recipes seemed the perfect, compact number for a blog collaboration. And yet, as the project comes to an end, I promise that more recipes will be added to this collection.

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Polenta . part iv . quince marmalade cake

. Sweet polenta ideas from Biagio d’Angelo . 

As freely translated from Italian. . .

” Many objects of the senses go apparently unnoticed during childhood and adolescence, or so it seems.  Over time, memories play an interesting part on experience, and ingredients of the past take on a different meaning. To tell you the truth, I have had a special relationship with an unassuming fruit, namely the quince. 

My mother adored them! I remember well how she would avidly work in the kitchen with my father to make quince marmalade and the famous Sicilian “cotognata”, a thick sweet paste preserved in decorative shapes. I also remember how my brother and I looked woefully at the seemingly endless supply of both, because honestly we didn’t like either . . . they were perhaps too sweet and sticky for our youthful taste in food.

But time has changed all that. When I happened upon some fresh quince at the market (an unusual sight in Brazil, I assure you), despite their exorbitant price, I had to take some home.  I dedicated my quince acquisition to the making of a polenta cake, adapted from a recipe by Irina Georgescu. This dessert combines two very popular Romanian ingredients. It makes for a beautifully, moist cake which is neither too sweet or too rich. Lina’s recipe is beyond delicious and  I know my mother would love it. Too bad we are so far away from each other in the middle of a pandemic. . . 

Ingredients for the batter . for a cake tin 18cm in diameter 

  • 200 grams of unsalted butter 
  • 150-200 grams of granulated or raw cane sugar
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 200 grams finely ground almonds 
  • 100 grams fine cornmeal for polenta
  • 25 ml rapeseed oil

For the quince marmalade 

  • 1 quince . approximately 400 grams 
  • 200 ml water
  • 75 grams sugar 
  • 50 ml honey

For the syrup

  • The juice of two oranges . approximately 350-400 ml 

Prepare the cake tin by rubbing it generously on all sides and bottom with unsalted butter, or simply cover it with a piece of well-fitting parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius, with the fan on.

To make the marmalade, wash the quince, then peel it and remove the seeds as well as the core. Slice the fruit into cubes. Bring the fruit, water, honey and sugar to a boil in a sauce pan at medium heat. Allow the fruit to simmer until the quince is very soft and the sugars have thickened, about 20 minutes. Smash the fruit with a fork until it looks like coarse apple sauce, then set it aside.

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, simmer the orange juice five minutes in a sauce pan at medium heat, stirring occasionally. Then set aside.Prepare the cake batter as follows.

Toast the almonds, then grind them into a fine powder. Cut the butter into a cubes. In a mixer or a food processor, mix the sugar and butter two-four minutes into a smooth cream. With the machine running, add one egg at a time until they are assimilated. To finish the batter, stir the ground almonds, cornmeal and rapeseed oil until just incorporated into the butter mixture.

Spoon the quince marmalade one the bottom of the cake tin, then pour in the batter. Bake the cake 50-55 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a fork or a cake skewer. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool ten minutes. Tip the cake onto a platter. Warm the orange syrup, then carefully prick holes all around the cake with a skewer. Pour the syrup over the top of the quince marmalade and serve the cake while still warm. If you have any leftovers (which you might not haha), warm the cake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about 5 minutes, before bringing it to the table. 

Sincerely, Biagio .

author of gloggtheblog.com ”

 

Polenta . part iii . “pizza gialla” revisited

Six years have passed since I first wrote a blog about polenta. The time spent writing the original looks  like the pages of a faded diary. The first version of this recipe came about by chance. A friend of mine was intent upon avoiding wheat, but simply could not stop dreaming of pizza.  The thought of a golden, crispy polenta crust, burnt perfectly around the edges by the flames of an open fireplace came immediately to mind.  This is how the idea and the name for “pizza gialla” was born.

It took a while to figure out how to emulate a pizza-like crust with polenta. That being said, the deliciousness of grilled polenta comes very close to the kind of comfort found in the pizza experience. Even though polenta stays soft in the middle, and cannot imitate the chewiness a slow-rise wheat dough can, the finished result is a perfect stand-in to the original.

As part of the polenta project I am engaging in at the moment, I tested my original recipe. A simplified version of the pizza gialla recipe I published in 2014, can be found below.

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Fig and pine nut zaleti : Veneto-inspired biscotti

In the last few years, I find myself coming back more and more to my friend Luisa’s vast kitchen and gardening wisdom . Our exchanges on family memories fixed in the Veneto countryside, has led to a renewed fascination for a simple ingredient, namely cornmeal. When not consulting my mother’s handwritten recipe notes on the subject of food, I turn the pages of cookbook favorites for culinary inspiration. By the way, I readily admit I adore books, old, new and out of print. . . In the name of research, it makes for the perfect excuse to collect printed wisdom on food and other essentials in life. . .

