Confetti Polenta and Where Babies Come From…

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Chris, at Mele Cotte, says I make her smile! Smileaward

That makes me smile!

Thank you, thank you!

When she so kindly gave me this lovely award I thought I must write something special, to prove my worth, as it were. 

Naturally, my mind went completely blank.

Then I read this post on Jaden's Steamy Kitchen and her mention of kids, food and making a mess, reminded me of this incident.  It still makes me smile when I remember it….

We were having dinner at a gorgeous country house hotel in the south of France.  It was a beautiful, warm summer evening and dinner was on a stepped terrace on the hillside sloping down from the hotel.  We had views looking into the sunset over acres of vineyards.  The candles were flickering in a light breeze; the women were in flowing sun dresses with the 'de rigueur'  pashmina draped over the chair arm; the men in subtle silk shirts.  It was picture perfect!

There were only 6 or 7 tables and in the quiet evening there was just a low hum of conversation interspersed with the tinkling of silverware.

At one of the tables was an American couple with two young boys, close in age, between 7 and 10 years old.  They had obviously been given the strictest orders to be on their best behavior.  They carefully watched to see which utensil to use, which hand to hold it in, discussing with each other how to point the fork or knife.  They moved their bread from the tablecloth to their plate, then back to the tablecloth when they noticed the French couple next to them left their bread on the cloth.  Of course, the boys bread was full of sauce by this time…

They must have been admonished to stay neat.  They dabbed their lips before drinking water from the goblets and always wiped their fingers (after licking them) before smoothing the linen napkin back on their laps.

They did so well, for so long…. until the cheese was served.   

I'm guessing after eating cubes of Swiss and Cheddar with their fingers for their whole young lives, the runny, smelly French cheeses were beyond strange.  Fingers didn't work (and dad frowned at the attempt) and it was difficult to keep the cheese on the fork.  Finally, the younger one used his knife to scoop the cheese onto his bread.  Very good!

Except that after every bite, remembering the admonition to be neat, he wiped his knife on his napkin.  By the time the cheese was finished, and the dessert served, he was left with a sticky, smelly ball of linen and cheese – and nowhere to put it.  We could tell he was considering tossing it down the hillside when the waiter noticed his dilemma and  rescued him.

Still, we had all gotten through a 5 course dinner without a loud incident; no running, screaming or refusal to eat.

But young boys can only be so good.  After some giggling discussion between the two, an agreement seemed to be reached. 

In the silence, over coffee, as the now-replete diners were enjoying the quiet of the evening, a young voice rang clearly:

"Daddy, how do you make babies?"  came from the elder.

All conversation on the terrace ceased.

"You promised to tell!" chimed in the younger.

We all waited, in silence.

Dad looked around.  No help, anywhere. 

The French couple gave an expectant "Oui?"

The Spanish couple lifted their glasses in salute.

The entire adult population of the terrace, including staff, looked , expectantly, at Dad.  And waited.

Dad finally spoke: "This isn't really the place…"

"But you promised!"  "Please!!!"  "We really want to know!?!?"

The diners joined the chorus: "Yes, please."  "Do tell!"  "Aw, come on, tell"  "We'll be good."

Yes, we ALL wanted to hear…

Good behavior is not always destined to last…..

Smiles, on the other hand…..

Those of you who are regular readers may have noticed my fondness for first courses.  Easily a third of the recipes I post are for starters.

The reasons are simple: 
If I'm going to do something fussy I'd rather do it for the first course when appetites are more appreciative…and If it's not perfect I can still redeem myself with the main course.
Most of my first courses are all, or mostly, vegetables.  I can combine flavors and do interesting treatments in a first course that I wouldn't do in a side dish.
And, last, it gives me an excuse to sit down and have a glass of champagne or a nice white wine while the main course finishes cooking itself.

Unlike most Europeans we do not always have a first course: I reserve it for the weekends, when I still, out of long habit, make the nicer, fancier, more gourmet dinners. 

Sometimes, they just look fussy….

Confetti Polenta with Tomato Prosciutto Sauce Comfetti

1 carrot
1 stalk (rib) celery
1/2 medium onion
1 tsp olive oil
hand full spinach leaves, (2oz, 60gr)
7 – 10 olives, black or green
1/2 cup polenta I used quick cooking
1 7/8 cups stock (2 cups minus 2 tbs)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Tomato Prosciutto Sauce

Finely chop onion, celery and carrot.  Heat oil in nonstick skillet.  Add carrot, onion and celery and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Slice olives.  Using a scissors, cut the spinach leaves into fine strips.  Heat stock in saucepan.  When boiling, pour in polenta, whisking constantly – or it will have little volcanic eruptions spewing polenta all over your stove.  Turn heat down and cook about 5 minutes (or whatever your package tells you), stirring constantly.  When done stir in cheese, vegetables and olives, distributing evenly.  Lightly oil a bread pan, size doesn't matter.  With a rubber spatula, scoop polenta into one end of the bread pan – tilt the pan and prop it so the polenta stays put.  Smooth the top and exposed end.  Cover with film and let cool.
To Serve:  Slice the Polenta Loaf, 2 – 3 slices per person (1/3", 1 cm thick).  Arrange nicely on a plate. Divide sauce and add to plate. Serve.  I sliced and fried the leftover and served with soup the next day – intentional leftovers 😉

Tomato Prosciutto Sauce
1/4 medium onion, about 1/4 cupPolentaserved

4 slices Prosciutto, (3oz, 90gr) Serrano, Bayonne,
2 tsp olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes, (15oz, 450gr)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil

Finely chop the onion.  Roughly chop the Prosciutto.  Heat olive oil in medium, skillet.  Add onion and ham and sauté until onion is transparent.  Add tomatoes and herbs, reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.  It should be chunky and thick.

