Friday, March 30, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Italian Sausage with Polenta

When I first moved to Colorado, one of my great disappointments was that I couldn't find the same kind of Italian sausage that was common in Chicago. I looked for it all over. I even brought some back from Chicago last time we went there to visit.

The big surprise was when I bought some at Whole Foods, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

My favorite way of preparing Italian sausage is with tomato sauce and bell pepper. From there, the rest of the ingredients can change a lot. Sometimes the sausage goes into a sandwich, and sometimes it gets paired with pasta. This time, I paired it with polenta.

Instead of buying cornmeal specifically for polenta, I bought a coarse-ground cornmeal. I tried using that cornmeal for cornbread, but it was a little too coarse for my liking. It worked really well for polenta, though.

Italian Sausage with Peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 links sweet Italian sausage
1/2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
2 bell peppers, cored and cut into strips
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5 ounce petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
pinch of hot pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Add the  onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the bell peppers, tomato sauce, tomatoes, black pepper, salt, oregano, marjoram, fennel, and pepper flakes.Stir to combine and cook on low until the peppers and sausage are cooked through.

This is ready to serve as soon as the meat is cooked through, but if you have time, it's even better if you let it simmer on low until the sauce thickens a bit. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as desired.

Slice the sausage and serve over polenta along with the peppers and tomato sauce.

Rice Cooker Soft Polenta

A rice cooker does a great job cooking polenta - no worries about the polenta sticking to or burning. No need for a lot of stirring. You can walk away from it and ay attention to something else. If you don't have a rice cooker, you can certainly make this on the stove. Just stir more often.

A rice cooker cup is actually 3/4 cup, soif you're making it on the stove, keep that in mind.

1 rice cooker cup of coarse ground cornmeal
4 rice cooker cups of water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 ounce parmigiano cheese, grated
2 ounces cream cheese

Put the cornmeal, water, salt, and butter in the rice cooker. Set it to the porridge setting and cook, stirring once or twice during the cooking cycle. When it has finished cooking, stir again, and cook on the porridge cycle a second time.

After the second time through the porridge cycle, it should be cooked through and no longer chewy or gritty. If it needs to be cooked longer, let it continue cooking.

When it's done to you liking, add the cheeses and stir to combine.

For more information about Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.