Pretty polenta

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I feel like polenta is often forgotten when meal planning and I don’t know why. It is so good and relatively easy to make. I started developing this recipe years ago for my first food blog venture. Since then, I have made it many times and it has proven to be a crowd favorite. It is light, even with all the bacon and butter, yet tremendously satisfying. I’m also not sure if ragu is the right word for the vegetable mixture in this recipe but it seemed to convey the rich flavor and saucy texture of the vegetables when they are cooked. If there is another word for this type of vegetable mixture, definitely let me know. The whole dish comes together pretty easily, yet looks (and tastes) fancy (hello date night!). I hope you try it and let me know what you think ☺

Polenta with bacon and caramelized onion vegetable ragu (Serves 4-5)

Ingredients

Polenta

3 C water

½ t salt plus more to taste if needed

1 cup polenta (I used this)

3/8 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 T unsalted butter

4-5 slices of bacon cut into small bits

Vegetable ragu

1 large onion

4-5 T unsalted butter

2 medium zucchinis

1 can diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

 

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Make the polenta

Sauté bacon bits in a pan until crisp. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. I happen to have a small casserole/loaf pan that just fits the amount of polenta made in this recipe but I think you could use almost any shape container as long as it isn’t too wide or tall. The idea is to create a solid block of polenta that can be cut into separate serving portions.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium stock pot. Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water, stirring all the time. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook polenta for approximately 30 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (Note: this is what the package said. My stove runs very hot at the lowest temp so I ended up only cooking the polenta for about 15 minutes). The mixture will be thick and sticky. Stir in the butter, parmesan and bacon. Add additional salt to taste. Scoop polenta mixture into the greased loaf pan and pat it down/smooth it out to fill the edges so you have an even “loaf” of polenta. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

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Make the vegetable ragu

Slice the zucchini into thin rounds. I used the little slicer on the side of my cheese grater, but you can use a mandolin or other slicer. Set aside.

Cut onion in half lengthwise then slice into half circles.

I once read that it is important to use unsalted butter when you are caramelizing onions because the salt interferes with the caramelization process, so that’s what I do and it seems to work well. Melt 2 T unsalted butter in a medium stock pot over low heat. Add the onion and toss to coat. Add the remaining butter. Keep cooking the onion over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown (and smells caramelly). This can take a little while, but be sure to keep the heat low. You don’t want to burn the onion before it caramelizes. You can add more unsalted butter if it seems like the onion is sticking to the pan.

Once the onion is caramelized, add the zucchini to the pot and stir to coat with onions. Saute for a minute or two then add the can of tomatoes and mix to combine mixture. Simmer over low heat until the zucchini is just cooked through. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Plating

Turn out the polenta loaf onto a cutting board. Divided into four-five even servings. The shape will be dependent on the shape of your container. I used two slices per serving. Arrange your slices of polenta on a plate and top with the warm vegetable mixture. Garnish with some flakes of parmesan and a sprig of basil if you like. Enjoy!

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I had mine with a glass of rosé and I wasn’t upset ☺ This dish reheats very well, and I’m saying this as a person who doesn’t love leftovers. It is also versatile. If vegetables aren’t your thing, or you don’t have time to make the ragu, you can serve the polenta it with a simple red sauce. I was cooking with vegetable-averse person in mind when I made this, so I just reserved some of the caramelized onions for her (before adding the zucchini and tomato) and she ate them on top of the polenta with some parmesan cheese. One final note: If you want to take this dish a step further you can bake the polenta after you take it out of the loaf pan. Just cut it in to desired portions, place on a lightly greased baking sheet, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees until slightly crispy and lightly browned.

xoxo Anna

Au revoir spring

 

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Skirt, Madewell, here; Shoes, here; Tote bag, here; Shirt, H&M; Earrings, Old Navy

It’s been hot (like for-real summer) in New York City for the past week or so, which makes sense because summer solstice is only a few days away. There’s something about summer in the city that is so sexy. Time to break out the dresses and short skirts!

