polenta with pear, gorgonzola, and pine nuts

When I first started cooking, I followed recipes as though they were mandates. My scientific brain liked — and still does — precise measurements followed by detailed instructions. Preparing a recipe was very much like following a chemistry experiment. And you do NOT deviate from chemistry instructions. Not unless you like explosions, that is.

That method of cooking has it’s advantages, but the rigidness of that approach was often frustrating and stressful. If a recipe called for 2 cups of chicken broth and I only had 1 and 3/4 cup of chicken broth, well then I couldn’t make that dish, now could I? And I certainly couldn’t replace that extra 1/4 cup of liquid with, say, water or vegetable broth. Nope. If it wasn’t in the instructions, I didn’t do it.

Over time, I’ve forced myself to play with recipes and not follow them word for word, line by line. I started with baby steps – changing the amounts of measured spices, or swapping one spice or herb for another. It was a slow start, but making myself play with ingredients and becoming more creative with my cooking has completely paid off. It’s liberating, and even more importantly, it’s fun!

A book that has become an increasingly valued resource in my kitchen is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. For someone like me, someone who struggles with creativity in the kitchen, this book is a must have. The pages are filled with listings of ingredients, and below those ingredients are recommendations for other ingredients that complement or work well with that flavor profile.

An example? Look up Gorgonzola cheese and you’ll find that honey and pears match quite well. Look up pine nuts, and you’ll see pears and honey listed as complementary flavors. Look up polenta, and you’ll notice that Gorgonzola cheese and honey are listed as ingredient pairings that work.

Put them all together and what do you have? A very nice little appetizer. Voilà!

Looking for a gift for a someone who loves to cook? Buy The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. They’ll love it.

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Polenta with Pear, Gorgonzola, & Pine Nuts

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in polenta and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook for 4 minutes or until thick, stirring often. Stir in butter. Pour polenta into a 9 inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of polenta. Chill polenta for 1 hour or until polenta is very firm. Cut into 2-inch squares or use a small cookie cutter to make shape of your choice.
  2. Combine diced pear, Gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, and honey in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add 1/2 inch olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, fry polenta pieces until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer fried polenta to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Transfer polenta to a serving platter. Top each polenta square with a rounded spoonful of the pear and Gorgonzola mixture and serve.
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13 Responses to “polenta with pear, gorgonzola, and pine nuts”

  1. 1
    Dawn Hutchins — December 16, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

    Loving this mixture! And I can sympathize. I had the same problem but I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous!

  2. 2
    Barbara @ Vino Luci Style — December 16, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

    I love this book even if years of cooking have made me more and more adventurous; inspiration comes in so many forms; why not a Bible! These look and sound fantastic. I just love pears and Gorgonzola together in almost any manifestation but sounds perfect with the two P’s!

  3. 3
    Joy — December 16, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    The stars are so festive and sweet! Good for you for becoming more adventurous. All of our experimenting was borne out of food intolerances and never having the right ingredient! I think it really takes something to push you to learn, whether it’s just a love of food or trying to be healthy and use whole food.

  4. 4
    Susan — December 16, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

    So pretty, so clever, and such a nice fit of flavors! Gee those guys who wrote that book seem to know what they’re talking about!

  5. 5
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 16, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

    I love your little polenta stars! They are so bright and beautiful… and so very wonderful to nibble on.

    Great, creative post!!!

  6. 6
    Nancy@acommunaltable — December 16, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

    I hope you are proud of yourself!! These are beautiful and I know they taste fabulous!!!
    I have been cooking for over 20 years and The Flavor Bible is also one of my favorite books – it’s a wonderful resource tool and a great way to check potential flavor combinations.

  7. 7
    Tes — December 17, 2010 @ 4:39 am

    The dish looks so stunning. It is such an inspiration. I love the combination of pear and pine nuts. It sounds so delightful 🙂

  8. 8
    Gail — December 17, 2010 @ 6:38 am

    Oh my. I don’t think I could have even waited to cut the stars out…..What a fantastic dish! I would have just cooked the polenta, added the everything to it, and sat down with a big bowl of pear, gorgonzola & pine nut comfort porridge. MMMMmm…

    And, can we talk about the scientific mind, please? That’s a baker’s mind, you know.

    Just sayin’…..

  9. 9
    Katie — December 18, 2010 @ 10:12 am

    Pretty! I love polenta and the fact that you shaped them like stars! YUM!

  10. 10
    Chris — December 18, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

    I like how you peared the flavors together with this one. (ha ha ha ha….yeah, that was bad)

    • 10.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — December 19, 2010 @ 9:22 am

      Chris – You gave me a chuckle. 🙂

  11. 11
    Kim at Life as a Foodie — December 18, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    Oh, I’d love to get my hands on a copy of that book. I suspect my creativity in the kitchen would get much better as well. I don’t cook much and I place a lot of that blame on not knowing what to use, how to use it, when to use it, or how much to use. I want to cook more but I lack the creativity like you did.

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check that out soon.

  12. 12
    Sasha — December 18, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    Wow, what a chic little appetizer. And great combination of flavors.

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