Archive for the ‘American’ Category

Pressure-Cooker Polenta

I bought an Instant Pot multicooker on Cyber Monday. It’s a combination pressure cooker-slow cooker-rice cooker, yogurt maker and steamer and I’ve been using it, in some cases, to make foods I have never attempted before. One of the special features of a pressure cooker is that flavors are literally pushed into foods, so they come our tender and very tasty.

I recently made polenta for the first time. Polenta is coarse-grained, ground dried corn that you mix with liquids and other ingredients and usually have to cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, in order to rehydrate and flavor the corn. With the pressure cooker, it’s done in 15 minutes and the agitation of the liquid caused by the pressure eliminates the need for stirring.

So I started with a polenta recipe I had cut out of a magazine years ago. When it was done, the texture was good, but the flavor wasn’t quite where I wanted it, so I added a little more seasoning and some white balsamic vinegar to give it some spark. It was great.

polenta-roasted chicken-salad
I served the polenta with roast chicken and a simple green salad.

Fresh Corn Polenta

5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Penzeys Mural of Flavor or other all-purpose seasoning
2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 large ears)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Heat the broth or stock to simmering on the stovetop or in the microwave; this will make the dish come to presure more quickly.

Place the broth, polentaq, salt, sugar and seasoning in the Instant Pot liner. Close the lid and make sure the release valve is set to Pressure, then press the Manual button and change the time to 12 minutes by pressing the minus button.

When the beeper sounds, allow the cooker to release pressure naturally for 15 minutes, then release the pressure valve and remove the lid. Stir in the corn and mascarpone till cheese is melted. Add 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or vinegar if needed.

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Cool way to sample a lot of cuisines

I’m still going to dinner with friends almost every Wednesday evening, and this summer has been especially fun, because Ghent, the neighborhood in Norfolk where I work, has been the site of a Taste of Ghent event.

Every Wednesday during the summer, a group of restaurants has offered a fixed-price, three-course meal for $18. There is one or more appetizers to choose from, usually two main courses, and a dessert. So far, for me, the most memorable was at The New Belmont: a house salad; tempura-fried lobster tail with raspberry cream; and chocolate mousse. It was perfectly prepared and just delicious. Can’t beat that for $18.

Last week, we went to Amalfi, an Italian place, for another very good meal. I had a house salad with Italian dressing, chicken breast stuffed with spinach and fontina, and a cannoli dessert; Barbara and Liz both ordered salmon, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Barbara got the tiramisu and Liz ordered a Napoleon. We shared the desserts. Yummy!

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Catching up on dinners: No Frill Grill

I’ve been remiss in posting about my weekly dinners with friends. Last week, we went to the No Frill Grill. During the entire month of April, they’re having a special where, for every appetizer and dessert ordered, they will donate $1 to the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

So I went with four friends and we ordered five appetizers and two desserts. It was great, we all got plenty to eat, and did some good for the children’s hospital. The No Frill Grill is always a good value, but especially so this month. Dig in!

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Dessert at No Frill Bar & Grill

I forgot to mention that last Wednesday, at the No Frill Bar & Grill, we had the chocolate bourbon cake for dessert. It was wonderful – intense chocolate flavor, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. Definitely worth the calories.

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TNT Aug. 10 – No Frill Bar & Grill

On Wednesday, Aug. 10, my TNT weekly dinner group went to the No Frill Bar & Grill for dinner. Everyone liked what they ordered. The No Frill has been there for several years – I’ve been there many times, and always enjoyed the food. We are all glad they installed the noise-diminishing panels on the walls – it helps a lot when you want to actually talk to each other.

So here’s what we had:

  • I had a pork BBQ sandwich with cole slaw on top and corn and black bean salsa on the side – yummy
  • Barbara had fried catfish with pasta salad and potato salad. She ate it all, so it must have been good. Barbara has tried catfish everywhere around here, so if you’re looking for some good catfish, she’s the one to ask.
  • Susan had the pita quesadilla with a side of spinach. She really liked the quesadilla but was disappointed in the spinach – she thought it was overcooked.
  • Keith had, I believe, the smoked turkey and pastrami sandwich on sourdough bread, also with a side of spinach. He enjoyed it thoroughly and thought the spinach was just right. So you might like it, or you might not.
  • Karen had a small salad and the portabello mushroom appetizer. The appetizer was huge – the two together were more than enough for her. They looked great and tasted just as good, according to Karen.

So there you have it – except for one side, we all enjoyed everything. They do it right, which is why they’re always busy.

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It’s Wednesday! Time for TNT.

Since 2001, almost every Tuesday or Wednesday, I go out to dinner with a group of friends. It started as a way for a group of people who lived in the same condo complex to get to know each other. They invited other friends, who invited other friends, then people moved out, and the new people weren’t interested, etc. So now we have a different group of about eight people with a core of four who meet for dinner at a different restaurant each week.

It’s called TNT for Tuesday Night Tipplers. We used to go out on Tuesdays, but I had a class at Old Dominion University last spring that met on Tuesdays, so we changed it to Wednesdays, but TNT has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? 🙂

We stick to the Ghent and downtown areas of Norfolk, and sometimes we go across the river to Portsmouth. Tonight we’re going to the No Frill Grill in Ghent. Nice place – good food at good prices, casual atmosphere and outside dining. It’s too hot today to sit outside, though. The heat index is around 95.

Anyway, I’m going to use this blog to keep track of what we like and don’t like about where we go, so I’ll write more later about what we ate.

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