This denim skirt is from Madewell. I haven’t shopped there much as I think I was intimidated, maybe by the price point or because I thought the clothes wouldn’t fit… who knows… but I think I am going to shop there more in the future. From the research I did, it seems that Madewell is not considered a fast-fashion brand as they produce a smaller product line, so I feel slightly more comfortable shopping there. I kept this look simple by pairing the skirt with a white shirt, a pair of black heels and gold hoops.

And then there was this tote! I don’t know what it is about this bag, but it just makes me giggle. A friend at work came back with it from a sample sale around the corner. I hurried over to buy one myself. I felt pretty dumb running for a tote bag, but was happy because I got the last one. I haven’t heard of this brand before, but in addition to several similar totes with different sayings (I got one for a friend that says, “Nobody likes a shady beach.” 😉 Ain’t that the truth!) they had a variety of cute straw bags and clutches at the sample sale.

 

I’ve been doing some research on ethical clothing brands and I found that several great lists have already been compiled by other people. Guys, there is so much information out there! I got lost exploring the options. Many brands are surprisingly affordable, and surprisingly stylish. I think I expected to have to wade through a lot of high-price, low-style options before I got to something that felt right. But that was not the case at all. The range of styles and price points is vast. I learned about many new companies, and also found that some of my old standbys had ethical clothing options as well. I was aware of H&M’s Conscious line, but didn’t know that Urban Outfitters and ASOS have similar options. I ordered some items and will be featuring them in coming weeks. Can’t wait to share!

If you are interested, I found the following articles, here, here, and here to be helpful.

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Nice and Paris highlights

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Cap D’Ail
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Salade Nicoise

From Dublin, I made my way to Nice, France. You can read about my time in Ireland here. I was originally supposed to meet a friend in Nice but because of a travel snafu, I ended up flying solo for my week on the French Riviera. Here are my favorite moments…

Watching locals jumping off the pier at Castel Plage

I spent a lot of my time in Nice at the beach. Following tips I read on the internet, I splurged on private beaches. The going rate for a towel and beach chair was around 20 euros for the day. Since I was alone, it allowed me to safely leave my belongings on my chair and go for a swim. On my first day I went to Castel Plage, conveniently located at the end of the Promenade des Anglais. I felt pretty chic sunning on my beach chair, drinking mojitos and watching acrobatic locals jumping of a nearby rock outcrop. My only complaint (really more of an annoyance with myself) was that I kept forgetting to bring reading material. Oh well, I guess I’ll get another mojito and people-watch some more! Most beaches in and around Nice are composed of pebbles of varying sizes. Some are large, like rocks, and some a tiny and more like sand. Castel Plage had the first, making it a little uncomfortable to get in and out of the water. My favorite beach for swimming was Beaulieu-sur-mer, which I went to on my second day. This was a tiny pebble beach and was very comfortable to walk on. After Beaulieu, I visited Villefranche-sur-mer which has a lovely old town. I had an excellent dinner at Les Garcons followed by coconut gelato overlooking the harbor.

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Fresh vegetables at the market in Nice
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Eating socca and farcis

Socca is a crispy, thin chickpea pancake and a traditional street food in Nice. Farcis is vegetables (I had tomatoes and zucchini) stuffed with a ground meat mixture. I sampled both of these classics at Lou Pilha Leva at Place Centrale. After ordering at the counter I settled at one of the communal outdoor tables to eat, where I was immediately engaged in conversation by the other guests. I had a fun time practicing my French with actual French people in actual France 🙂

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View from the citadel in Entrevaux

