Creamy Spinach Polenta with Roasted Summer Produce and a Fried Egg

I’ve professionally cooked in a variety of restaurants: a small cafe serving breakfast and lunch made from locally sourced ingredients, a yoga retreat center with an all-vegetarian menu using ingredients grown right outside of the kitchen, a high-end restaurant and a number of private catering events. I share this information not to boast or intimidate, but to share the most valuable insight I learned throughout my time in the kitchen.

A term originally coined by the French: mise en place [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]; is a technique used by chefs throughout the world literally translates to implementation but is generally referred to as “everything in its place.” Essentially, it means taking the time before you begin cooking to chop all of your produce, or strain the beans that were soaking overnight, or collect all of the equipment you may use and any other prep-related activities which would allow for your cooking process to be easy, efficient and, most importantly, enjoyable.

I do not always practice mise en place. Honestly, I am most often throwing things together last minute before I need to “be there” or “do that other thing.” However, every time I do practice mise en place, I enjoy the cooking process on much deeper level. I feel that my food tastes better because I have lessened the chance that I will burn my asparagus in the oven or overcook my pasta to the point of mush. With all of my ingredients at an arm’s distance, ready to be baked or broiled, my timing is more concise.

The photograph below shows part of my preparation: collecting all of my ingredients, measuring them out to be sure I have enough, and putting them in bowls or containers so that they are easily accessible. I also collected the pots and pans I’ll be using to be sure they are clean and readily available. While preparing this meal I felt calm and relaxed, I had fun-upbeat music playing in the background and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Again, this is not always the scene in my kitchen (picture Pee-Wee’s place house when someone says the secret word), but whenever I do allow myself the time to practice mise en place – I am guaranteed an enjoyable experience and, most importantly, a delicious meal. Perhaps this recipe will work as a Sunday brunch or a breakfast-for-dinner during the week, but either way, I hope you allow yourself the time to enjoy preparing, cooking and feasting on this savory dish! Try practicing mine en place next time you make a meal and see what a difference it makes in your cooking.

Garlic and Herb Compound Butter

Makes 8 servings

Total time: 5 Minutes

In My Basket:

1 clove Garlic, minced (from Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)

4 tsp fresh Parsley, Basil, Oregano, or Rosemary (from Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)

From The Pantry:

1 stick of butter, softened

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
  2. Place on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal well.
  3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Broccolini

Makes 4 servings

Total time: 30 Minutes

In My Basket:

10 oz Cherry Tomatoes (from Freitas Farm, Middleborough MA)

1 bunch Broccolini (from Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)

6 Garlic cloves, minced (from Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)

4 tbsp olive oil (from Brattleboro Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)

From The Pantry:

2 tsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375° degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Trim ends of the broccolini and discard.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and half of the garlic.
  4. Spread tomatoes out on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper.
  5. Repeat step 3 with the broccolini in the same bowl, tossing with the remainder of the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and laying the broccolini out flat on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until tomatoes are fragrant and broccolini is tender but not soft. Set aside.

Creamy Spinach Polenta

Makes 4-6 servings

Total time: 35 Minutes

In My Basket:

1 cup of polenta, dry (from Brattleboro Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)

7 oz of fresh spinach (from Oakdale Farms, Rehoboth MA)

1/4 cup of fromage blanc (from Foxboro Cheese Co, Foxboro MA)

1 tablespoon of olive oil (from Brattleboro Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)

From The Pantry:

4 cups of cooking liquid ( I used 2 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of water)

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Sauté spinach in olive oil until tender. Set aside in colander to drain excess liquid.
  2. Bring liquid and a pinch of salt to a boil.
  3. Turn heat down to low and whisk in the polenta. Cook the polenta, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes until thick.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  5. Turn heat off, and stir in spinach and cheese. Stir together until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Perfect Fried Egg

Makes 4 servings

Total time: 5 Minutes

In My Basket:

4 eggs (from Copicut Farms, Dartmouth MA)

From The Pantry:

2 teaspoons of butter

4 teaspoons of water

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Heat a skillet large enough to hold 4 eggs at once, over medium-high heat.
  2. Add butter and swirl to coat.
  3. Crack eggs into the skillet.
  4. Add water to the pan, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Season and remove from pan.

To Plate: 

  1. Scoop about a cup of the finished polenta onto a plate.
  2. Slice round of butter from finished compound butter log and place on top of warm polenta.
  3. Place roasted vegetables on top of butter.
  4. Top with freshly fried egg.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. Devour! And remember, when you get to the hard part; that’s the plate.

Leftover compound butter can be served on meat, fish or vegetables, or used to dress up starches such as rice and pasta. Butter and roasted vegetables can be made ahead of time. Egg can be replaced by any protein such as fish, poultry or beans.

 

Jessica Ann Mandelbaum has been eating her way around New England for the past four years. When Jessica’s not writing about the multi-sensory perception of flavor or force-feeding loved ones her various kitchen creations, she can be found practicing yoga, gardening, reading, hiking, or spending quality time with her dog-daughter.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Luv2eat says:

    Looks yummy! I’ve been looking fir a new Polenta recipe!!

    Liked by 1 person

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