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.
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
- 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.
- Combine diced pear, Gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, and honey in a small bowl and set aside.
- 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.