A rainy day in Entrevaux

The Train des Pigne runs from Nice through Haute Province to Digne-Les-Bains. I decided to take the train to Entreveaux, a small medieval town along the route. The views along the way were magnificent. Entreveaux itself is a sweet, little walled village with winding, narrow streets and a high citadel. For a small price you can take a self-guided tour of the ramparts and visit the citadel. The ramparts contain a strange, somewhat comical museum of sorts which has dioramas about the history of the town. It started to rain while I was exploring. I dodged into a small shop to avoid the rain and ended up having an extended and lovely conversation with the shop owner in broken French. When the rain subsided I hiked to the top of the citadel and explored the ruins. It was quite a hike, but well worth it for the views and the citadel itself. There were no restaurants open inside the town so I ended the day at a small café across the street from the entry bridge. They were not serving dinner but the shop owner made me the most delicious jambon et beurre avec cornichons (ham and butter with pickles) and I sat on the porch drinking coffee and watching the rain for quite a while before catching the train back to Nice.

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Cap D’Ail

Getting lost on the way to the beach in Cap D’Ail

On my last day in Nice, I decided to go to Cap D’Ail by train. When I got off the train, I tried to make my way to the beach, but couldn’t find it. I figured if I walked in the direction of the water I would find it, but ended up getting more and more lost. I was wandering along a random road when I spotted a local driving by and asked for directions. They instructed me to climb over a fence and some rocks to get to a pathway that ran right along the sea. The path turned out to be magical, running up and down along rocky outcrops with the turquoise Mediterranean waves splashing below. Unfortunately, it ended in a locked gate. The gate was high and I couldn’t climb over. To get around I would have to scale the side rail and suspend myself over a 30 ft drop to the water before climbing over the side rail on the other side. I had spent 20 minutes on the path and didn’t want to turn around and go back. A woman passed by on the other side and tried to help (I’m pretty sure I looked mildly crazy clutching the bars) but there really wasn’t any way so she moved on. Finally, I decided to risk it and climb around the gate. 30 or so seconds later, during which I questioned all my life decisions, I was over and on my way to the beach. The beach at Cap D’Ail was stunning and I quickly forgot my adventure in haze of swimming, sun and more mojitos. Comically enough, on the way home from the beach I found out there was a stairway that went to the beach just a little further down the random road I was walking on. Oh well!

From Nice I flew to Paris for the last 3 days of my trip.

3 relaxed days in Paris

I ended up meeting my friend in Paris. It was so nice to see a good friend after all my solo adventuring. We had both been to Paris before and had covered most of the major touristy stuff, so we had a relaxed three days wandering around shopping and eating. We were staying in Bellville near the Parc de Buttes Chaumont so we had a picnic there (which involved a trip to the local grocery store, one of my favorite things to do on vacation). We also had a fancy dinner at Pirouette in Les Halles (super!) and found a bunch of really cute boutiques to shop in. I am guilty of buying some clothing at H&M. However, I am convinced I made different decisions because I was in Paris, and my purchases have mostly stood the test of time.

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Pigeon for dinner at Pirouette
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Rosé for days at the supermarche

I also got a tattoo 🙂 I had been wanting to get a tattoo in Paris since the last time I visited and spontaneously decided to do it. However, I didn’t choose the best place and the tattoo didn’t stand the test of time. Instead of a tiny heart (so cute!) it ended up looking like an amorphous blob on my wrist (not so cute!), so I recently had to have it touched up (cute again!). No regrets, tho!

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Last meal in Paris

Then it was back to my other favorite city, NYC. I will be sharing details of the souvenirs I bought in Ireland and France, as well as my strategies for choosing souvenirs and gifts while on vacation, in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

 

Feelings Friday

Today, I am taking a break from fashion to talk about something serious—your soul! Dum, dum, dum! But seriously, I’m starting this (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?) series to share some of the things that make me feel hopeful about our shared humanity, give me joy or just plain make me laugh. As we fight against injustice in our world, we can simultaneously find inspiration by immersing ourselves in the things that we are trying to protect. Here are a few things I’m following, reading, watching or doing…

Following

Ohareeba

Areeba Siddique’s Instagram feed featuring her amazing art journaling (among other things) is endlessly inspiring.