I used half of the sauce on the Egg 'Noodles' (see photo on previous post)

Now, I'm meant to pass on the "You Make Me Smile Award"

I can't do it.  I thought about.  Then I thought some more. 

There are so many wonderful blogs that I read regularly because they make me smile and brighten my day; I just couldn't single out five….so just go check out my blogroll – it'll make you smile, too!

28 thoughts on “Confetti Polenta and Where Babies Come From…”

  1. I like your confetti polenta: what a neat idea. I always make sure to have leftover polenta when I make it, because you can make so many things to go with a slice of polenta.

  2. Lovely! and you do so often make me smile and often laugh. That is a totally fabulous story about the brothers! Oddly it reminds me of a night in England at a wonderful B&B with our two boys. We’d prepped and primed them for just such an evening. But when we went for dinner our hostess first asked the boys if they’d like to have dinner in the garden with her son while we had dinner on the terrace . . . I was stunned and my husband & I had an incredible evening by ourselves . . . a totally rare dinner!
    I love this polenta. Last year I has some something like this and at some point I put some slices in my pannini grill and came out with delightful toasty almost chip like polenta that I topped with stuffed peppers. . . super good.

  3. Katie, you are a super woman to cook so many courses! I normally just have one main for dinner, even for weekend sometimes. 🙂 The polenta looks really nice. I love the sound of it.

  4. Your story is wonderful, as usual. And your polenta looks fantastic. My polenta never seems to firm up, I wonder what I am doing wrong?

  5. Thanks for the smile and we don’t do two courses all the time either, this looks tempting though! I have taken out my polenta flour with the intention of making something…

  6. P.S. If you’d be willing to email me the name and contact info for that inn/restaurant, I’d love it – I’m planning a trip to that part of the world and it sounds delightful!

  7. I loved the story about the children in the restaurant in France. I remember the days of very young children in any restaurant of any kind! I love the varying flavours also of the polenta!!

  8. Simona, I am just learning about the value of cold polenta 😉
    Peter, glad to be of service – about the thinking…
    Anna, very much like bread. I fried the leftovers and had them with soup.
    Lydia, I laugh every time I think about. His voice was just so perfect!
    Tanna, what a wonderful and thoughtful hostess! Your sons probably appreciated it even more than you! Grilled polenta, yum!
    Pam, you put less water/stock in, if you are planning on having it ‘firm’ ….or more if you want it soft…all relative, eh?
    Anh, I have so much fun with the starters, and I love to eat…. Only one course during the week, though…and one night just with the weekend leftovers.
    Betty, Annie Hall – I loved that movie!
    Zoomie, it was fun – and I sent it….
    Valli, I think everyone has ‘young children’ stories… They’re funnier when the children aren’t your own!
    Thanks, Elizabeth, I love pretty food….the black olives kind of bled, though…Might use green next time!

  9. That looks amazing Katie. I adore polenta and I love your version here stuffed with goodies! Cute story as well – I always enjoy your stories!

  10. Congratulations on your award!
    Cute story too. I don’t know who I feel sorry for, the boy or the parents 🙂

  11. Belive it or not Katie, I have never made polenta! I have seen so many recipes for it, but never seem to get around to it. I just may have to try yours it looks so good!

  12. Katie, I love the way you whet the appetite with your stories. You absolutely make people smile!
    By the way . . . if you haven’t already, please check out http://www.generouspour.com to help Clos du Bois raise money for Share Our Strength. You don’t have to buy anything, pay anything or even do anything — other than download a cool song by Corinne Bailey Rae. Another thing to make you smile . . . Thanks!

  13. Thanks, Jenn, I was pleased with the way the polenta turned out!
    Kelly, thanks! Definitely feel sorry for dad!
    Aw shucks, thanks Christine! 😉
    Thanks, Mike!
    Deb, and it’s so easy! Of course I’ve never made the slow-cooking, stir for 45 minutes kind!
    Thank you, Maryann!
    Swirlingnotions, I will definitely do that – always happy to help!

  14. I love polenta. I never had it till my ex-boyfriend’s grandmother made it for dinner one night and it was love at first bite. Your picture looks absolutely delicious. I’ve tried other recipes that don’t include other ingredients but I always enjoyed hers because she did. I’m going to have to try my hands at your recipe. Thanks.

  15. Well I haven’t tried the recipe yet but I had to come back and say I love the Make Me Smile Award. I love how the words “You Lift Me Up” make up picture. Too cute. Love it. Made my day. 🙂

  16. Great story and Katie, I admit it, I always leave your site with a smile…and a great recipe. Thanks for sharing and you deserve the smile award.

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