My children aren't normally picky eaters, so how could I possibly have raised a child who doesn't like potatoes in any shape or form? Sizzling hot French fries are out, my daughter says, mashed potatoes don't comfort and the crispy edges of gratins are happily left for others. She claims she is easy to please, readily eating rice, pasta or polenta whenever it is served.
On a recent rainy Sunday, I braised some lamb shanks and made a double batch of creamy polenta to serve alongside, a perfectly fine substitute that satisfied everyone. And I ended up with a pan of leftover polenta ready to cube for an easy weeknight dinner of polenta hash and grilled sausages.
In order to have enough polenta to make this hash, cook 1 3/4 cups of polenta, along with 1 teaspoon of salt, in 6 cups of simmering water. Stir continuously until thickened. When ready to serve, spoon out four portions of soft polenta. Spread the rest in a buttered jellyroll pan into a 10-inch square that's half an inch thick (it will not fill the pan). Cool, cover and refrigerate.
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes * Vegetarian
The polenta should be about a 10-inch square that's half an inch thick. A little hot pepper sauce is a fine accompaniment for those who like some heat.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 pan chilled cooked polenta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 large stalks celery, leaves removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a large, preferably non-stick, skillet over medium-high heat. Add the polenta and cook, stirring only as needed to maximize crisping, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and oregano to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring only as needed, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes longer. Add the thyme, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine and cook 1 minute longer. Serve immediately.
4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 234 calories; 539 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 4.42 grams fiber.
Morgan is author of "Cooking For The Week: Leisurely Weekend Cooking For Easy Weekday Meals," (Chronicle Books, $18.95).