Even though it seems like we eat at restaurants quite a bit (and we do- at least once a week!), we also do our fair share of cooking in our own kitchen. As you know, we preplan our dinners for the week before we go on our weekly shopping expedition. This helps immensely as a time saver when cooking every night. With our respective preliminary/comprehensive exams coming up (we're almost official PhD candidates!) things have been getting even busier, but we're not the types to resort to Chinese takeout or picking up a pizza on the way home. Instead, we work off some of our favorite foods as a starting point, and build quick, simple, yet still fresh and delicious meals from there.
This past week, A knew we had a couple of Trader Joe's Spicy Italian chicken sausages, as well as some totally amazing Natural Meadows farm free-range organic eggs from Maxx's ($5/dozen but I never knew a plain hard-boiled egg could be so insanely good). She decided to structure a "Breakfast Polenta" mixture around these ingredients, using this recipe (found on tastespotting.com, as per usual) as a rough sketch.
Delicious eggs- and multi-colored! So cute.
I got home a little early from the gym so I lent a helping hand- the multi-tasking of this meal was great for two people to make together. It took us less than a half hour to make from start to finish- perfect for a busy evening. A was already working on chopping the vegetables (which she prefers to do unassisted- my garlic chop is a little on the rough side...), so I started working on the polenta. I boiled 1.5 cups of water and 1.5 cups of chicken broth in our trusty saucepan while she sauteed a chopped green pepper and about half of a small head of broccoli with a few cloves of garlic.
Once my liquid was boiling, I slowly stirred in 1 cup of polenta (a gritty cornmeal if you've never had a run in with it) and turned the heat down to low. Cooking polenta takes a bit of attention, as it bubbles very thickly and needs to be stirred frequently. I also added a tablespoon of butter to add a little creaminess.
After the vegetables softened up a bit (about ten minutes), A added the chopped sausage to the mix. This gave us a few minutes to do some quick cleanup (don't forget about the polenta though!). When the sausage had a little brown around the edges, we added the veggies & meat to the polenta and gave it a good mix.
In the still-hot pan, A fried up another couple cloves of garlic and then tossed in an entire bag of baby spinach (my favorite!). These greens are super tender, so they were wilted in just a couple of minutes. To incorporate the eggs into the meal, she tried a technique that was new to us- cracking the eggs right on top of the spinach. She chose flat-ish, thinner areas of spinach so the eggs would hold together and be closer to the heat. Cover the pan with a lid (we used a big pot lid), and let the eggs cook through (about 5 minutes). You can tell they're done when all of the whites look, well, white! Give the pan a little jiggle to make sure they're solidifying nicely.
We added a little handful of a cheese blend to the polenta, gave it a quick stir to incorporate it in, and dinner was served! The polenta mixture was enough for three meals (leftovers for lunch are the best), especially with the addition of an egg and a pile of spinach.
As you can see, this meal was quick and simple- the only difficult thing here was timing the different components correctly, which can be said about any meal preparation. Not too many ingredients- just a good mix of vegetables, protein, fat, and a "typically-seen-on-a-breakfast-menu" cornmeal, which gave it some textural interest. The garlic in both parts of the dinner was a good melding flavor, and the slightly gooey egg was the "cherry on top!" Another great aspect of this meal is the variability and versatility- you can change just about everything about it to make something "new" or more fitting to your tastes. Use pre-cooked ground turkey or chopped ham as your meat, add zucchini, red peppers, onion or your favorite vegetable to the polenta, experiment with swiss chard or turnip greens instead of spinach, or mix in a Pepper Jack or Muenster cheese for a more significant flavor. Hopefully this inspires a few of you to experiment with something new!