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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15 Responses to “beach vacation sangria”

  1. bunkycooks — August 16, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

    Sangria always hits the spot! I could use that beach vacation right about now!!! 🙂

  2. Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 16, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

    I tend to do white sangria in the summer, but this looks too wonderful to pass up. I could go for a nice beach vaca right now.

  3. Baking Serendipity — August 16, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

    There is nothing more amazing than sangria at the beach. Glad you had a good vacation!

  4. Barbara | Vino Luci Style — August 16, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    I tend to do white sangria too with peaches but I would have no problem with this version. I wonder if topping off each serving with the soda would help keep the batch for the next day as opposed to having it go flat and ruin the entire thing of beauty.

  5. Jason Phelps — August 16, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    I make this at home so I can think I am at the beach. Red or white, sangria is awesome!!!


  6. Macaroni Mama — August 16, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    Sangria on day two was worth it..It made my lips pucker, but sangria is sangria when you need a lift! Thanks, MJ for having it there.

  7. May Ling WU — August 17, 2010 @ 9:26 am

    Nothing like sangria on the beach!

  8. Jennie — August 17, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

    I’m in vacation countdown mode myself—leaving for Cape Cod this weekend. I’ll be somewhat in your neck of the woods at the end of September for the Food & Wine Festival at Disney 🙂

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — August 18th, 2010 @ 10:33 am

      Jennie – Cape Cod sounds amazing! Perhaps we’ll finally get to meet IRL at Epcot… 🙂

  9. Mark — August 18, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    It seems to me that the rinds are what makes Sangria bitter after a few days. I usually juice the fruit and only leave few whole slices for decoration. This way it only gets better with time.


    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — August 18th, 2010 @ 10:33 am

      Mark – I think you’re absolutely right. The bitterness on day 2 definitely seemed to come from the citrus rinds. In fact, I may give it a try again, but this time section the fruit and trash the rinds.

  10. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 19, 2010 @ 7:14 am

    One of my favourite drinks is sangria and this looks like a good recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Jessica — August 20, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    Sounds like you had a great time. Love the beautiful pictures, and this sangria looks quite delicious. Thanks for sharing with us!

  12. Susan — August 20, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

    You know, I had forgotten all about Sangria–and living here in Florida (I’m in Orlando), we can sure use something light and refreshing to drink during this amazingly hot summer…thank you for the reminder.

  13. Ivy @ My Simple Food — August 24, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    Hmmm..nice a good Sangria anytime!!

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