The list of some of my favorite books on Italian cooking,  particularly of the Veneto, are listed below in my notes. Like old diaries, my books are often dog-eared and blemished by the signs of time; others are filled with pencil-written notes, recording various changes or observations about the original cooking instructions.

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Polenta . part ii . sweet almond crostata

. Polenta stories and a blog collaboration  .

. Introducing sweet polenta ideas from Biagio d’Angelo . 

In his words, translated from Italian. . .

” It all started with the mixed blessing known as Instagram. Let me explain what I mean! Instagram is a place where one can make great friends, especially because there is a vast opportunity to connect around mutual interests, like culinary subjects.

This is how I met Terri. She hasa Finnish last name, and I actually thought she spoke it. While exchanging our appreciation for a classic among cakes on Instagram, I discovered that Terri actually speaks Italian fluently. Italy is where her heart lives, she told me. In one of our first message exchanges, she explained she was reading cookbooks on the culinary tradition of the Veneto. Sometime in late autumn, I suggested we create a “club” to collaborate on our mutual interest in polenta. We gave our project the title “Polenta is the New Yellow”, which made us both laugh.

What is extraordinary is that our collaboration is completely virtual (And yes, that is definitely very typical of the global pandemic years.) I live in Brazil and Terri lives in the Netherlands. We consulted each other, via voice messages, each discussing and choosing our own recipes to write about. And this is what the results of our plan looks like:

During the next few weeks, I will prepare and publish four savory dishes with polenta as its main ingredient. I will concentrate on sweet recipes (if you know me, you know that is the obvious choice haha). We will translate each other’s recipes in Italian and English respectively, and post them on Instagram as well as on our individual blogs. Call it a project in friendship.

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Polenta . part i . minestra de farina zala

With winter in full swing, now is the perfect time to bring up the subject of polenta. It is an ingredient that sparks highly conflicting opinions. Many adore it, while others are convinced it is tasteless. That being said, I grew up in the Veneto. In this part of the world, polenta and risotto are not only food staples, they are food icons.

So to those who say polenta is inedible, I can only promise that they must try a bowl made by someone who understands how to make it. To those who love it, I feel a recognizable connection. All opinions aside, as with many foods it is a question of texture. Think of polenta as a soft, silky mash that replaces the potato for example; imagine it as the comforting neutral base to stews and thick, chunky minestrone style soups. I am convinced that like me, you will jump at the chance to have some.

Read the nostalgic recipe below, to learn how to make a creamy, pale yellow soup, known as minestra di farina zala, in Vicentino dialect. I believe it is the perfect starting point in the appreciation of simplicity.

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Roasted tomato and plum tart

This tart was born by coincidence.  In the midst of the steamy (some say unbearable) heat of August, plums and tomatoes compete for attention. When I go to the farmers market I am absolutely inspired.  I choose color first, shape and texture later . . . and so as you might imagine, I end up with brown paper bags bursting at the seams with ripe fruit and vegetables every time I go!

Once in my kitchen, I arrange my edible treasures in bowls and turn my refrigerator into a topsy-turvy puzzle of ingredients. (Honestly, opening my refrigerator carelessly can involve multiple sorts of vegetables rolling out on to the floor, but that’s another story. . . )

As luck would have it, I decided to roast plums and tomatoes together one day,  just to create some space on my shelves. This is when the tart happened. It was a question of chance meeting destiny I think . . .

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Raw fennel and blood orange salad

I cannot remember the first time I ate a salad made with raw sliced fennel mixed with beautifully dramatic blood oranges.  Surely it was while having lunch at our neighbor’s house just outside of Pozzuoli,  close to the baroque city of Naples….

At first glance this combination may seem to be a strange mixture of flavors.  Yet crunchy and savory fennel tossed, with sweetly-juicy orange wedges, is the perfect example of light, bright and fresh. In other words, the making of this salad makes the moodiness of winter weather in the midst of spring promises somehow disappear.  Continue reading

Baked pumpkin and chanterelle risotto

Saturday is definitely my favorite day of the week because it is full of promise. Rarely is Saturday defined by schedules or obligations. Rather it is the perfect example of limitless possibility. After a luxuriously silent and relatively early morning coffee, I start my day with a trip to the farmers market. My task of the morning is to soak up the sights, ultimately deciding which ingredients will take part in of the weekend ritual of cooking.

Although I have often promised myself to make lists and menu plans for the work week, my mind simply refuses this kind of obligation. By mid afternoon, I make my way home with linen bags filled with ingredients and thoughts swimming with opportunity. Continue reading