Sunday, November 29, 2015

Martha & Me - November



In November, I tried a new recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine, Tian Provencal with Polenta (find it in the November issue, or click the link to see the recipe on Martha's website). A tian is like a casserole, basically (the word can refer to a special pan used to make one, or to the food made in it). This tian involves a layer of cooked polenta (a thick pudding made with cornmeal, milk and water) layered underneath cheese and sliced vegetables. I was attracted to this recipe because of the above photo. My photo of it is not great (oh so dark in the kitchen this time of year), but I was drawn in by those roasted vegetables, brown with crispy cheese. And that gorgeous Liberty-esque fabric under the baking dish! It's so true that you eat with your eyes first. I gobbled this up.


The vegetables include sliced leeks, zucchini, eggplant and tomato. I don't often cook with leeks (only once before, I think) so I was excited to use them. They aren't easy to find around here; I eventually located some at Trader Joe's, where they are sold in packages of two whole stalks. I had always heard that leeks would have a lot of dirt inside their layers but these were very clean. I sliced them as directed in the recipe, then let them float around in cold water for a while, to let any dirt settle out. Then I laid them on a dish towel to dry off. I liked the way they smelled, sort of sweetly oniony. The other veggies I just sliced; I knew they'd need to stretch pretty far with all the layering, so I made sure to do them thinly.



The recipe called for quick-cooking polenta, made in a saucepan with water and milk and seasoned with salt and pepper. I like polenta but rarely cook it this way (I usually buy logs of precooked polenta that can be sliced and browned on a griddle). It was quick and easy to cook. When it was done, I spread it in an oiled baking dish (just a regular 9x13 Pyrex; I don't have any baking dishes like Martha's lovely oval pottery one). The oil in the dish already seemed excessive by this step, as it flooded over the surface of the polenta; I used substantially less oil throughout the rest of the steps than the recipe called for. It just didn't seem necessary to use so much.


Next, I layered veggies and grated cheese over the polenta. I used basic Swiss cheese, though the recipe called for Gruyere, specifically. I decided to use basic Swiss for two reasons: one, it was more economical, and two, it has a slightly milder flavor, which I thought would appeal to the children. More on that later...


The pan filled right up. I was feeling nervous about there being enough room, honestly. But I followed the directions, ending with a top layer of veggies without cheese, and put it into the oven for its first baking session.


After the first 30 minutes, you take it out of the oven and flatten the whole thing with a spatula, then sprinkle the last of the cheese on top and put it back in the oven for 35 minutes, to finish cooking and to melt and brown the cheese.


It was gorgeous when it came out of the oven! I loved how the roasted, cheesy vegetables looked, and it smelled delicious. You could smell the polenta too - it was like roasted corn - and you could see that it had started to brown a bit on the bottom of the pan. We tried spooning it onto plates, as directed in the recipe, but it was very soft and mushy. We decided to let it cool a few minutes and slice it instead...


So much easier to serve! It was more like a savory pie this way. We ate it with grilled chicken breasts. The Bear and I thought the tian was delicious. We had seconds and thirds! The children were much less enthusiastic, but they tried it and that's all I care about. (It was unfamiliar, full of vegetables and built on weird corn pudding, I can't really blame them). I will definitely try making this again because it was deceptively easy and it tasted great, plus it sort of took the place of separate starch and veggie dishes in a meal. It reheated very nicely for lunch the next day too. For next time, I think I'll cut down on the leeks a bit, and I'll use more tomato (I liked the acidity and I think it could benefit from more). I might also add some Parmesan cheese in the layers, or even in the polenta, for a little sharpness. But I did like it and it was nice to try something new and different. That's what this challenge is all about, after all. Just one more month to go and I will complete my very Martha year!

31 comments:

  1. It looks and sounds delicious. I've never tried polenta, I'm a bit scared of it, but this looks like a nice easy introduction. I really like courgettes and tomatoes sliced and cooked with cheese on top, scrumptious. I've got leeks down at the allotment at the moment, they definitely have earth in them! Well done on almost a whole year of Martha and Me, I've really enjoyed seeing what you've made and it's been quite motivating. CJ xx

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  2. I'm going to make this soon. I use polenta in baking, but I've never used it in a savoury dish before so this will be a first for me. I also have an egg plant, we call them aubergine, and a couple of red peppers in my fridge which I will substitute for the courgettes. But the main reason to try this recipe, apart from your recommendation of course, is that my allotment is awash with (muddy) leeks and I'm always alert to new ways to use them. If I do make it I will be sure to photograph it, even though I find food photography very difficult. Your photo montage is mouth wateringly excellent Jennifer.