Taking simple actions

Composting

I have been making a concerted effort to compost my food scraps. It’s easier than you think and ridiculously satisfying. I like thinking about my scraps becoming soil that will nourish new plants. Just collect your food scraps and drop off at one of the many sites around the city. Click here for details on where to compost and what to include. Since I work in Union Square, I can compost on the way to work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the Union Square Green Market. This has been a composting game-changer for me as I used to wait until Sunday to drop-off scraps in my neighborhood and it never seemed to get done.

Laughing (but also thinking)

This comic about deeply-held beliefs…

…had me laughing while digesting some uncomfortable truths.

Laughing (but also feeling thankful)

Summer chub-rub set to music (mildly NSFW)

This video from Miss Eave is on point! Made me feel less alone in my summer chub-rub struggle. It’s a real thing! The interview is interesting too.

Crying (but the good kind)

The Handmaid’s Tale

This series, currently airing on Hulu, has been around long enough that you have probably heard about it or are watching it. I read the book years ago and liked it, but I don’t think I appreciated the story it in the same way as I do now. This dark tale of a woman caught in a dystopian, misogynistic (to put it mildly) America, has brought up all sorts of feels for me. I’m only up to Epidsode 4, but the tears haven’t stopped flowing, I think because some of the themes feel so relevant to current struggles. It can be difficult to watch (I recently had to take a short break) but somehow feels important.

What are you immersing yourself in these days?

Simply pink

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Shirt dress, H&M, here; Shoes, H&M, in black here; Emerald studs, Catbird; Bracelet and hoops, Beacon’s Closet

So, funny story… I bought this pink number at H&M thinking it was a dress, but when I googled it for this post, I found out it is actually a long shirt 🙂 I guess it pays to be short sometimes. It may be veering toward the Kardashian/Jenner/Rihanna t-shirt-as-dress look, but I don’t care. As Cher Horowitz said, “Carpe diem, okay. You looked hot in it!” At $9.99 you can’t beat the price and it is wickedly comfortable. In fact, I am wearing it right now! I plan on buying it in a few more colors, as well. I have to say it has been hard to break my fast-fashion habits. I still get a thrill out of bringing home a bag full of high-fashion knock-offs. One step at a time, I guess. I think my next step will be to research alternatives to my go-to stores. I’d love to hear your thoughts on fast fashion and the shirt-as-dress trend.

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Pear sauce fizz

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I had it in my head to make a cocktail using canned pears. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a can of pears at either of the stores I went to. However, I did see this jar of organic pear sauce (think applesauce but with pears) and this drink was born. My taste testers labeled it “cracktacular” and I would have to agree. It is refreshing, but at the same time sort of earthy, making it perfect for all seasons. The measurements are approximate and can be adjusted to suit your taste buds. Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

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Ingredients (makes 4-5 cocktails)

1/2 C white sugar

1/2 C + 2/3 C water

handful of fresh rosemary plus more sprigs for garnish

1 C pear sauce (I used this)

1/3 to 1/2 C rum (I used Due North, which has a slight whiskey taste)

 

lime wedges

bottle of chilled Prosecco (I used Terra Serena, which is a great option for the value)

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The first step is to make a rosemary simple syrup. Begin by combining the sugar with 1/2 C of water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil briefly until the sugar is all dissolved and a syrup forms. Remove from heat. Crush up the rosemary in your hand to release the natural flavor, then mix with the simple syrup and let rest for 20-30 minutes. Drain the syrup through a strainer and set aside.

In a large glass or metal bartenders cup mix pear sauce, 2/3 C water, rum, and 5-6 T rosemary simple syrup. Squeeze a quarter lime wedge into the mixture. I recommend stirring and tasting as you add each ingredient to see if the drink suits your taste. I started out with 1/3 C of rum then decided to add more. I did the same with the rosemary syrup, adding a T at a time until I could just taste the rosemary.

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To build the cocktail fill your cocktail glass 1/3-1/2 full with the pear concoction. Top with prosecco to fill the glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig. I squeezed a little extra lime on top of each cocktail and didn’t regret it 🙂 Happy sipping!!!

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