Fresh Polenta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Haddock

I had always supposed that fresh corn polenta would be a pain in the ass to make on my own, however, I learned otherwise while reading Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (finally available over here in the U.S., my wonderful sister-in-law sent it over from the U.K. last year for Christmas).  The recipe for the polenta was so simple and the result so delicious; it has become a new family favorite.  While I liked the eggplant sauce Ottolenghi pairs with the polenta, I found the preparation a little involved for regular, weeknight cooking.
The polenta part of this recipe is adapted from Plenty; the rest is my own recipe based on what looked good at the store that day.   This makes a great meal for a casual weeknight dinner party, especially since it is easy to prep the polenta days in advance.

If you are looking to get a head start on the week, make the polenta through step 5 and just stick the polenta in the fridge until you need it.  This will reduce the overall cooking time from about 1 hour to about ½ hour.  The polenta should keep 3-5 days.

I broke out the polenta preparation from the tomatoes and haddock, just to make it easy to take the polenta and combine it with whatever suits your fancy.

If you are looking for a vegan interpretation, the polenta is delicious and flavorful without the cheese or butter.  Grilled portabella mushrooms would be a perfect substitute for the haddock.


6 ears of corn, husk and silk removed, washed and dried

½ – ¾ cup goat cheese or feta cheese

2 Tbsp butter

salt and pepper to taste


2 lbs haddock

olive oil

smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce:

1 lb cherry tomatoes

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

olive oil

paprika, salt and pepper, to taste

if you have it, fresh basil, a few leaves roughly shredded

Polenta Preparation:


1. Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water.  Place on stove on high heat and bring to a boil.  Salt the water and turn the heat down to a rolling simmer.

2. Cut the kernels off the six ears of corn.  Rachel Ray suggests putting a small bowl upside down inside another bowl.  I think this sounds like a recipe for knife-ruining disaster, but hey, different strokes, right?  I have also seen folks securing the ear of corn in the center of a bundt pan.  That looks really easy; too bad I don’t own a bundt pan!

3. Once you have all the kernels cut off, put them in the simmering water.  Cook for 10 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, move the corn into a food processor.  Keep a cup of the starchy cooking water in case you need to thin the polenta.  Discard the rest of the liquid.

Left: cutting the corn off the cob Right: this is what the polenta will look like after processing

5. Process the corn for about 3-4 minutes.  If the corn is not blending easily, add a little of that starchy cooking liquid, a few tablespoons at a time.  The polenta will not become smooth; you just want to break down the kernels into a more batter-like consistency.  When the polenta reminds you of chunky yellow cake mix; you’ve got fresh polenta.

6. Return the polenta to the large saucepan.  Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the polenta thickens slightly.  Add the cheese and butter.  Cook another 2 minutes, or until the cheese and butter are melted and incorporated.  Season to taste.

Haddock and Tomato Sauce Preparation:

You can just see the tomatoes bursting; the sauce is ready!

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil.  Add the tomato paste.  Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic.  Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will be done when the tomatoes begin to burst and the onions and garlic are soft.  Season with paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat another skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil.

3. Dry the haddock with a paper towel.  Season with the paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness.

4. Spoon some polenta into the bottom of the bowl.  Top with a piece of haddock and some of the sauce.  If you have some handy, shred a little fresh basil on top of each dish.


Blue Stove at Nordstrom: Tapas in a Mall?

The exterior of a typical Nordstrom department...

Image via Wikipedia

Where do you go to eat in the mall when P.F. Chang’s and Legal Seafoods have hour-long waits and the Cheesecake Factory has limited options for food allergies?  Instead of heading to food court and trying to explain your food allergy to people that don’t understand or care, head to Nordstrom.

Some people look into online
when they just can’t find a restaurant that suits all
their needs and want to refine their specialty culinary skills.

Nordstrom has several different concepts for the restaurants in their stores.  Some, like the North Shore and Natick Malls have a café with typical café fare such as steak frites and salads.  I, however, prefer the Blue Stove, a tapas style restaurant at the Burlington Mall (if that location is inconvenient, you can go onto their website and find which stores have which style of restaurant).

Blue Stove is a good place to grab a quick, quiet meal.  Tapas portions are generally on the small side.  I am not a big eater, so the portions here are perfect (I suggest starting with two or three dishes per person depending on your appetite).

The venue is dimly lit and comfortable, if a little impersonal, it is at least dim enough that the boring décor is not really an issue.  Blue Stove is never crowded.  It is hidden in the back of the store, so I have never seen a line for a table or the restaurant even more than half-full.

The service is generally good, not exceptional, but always pleasant.  Blue Stove does not have a gluten-free menu, however, all the staff I have encountered there have been well- trained on the menu and understand food allergies very well.  Some can even asterisk gluten-free items off the top of their heads.

I have tried probably about half the menu by now, but one of the nice things about Blue Stove is that some menu items change with the seasons, so while the menu is small, there are changes often enough to keep it is interesting.