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  3. That looks really nice indeed. Thanks for sharing the process of making it.

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  4. Yum! I love eggplant and have finally gotten my guys to enjoy it too.

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  5. I love making polenta and this dish looks so very good ! I will try it next weekend when I will have company :)

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  6. My eyes have feasted with you on this dish. It looks so good Jennifer and thank you for sharing your advice as you went along. I'm guessing next time the little Bears will be much for likely to enjoy it since it won't be so strange to them. Yum!
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  7. Yep your food sure looked delicious! I made cauliflower and leek soup recently (doing a low carb thing) and it sure was Yum ♥

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  8. Goodness, it looks so good. Can I come for dinner?

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  9. Your photos are making my tummy growl. I love roasted veggies and melted cheese! If the little Bears don't like it that just means more for you and the Bear.

    A really good Swiss cheese is definitely comparable to Gruyère and sometimes melts better, I think. Parmesan is a good idea too - add a bit of pungency. I'd be tempted to throw in some minced fresh garlic for zing and maybe some fresh thyme for astringency and brightness. (Now the tummy is really growling!)

    Isn't it funny how an oval dish exudes elegance while a rectangle pan just says "home cookin'"? :D

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  10. Love the ingredients! It looks delicious! hugs~

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  11. It encourages me to know that you substituted/modified the recipe ingredients with good results, Jennifer. Also, as I thought about your process comments I realize that I have only tried using/eating polenta a few times in my nearly 65 years...and you made it look and sound so good, maybe I will try it again :)

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  12. I actually think your finished product looked better than Martha's! That sounds really good to me and I admire your adventuresome spirit when it comes to making new things. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  13. Looks and sounds amazing, I love leeks but they are an acquired taste, I tend to cook a lot with them as I have them in the veg plot. Now polenta I can't think that I have ever tried it, perhaps now is the time as the dish looked fantastic.

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  14. It looks delicious. It's a great challenge, especially when you find something you enjoy which you can add to your regular menu.

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  15. oh yum, delicious and gluten free too x

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  16. Looks completely delicious. I've really enjoyed these Martha and Me posts. Sam x

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  17. Hey Jennifer,
    This supper dish sounds and looks gorgeous. I like the idea of carbs and veg in one dish too. I'm not sure my boys would go for it, but as an easy weekend supper for Marc and I it pretty much ticks all the boxes.
    Leanne x

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  18. That sound delicious :). I guess you put any veg you like on top couldn't you? To make it seasonal/what you like/can get hold of. Leeks are every in the UK at this time of year, a hardy winter vegetable we love them here.

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  19. Looks like it turned out great. At least your kids did try it. I love polenta. In fact, I have a black bean polenta recipe I should make very soon. Have a great week.

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  20. Looks like perfect Autumnal fare. I love roasted veggies :)

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  21. I have never had polenta and always wondered why, maybe I just don't see it to pick up. My girls always try everything and that is all that counts for me too. In fact on Saturday I made spinach and courgette soup - it was really green but Meg surprised herself and really liked it when she tried it. We grow leeks sometimes but not this year. Lovely cooked in batons, wrapped in ham and covered in cheese sauce with a breadcrumb top. mmmm! Jo x

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  22. We rarely see polenta here, and I don't know how to cook with it. But I like the look of this recipe - hearty and delicious for a family as the weather turns to chilly winter!

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  23. It looks delicious. I went off roasted veg for a while but this looks really good I can feel myself starting to like them again x

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  24. Everything looks so delicious!

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  25. mmm that looks delicious. looking forward to see what your try out this month.

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  26. Hi Jennifer, what a delicious looking vegetable bake! :) I like everything about it. I've never thought of using polenta in a bake, but it seems like a great idea! Funnily there are plenty of leeks here, they are just a very ordinary vegetable. They taste great with fish and potatoes, for example, with a white creamy sauce!

    It's great to try out new tastes!
    Hope you have a nice December!
    Ingrid xx
    Myfunkycrochet.blogspot.be

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  27. Thank you! Looks delicious, just my sort of thing :)

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  28. i love leeks. They're pretty common here in England and since i was a child my favourite leeks are those boiled in a 50/50 mix of water and fresh orange juice (normally without pulp but it doesn't make too much difference!)

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  29. This looks so, so good. My mouth is watering. I hardly ever cook with polenta - I don't really know what I'm doing with it to be honest - but this looks quite achievable. x

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