Polenta with Talegio Cheese ala Year on the Grill via “the Long Quiche Goodbye”

Good Morning…

I’m older than dirt, but learning every day.

But, I am too lazy, too unfocused and too undisciplined to go back to school (don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but that’s another story).

I am a BIG fan of murder mysteries and what I like to call “Gentle Learning”.  here’s what I wrote just a couple days ago…
(3 is a magic number).

There is a NEW murder mystery series just released.  I can’t imagine anything more exciting than an authors first published book.  Avery Aames has authored, “The Long Quiche Goodbye”.  That’s the first in a planned series of books set in the cheese shop (Fromagerie Bessesse is the actual name, but everyone in town calls it “The cheese Shop”).

I was very excited when I first heard of Avery’s book.  First, she is “one of us”.  Some of you may know her as one of the Six merry murderesses from The Mystery Lover’s Kitchen.  All six of the contributing authors of the blog are published authors, all mysteries, and all their books have food themes, most with recipes included in their books.  The blog posts daily, with recipes and glimpses into their lives.  Fun daily read (and for contest whores fans among us, they have more give aways than any other blog I know of… but I digress).  My fellow bloggers out there, if/when you get a book deal, sign me up as the first to buy.  We should support our own!

But my new found blog buddy’s setting for the series really turned my crank.  I am pretty good with basic cheese knowledge.  I no longer buy bags of shredded cheese (the more air that gets to the cheese, the faster it losses it’s taste and goes bad, shredding adds surface area, so more air gets to the cheese… buy the bricks and shred yourself, cheaper, tastes better and stays fresh longer… but I digress).  I also buy “real” cheese, and not the low fat versions (half the amount of “real” cheese will add a fuller flavor than twice the amount of the less tasty substitute.  Half the amount is the tastiest way to cut the calories, not pretending you are getting the same taste… But now I am ranting and digressing… Back to “the long Quiche Goodbye”).  But aside from the basics, I still buy most of my cheeses from the tiny cheese section of my store.  My knowledge of better quality cheeses is lacking.  Much the way people of my generation still hum “3 is a magic number”, soft education is a great way to learn without the burden of schooling (extra points if you caught the “Schoolhouse Rocks” reference.  That’s where I was gently educated about math, while watching the Wonder Twins powers activate.  

Do you think the “Cheese Shop Mystery series” will do for cheese what Schoolhouse Rock did to teach me how a bill becomes a law???).  

And sure enough, in one of the recipes Avery provides in the book, I traveled to the only cheese shop on the island and found a new (well, it is at least 11 centuries old, but new to me) cheese… Taleggio Cheese 

And WHOOP de DO, do I ever LOVE Taleggio Cheese!  Think Brie with an attitude. Taleggio melts like brie, so I imagine just about any recipe you have for brie you can sub Taleggio.  But where Brie is a mild gentle cheese, Taleggio will take you down, slap you around and leave you begging for more.  I did a little research (see, learning every day) and found that Taleggio is more related to Limburger (the stinky one) than Brie.  While this doesn’t stink, it certainly does have an oder.  Strong earth scents, makes for a strong nutty taste.

Hunting the cheese down was surprisingly easy.  There is one and only one specialty cheese shop on the island. Center shelf, center of the shelf, and there it was!  I asked the cheese monger for a sample, and was in love. Surprisingly cheap, $16 for a pound, I only needed a small amount (the recipe calls for a garnish of the cheese, so no more than 1/8th pound really needed if you follow the recipe (of course, I didn’t)).  I bought 1/2 a pound, planning to use it for several recipes during the week.

Aren’t cheese shops wonderful places… Just ask, and they will happily slice you off a sample of something that sounds interesting.  I feel a little guilty that it has taken so long for me to leave the safety of the big grocery store here, with their sampling of maybe 7 or 8 cheeses.  Be a cook, don’t be intimidated… Find something new!

OK… Time for the recipe…

First, here’s Avery’s version from The Mystery Lover’s Kitchen.
[6-8 portions]
4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 cup polenta corn meal

1 cup fresh basil leaves separated

2-4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz. Taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
Bring water and salt to a boil.
Add polenta corn meal in a thin stream. Keep stirring until corn meal pulls away from sides of pan. (No lumps)Turn down heat to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
While it is cooking, stir-fry the basil in olive oil until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Spoon hot polenta on to each plate. Lay a couple of slices of Taleggio cheese on each portion and finish with the fried basil.
I just couldn’t resist…

Here’s my changes, I LOVE polenta.  But, on it’s own, it doesn’t have much of a taste.  Looking over the recipe, the polenta Avery puts out is unflavored.  She is more generous with the slices of cheese.  It does melt fast and well, so her polenta will certainly have that strong earthy taste I talked about.

But I wanted my flavor in the polenta, not topped…

First, I wanted a stronger Basil taste than just a garnish.  Here’s a Bobby Flay trick to slice thin strips of basil leaves…

Gather a half dozen basil leaves…

Lay them one on top of the other and roll into a tight tube.

Slice the tube lengthwise in half.

Cut thin strip from the end and in less than a minute, nicely cut thin strip of Basil that goes right into the polenta as it cooks…

I also wanted a stronger taste of the cheese.

It melts just fine.

So I added 1/4 pound of the cheese right into the cooking polenta (see top left photo).

I continued to stir during the cooking process… And it all mixed perfectly!

One other suggestion, Polenta cuts nicely.  If you have cookie cutters, they can be used to make nice shapes.  Or, if you don’t have cookie cutters, I just used a glass to get nice round shape.

I served this on a bed of OHIO PESTO, made with walnuts.  This also has a stronger, earthier, nuttier taste than pine nut pesto.  Complimented the cheese perfectly!

I served this up with some Sea Scallops wrapped in Mango Glazed Bacon

Oh MY!

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  


And so can you!