Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Recipe that Made the Cut!

Creamy Polenta Lasagne

It simply cannot be a coincidence that the food that is so emblematic of my family's culture, of the place my father came from, of the place my family has always referred to as "back home", is the very food that has brought me this exciting, wonderful, inspiring opportunity. An opportunity to meet a world-renowned chef, come together with other women like me from across this country and to cook in front of an audience in Kraft Canada's gleaming (I imagine them as gleaming! I'll know in just two weeks!) kitchens. Yes, it is no wonder that the food that saved my family during WWII  (thus making my existence possible) is the same food that has opened up this new adventure in my life. It is humble, blessed, polenta.

Please view my recipe on the wonderful Real Women of PHILADEPHIA site at

I am in full-on polenta lasagne training now! More than a few neighbours have come home to find a baking dish of polenta lasagna on their doorstep. Next up, I may be testing it on our neighbourhood bear and her cubs. Now there's a beautiful Italy-meets-Canada moment!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Unexpected Inspiration

Inspiration has come to me from the most unexpected place - a little rectangular, silver box in my fridge.

I love cooking and I love writing and so, like so many others, found this incredible intersection of the two in food blogging. But I let work and commitments and stress and commuting and the thousand little obligations of the day get in the way of this lovely artistic outlet.

Until the cream cheese called my name!

It has been a wonderful and crazy and fun turn of events that has reignited my love of all things foodie and reminded me that my food can have a life beyond my little kitchen and the lovely people I feed there (although that is simple joy to me in its own right). There is a whole community of other foodies out there to engage with, people to share ideas and recipes with, stories to write and so, so, so much to learn and be inspired by.

This crazy turn of events has been a contest I entered - - and to my sheer joy and amazement, been named a finalist in!

I am off to Toronto at the beginning of July for a cook off (seriously, a cook off!) and to meet the other 15 amazing women in the competition. I'll get to meet a long-time idol of mine, chef Anna Olsen, and cook in the Kraft Kitchens. Amazing!

Yes, that little silver box of PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese called my name, inspired me to create something new, and is opening up a whole new door for me. Thanks Philly!
Find out more at

Monday, February 7, 2011

Candied Lemon Slices

I started making these candied lemon slices to top my polenta cakes. I had two nice surprises the first time I made them. The first is that the lovely, lemony syrup that is a by-product of this recipe is perfect for pouring over the warm cake and takes the place of a glaze. The second is that I can make a big batch of these and keep them in the freezer between slices of waxed paper, having them handy for topping my cakes, decorating glasses of red-wine laced lemonade in the summer and, as my little girl and I have discovered, eating them cold out of the freezer -- Emmie and Mommy's homemade lemon candy.

3 lemons
1 cup sugar
+ additional sugar for sanding finished slices

1. Cut lemons into thin slices, remove seeds.

2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add lemon slices, stirring gently until slices are softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium skillet, stirring constantly. When syrup is clear, reduce heat to medium-low and add lemon slices. Lightly simmer without boiling about 1 hour, when rinds begin to be translucent.

4. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment and sprinkle liberally with additional sugar. Cool and serve. To store, place slices in single layers on waxed paper, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lemon Almond Polenta Cake

It was almost a religious experience the day we realized that we could incorporate polenta into dessert. It's not something I've ever seen in any of my Zias' kitchens in Friuli. I understand it has long been a specialty of UK bakers but for us, lemon almond polenta cake is a fairly new discovery. And such a welcome one. It has quickly become a family favourite, and the kids call it "Nonno cake" because my dad adores it. 
I make this so often now, almost every Sunday, that I have begun to experiment with different cake pans and toppings. It is never the same shape twice and is always adorned a little differently. 
One of our favourites is to make this thin, in a tart pan with a removable bottom (one recipe makes about three of these) and to pile sliced almonds onto the top before it bakes. 
Another, as in the picture here, is to make it in those straight-sided cupcake papers and to top each one with powdered sugar and a homemade slice of candied lemon. I've also been known to top them with crumbled amaretti cookies before baking, creating a crunchy and delicious top.
Lemon, Almond Polenta Cake
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup ground almonds
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 lemons (
zest and juice)
1 orange (zest and juice)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fine ground cornmeal (polenta)
For the syrup:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar 

Sliced almonds or candied lemon slices to decorate
Preheat the oven to 300F. Prepare an 8-inch round springform pan (line with parchment, grease).
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold in the ground almonds. Beat in eggs one at a time, add vanilla, zests and juices.
Gently fold in polenta, salt and baking powder. 
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. If the edges or top of the cake begin to get too brown, cover with foil. 

When a skewer inserted in the top of the cake comes out mostly clean, remove and cool. Unmold cake and drizzle with syrup, top with almond slices or candied lemon slices. 
To make the syrup: Mix sugar and lemon juice in a small pan on the stovetop and bring to a boil, simmer until all sugar is melted and syrup is slightly thickened.