Last time we were there, I had:

The parmesan polenta salad, which is good.  The polenta is warm and crunchy on the outside, while still being creamy in the middle.  The rest of the salad is a little plain, but the salad is simply dressed and the parmesan cheese always makes everything better.  I wish they sold the polenta bites solo with some marinara dipping sauce.

The goat cheese and beet salad is nice.  When you order the gluten-free version, they do not bread and fry the goat cheese, but it is still good.  The beets are shaved and they plate up a variety of golden and regular red beets, so there are a lot of flavors on that one little plate.

When I ordered the grilled chicken and corn salad with arugula, I didn’t realize the dish was a salad, since it was not listed in the salad section.  When you say chicken with arugula, I expect to be served chicken with an arugula garnish, not a salad with a few tiny chunks of greasy chicken sitting sadly on top.  This was probably the most disappointing dish I have ever had a Blue Stove.  The chicken skin was greasy and lumpy.  The meat was dark meat, which is fine, but it requires something acidic or spicy to cut through the greasier, gamier dark meat.  This was a boring, unappealing dish.

The sweet potato fries are gluten-free and they are delicious.  We always order these and end up fighting over the last few fries.  The fries a sweet and crunchy and I really like the cilantro aioli.

Overall, I highly recommend the Nordstrom cafes, no matter which style of restaurant is at your local Nordstrom.  Every Nordstrom I have been to has been knowledgeable about gluten and other food allergies and happy find suitable dishes.

Gluten Allergy Friendly: this restaurant does not have a gf menu, but the staff are well trained and there are several options.

Food Taste & Quality: the food is hit or miss in the flavor category, but the quality is nice.

T.W. Food Brunch, Great Music, Great Food, Great Way to Spend a Sunday Morning

T.W. Food is amazing.  Located in North Cambridge, about ¾ of a mile away from Harvard Square, near Huron Village, the restaurant has a lovely homey, dining room with exposed brick walls and understated decor.  I like that the dining room is intimate, there are fewer than 20 tables in the restaurant. 

This is also a locavore / foodie heaven: T.W. Food sources locally and celebrates the produce of the region and season.  I am impressed by the simple, inventive ways they highlight New England proteins and produce. provide
options for cooking and culinary classes for those who want to further
educate themselves in cooking.

Recently, T.W. Food began offering a jazz brunch on the weekends.  So I headed over on a recent rainy Saturday with a foodie friend to check out the brunch menu.

Of course, the musicians need some floor space, which in this venue, means diners are up close and personal with the band.  We were seated closest to the band, which was ok, since they weren’t deafening, but it did make it a little hard for me to hear my friend speak.  If you sit further from the band, you will be able to speak normally.  If you are going for the jazz, then this is the perfect table.

The only other unfortunate thing about our meal was again related to the placement of our table: the a/c unit was blowing constantly, right on me, throughout the meal.  I should say two things: 1) I didn’t ask the a/c to be turned down because the rest of the room was ok and because 2) I am always cold anytime a/c is on.  In fact, while I write this, poor Husband is trying to cool off and I am hiding under blankets.

The service was excellent.  We were seated immediately.  The staff was very pleasant and attentive.  After we ordered our coffee, I asked our waitress about appropriate gluten-free options.  She was able to point out every item on the menu off the top of her head, which was suitable or could easily be modified for my food allergy.  Except for the obvious villains of fried chicken, pancakes, toast etc, I could have everything else on the menu and they were happy to make substitutions of home fries instead of toast.

My friend ordered the buttermilk-fried chicken served with flash-fried kale.  I ordered the goat cheese omelet with beets and beet greens.  We split an order of fresh, homemade sausages.

You eat with the eyes first, right?  When our dishes were put down in front of us, we were both just happy to stop and look at the food for a minute.  The plating is simple and really restrained, but appealing.

My omelet was incredible.  The beet greens were perfectly cooked, just a little bit crispy.  I loved that they retained just a touch of bitterness, which was a nice counterpoint to the sweet beets and the creamy omelet. The goat cheese was rich and tangy.  The potatoes were great; some were a bit crispy and others just perfectly soft.

The sausages were really good.  They had a simple, salt and pepper flavor to them.  They were savory without being thirst inducing.  I liked that some came out as patties and others as more traditional links.  They were a fantastic complement to the omelet.

My friend enjoyed her chicken, but was really taken with the fried kale.  She said it was crispy and really flavorful.

After we filled ourselves to the brim, the waitress brought over some beautiful Madeline’s with our bill (certainly softens the blow of receiving a check).  I asked if they were ok for me to eat.  She said no, but she would be right back.  She returned moments later with two small meringue cookies.  They were so cute and were the perfect accompaniment for my last cup of coffee.

The prices here are very reasonable, especially considering the quality of the meal, the great service and wonderful jazz music.  It worked out to be about 3 dollars more than brunch at the Cheesecake Factory.  Worth every penny (and more).  This is a really special restaurant and I can’t wait to go back for dinner.

I give this restaurant 5 stars for both their food and their ability to accommodate gluten allergies.