Have you ever wanted to visit the French Riviera? Get your hands on a copy of Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera by Hillary Davis and you’ll feel like you are there.
Hillary, creator of Marché Dimanche, and I met online when we both were selected to participate in Patricia Wells’ Salad as a Meal Challenge, but then we met in real life too. The Grillmaster, Hillary and I hit it off over a table full of Italian food in Manchester, New Hampshire a couple of years ago.
When I learned that Hillary had written a cookbook about healthy French cooking, I assumed I would love it. When UPS delivered the book, I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. The Grillmaster was speechless when I showed him the cover. I know I was biased going in, but the beauty of the photographs combined with the way Hillary brings to life the people she met while living in the French Riviera for more than 11 years and the variety of healthy recipes using fresh ingredients absolutely blew me away.
It’s so nice when a friend asks you for a critique and you honestly only have positive things to say!
One of the first recipes we tried from Cuisine Niçoise was this Broccoli Polenta with Tomato Sauce. The Grillmaster and I split up the cooking tasks. I made the tomato sauce. The Grillmaster isn’t always the most patient cook, so I was a tad bit worried when he offered to tackle the polenta. I was tired and my comfy chair was calling me, though, so I told him to go for it.
I didn’t hear a single curse word and there was no banging of spoons or stomping across the kitchen. That told me two things: Hillary’s directions were easy to follow and the Grillmaster was able to find everything he needed in the kitchen.
The Broccoli Polenta turned out beautifully – the Grillmaster did a fabulous job. The tomato sauce was fresh and I loved Hillary’s suggestion to run it through a sieve so it was smooth and there were no pesky skins in the final version.
I highly recommend this recipe and this book. I’ll share another recipe from Cuisine Niçoise next week. A few of my Virtual Potluck friends are cooking from the book too. So far Miss in the Kitchen has made Fresh Herb Cheese with Honey and Toast and Cookistry cooked up a Bouquet of Broccoli. Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine will be whipping up something soon too.
I’m giving away a copy of Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera by Hillary Davis. To enter, leave a comment and tell me what you would eat first if you went to France. The contest will run through Friday, September 27, 2013. The winner will be chosen at random on Saturday, September 28, 2013. You must be at least 18 years of age with a U.S. mailing address to win. No purchase is necessary; void where prohibited. The winner will be notified by email and must respond within 24 hours or another winner may be selected. (Please make sure email from firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t end up in your spam folder.)
UPDATE: The contest is now CLOSED. Congratulations to Nikki, who won a copy of Cuisine Niçoise.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera by Hillary Davis from Gibbs Smith plus a second copy to give away. All opinions are my own.
Broccoli Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Reprinted with permission from Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera by Hillary Davis
Anyone with a backyard has a multicolored vegetable garden with a good supply of Swiss chard, the vegetable of preference in the region, which finds its way into absolutely everything, from omelettes to desserts. Violet-tipped baby artichokes, brilliant orange and yellow zucchini flowers, baby spinach, fennel, gleaming eggplant, potatoes, vibrant green and red peppers, onions and tender carrots are also found in most gardens as well as in the many open-air markets.
This recipe for broccoli and polenta makes a full meal and is excellent with a simple salad.
FOR THE BROCCOLI POLENTA
6 cups water
2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal, corn grits or polenta
1 cup raw broccoli florets, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-1/2 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Oil a 10 x 14-inch baking dish, line it with plastic wrap, and oil the plastic wrap.
Bring the water to a boil in a deep saucepan and whisk in the cornmeal in a steady stream to prevent clumping. Turn heat down to low and cook for 15 minutes, whisking frequently to aerate and turn the mixture over. It will pop and splatter, so be careful. Don’t worry if it also sticks to the bottom; this is normal and it will soak off later.
Switch to a wooden spoon, still over very low heat, and cook and stir frequently for another 10 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. Add the broccoli, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes, until very dry and stiff and the polenta is pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Scoop it into the lined baking dish, spreading evenly with a wet or oiled spatula. Wet your hands, and pat the mixture down with your palms to smooth out the top. Allow to cool, within 10 minutes it will be ready to cut. Lift with the plastic wrap, place the polenta on a cutting board, and slice into squares to yield the maximum amount of pieces. If you use a 3-inch glass or cookie cutter, it will yield 8 round pieces.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook the onions until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes.
Over a bowl or saucepan, drain the tomato sauce through a sieve, pushing the solids down with a spoon until you have a smooth tomato sauce beneath. Or you can put it through a food mill.
Ladle some of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the polenta slices in one layer. Lay the polenta pieces on top. Ladle tomato sauce over them. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes.
Makes 6 servings (12 squares)
Per serving (2 squares): 346 calories, 11g fat (4g sat), 15mg cholesterol, 1,230mg sodium, 50g carb, 6g fiber, 9g sugar, 13g protein
Nutritional Analysis: If you are watching your Sodium intake, cut back on the amount of salt used in the polenta and in the sauce and/or reduce the amount of Parmesan cheese.