Some people call it grits, some say cornmeal, others call it porridge. But in Italy they call it polenta, and it's one of those versatile grains that can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Heck, I've used it as an appetizer, that's just how useful these golden kernels are. For those who haven't made polenta, it is ground cornmeal. You can make it creamy, or more solid which you can then cut into small pieces and fry, grill or bake to create a perfect delivery vehicle for various toppings. This time around I asked more from my polenta by using it as a stuffing.
Last week I found some yellow peppers (among other goodies) at the farm stand and asked my niece if she liked stuffed peppers. Since her answer was yes, I grabbed a few knowing that I would evidentially figure out what to stuff them with.
My mom used to stuff peppers with ground beef, rice and tomatoes, but I don't eat meat, so toss that idea down the drain. All week long I had different ideas ruminating in my head . Among them...
- Chicken pot pie in a pepper (but I don't eat chicken either)
- Rice and something else??
- Something and something else...
None of those had any real chance of winning a spot as the stuffing. Then when JC used the fresh English peas for another dish, peas were no longer an option either. However, when I discovered some mushrooms in the fridge I knew just how well polenta cozies up to them. A real earthy combo. My niece, Gabrielle, suggested adding spinach, which I thought was a great idea but I already had kale in the house, so why buy something else. Remember what I always say; recipes can be followed exactly or used as a guidelines. So USE what you have and don't fret, which is exactly what I did. The plot thickened, as did the polenta. Here is the plan to stuff some peppers with polenta. Say that 3 times fast!
6 yellow, red or orange peppers
3 c mushrooms, cut into small pieces
2 c Kale, chopped
5 T chives, chopped
1/2 t crushed garlic
1 c polenta
2/3 c Feta cheese
4-5 T milk or cream (optional)
Magic 3 (olive, salt, pepper)
Cut the tops and seeded middle out of the peppers, wash, and let dry. In a skillet, sauté the mushrooms in oil. Do not salt them until they are cooked as doing so early on releases their liquid and they become mushy. Add 3 tablespoons of chives and salt toward the end of the cooking process. Once nicely browned, remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the kale quickly. You just want to wilt this but not overcook it. Remove and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the polenta according to the package. You want a creamy consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the milk or cream. Once combined add the feta, mushrooms, kale and the rest of the chopped chives.
Fill each of the peppers with the stuffing mixture placing them in a baking tin and bake for 45 minutes or until the peppers are tender and slightly browned.
If you like a bit more cheese, about 5 minutes before they are done crumble some feta on top and let brown. Serve them warm.
(Since I was also preparing a few other items for this dinner, I cooked these ahead of time and then warmed them right before serving.)
As you can see these are quite big and filling, so for a more proportional serving size as a side dish to your meat, fish or chicken, cut them in half. That was the case the night I originally made these. We had so many other yummy offerings that there were left over peppers. Do you hear me crying? I think those are cheers of joy because...
...the next night we warmed them up and enjoyed the stuffed peppers with the left over roasted veggies and a fresh salad for dinner, and that was plenty. Any way you cook it polenta pulled off another useful way to serve it up.