Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Italian Feast for Father Winter

We had an Italian feast yesterday.

We also had a blizzard.
`
Definition of a blizzard as defined by the National Weather Service. 24 hour snowfall, 35 mph winds, 1/4 mile visibility.
`
Definition of a blizzard by Dylan Thomas in A Child's Christmas in Wales:
`
"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."
`
Not surprisingly, I prefer Dylan Thomas's description. After years of performing that piece, I love that so much of it is muscle memory and a part of me. Especially as I rage against winter and the need to drive in it! If you are a lover of words and have never read A Child's Christmas in Wales, find it here.
`
I thought creating the Italian feast would appease Father Winter.
It didn't work.There is a new coating of 16-20 inches in the Twin Cities. The Metrodome's roof collapsed, The Guthrie Theatre cancelled A Christmas Carol and every theatre and concert venue did the same. Office parties cancelled, busses pulled out of service and even the snowplows were pulled off the road until visibility improved. With few shopping weekends until Christmas, even the Sprawl- that would be Mall of America finally shut down at 4 p.m.



The feast did not halt the blizzard. But it did nourish the spirit. Baked polenta sticks with a simple warm, blue cheese sauce was the starter. The sauce reminiscent of melting snow - a thought near and dear to my heart.
`
Father Winter railed and reigned outside. Inside was all sugar-and-spice aroma and Christmas music. I will admit that when "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!" came on, I shut off the radio. That's just overkill.
`
This is so easy and so soothing. It makes about 16 polenta sticks. Make the polenta early in the day according to package directions. (I used 1/2 box of the five-minute version). Pour into a brownie pan and let it firm up. Then you can do one of 3 things: Bake it for 30 minutes in a 400 degree F oven or broil it for about 5-7 minutes per side or simply fry it. It also keeps well.
`
In a small saucepan combine 6 ounces of blue cheese (or gorgonzola) cheese slices or crumbles with 1/4/-1/3 cup of cream (you decide how piquant you want it). Heat gently under low heat. Pour over baked (or broiled or fried) polenta sticks. Serve. Add chopped Italian parsley if you wish.
`
And because I could....I also made Mushroom and Parmigiano Bruschetta from Cooking Light. Or adapted - I used small wheat pitas instead of bruschetta and a different mix of mushrooms and skipped the fresh basil because there was no going to the store for ingredients! You would need a sleigh and eight flying reindeer.



Luckily a good Parmigiano-Reggiano is a staple in this house! It's a virtuous recipe many vegetables, low-fat, etc. But more importantly it's a warming, taste treat. Just the thing to grab while you're cooking and listening to Christmas Carols that don't have the words "let it snow" in them. This topping would also be good over polenta. If you like garlicky, soft mushrooms with brighteners like capers and sherry vinegar all topped with nutty Parmigiano - check it out here.



Dinner was pasta. I cannot think of any dish that provides more solace than a bowl of pasta.




Also from Cooking Light, I adapted their Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Chickpeas and Prosciutto to what I had on hand. If you like your prosciutto crispy, your beans creamy and your broccoli rabe steamy and sultry, this easy pasta dish will ease you into the winter night. Click on the above link for the recipe.


I believe the recipe originally came from Lidia Bastianich who always knows how to take a vegetable and heighten it.
`
And what's a snow day without cookies baking? It soothed the family and we may even have shared one with the dog. A round-up of Italian cookies will come later this week. Meanwhile, I leave you with this light and elegant pine-nut biscotti.

Also from Cooking Light, it's just crunchy enough for espresso or vin santo. Just giving enough to be on its own. Just sweet enough from the sugar and pine nuts. Delicate with its light champagne color - it's part air and part earth. Just like Father Winter. Find the recipe here.
`
The Italian feast may not have soothed Father Winter but it was a soft, comforter wrapped around our home.
`
And if you're dreaming of a White Christmas or want to go walking in a Winter Wonderland...




Be careful what you wish for.



And to those who sent me Facebook message, e-mails and left comments wishing me warmth and to be well during the blizzard, I want to thank you! Made me smile through the snow!

58 comments:

ARLENE said...

Mmm, Claudia. There's only one thing in your feast that I don't like--the snow! From the polenta sticks to that lovely pasta, I can envision the delicious flavors. (I also love Dylan Thomas!)

Pegasuslegend said...

Arlene totally agree, we moved to Florida because of the cold weather in Upstate NY... I will dodge the hurricanes and tornado's any day of the week.. but I have to say, some of the most comforting foods are created in the worst of weathers and this is one of them ...I love polenta and Italian's poriadge if you will. Amazingly Claudia turns it into a gourmet meal....which this certainly is!~ stay warm my friend and stay healthy cant wait to see what's next!

Hester said...

Oh golly, this definitely WAS an Italian feast! Thank you for sharing it with us! I'm only sad I wasn't actually physically there but, perhaps I'll have to throw my own on this winter season :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

Claudia

Seing these pictures almost made me wish for some snow~ but a blizzard, hmm.
Love the polenta sticks, the pasta, the biscottis and I am sure all with a nice glass or two of good Italian wine?

Chow and Chatter said...

wow you make the best food, wow sorry thats way too much snow

5 Star Foodie said...

Can't believe how much snow you guys are having, wow! Having watched football all day, we repeatedly saw the footage of the stadium roof collapsing! Your feast sounds terrific for sure! All delicious stuff!

Kim - Liv Life said...

Sometimes I really wish we had snow... then others like this I'm so glad I don't! A little dusting would be nice though... Hope you get a bit of a warm up soon, although my Aunt in MN says it's really not a real Christmas without the snow!
Love your feast! So many wonderful dishes, and on a chilly, snowy day, it's just all that much better!

Sandra said...

Wonderful Photos, everything looks so good and delicious! I hope you stay warm!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Claudia I have been in a grandson bubble this week and just learned of all the snow you received this evening when my son told me the metrodrome's roof collapsed and the Giants had to play in Detroit instead.
At least the bad weather gave you time to make all these delicious creations! I love the polenta sticks and bruschetta and pasta and biscotti.Cooking Light has some really good recipes.

Fying home on the red eye tonight...hope the blizzard doesn't come our way!

eatgreek.net said...

it's so beautiful to snow outside and the home smells all that excellent smells!!!!

3 hungry tummies said...

I saw found out about the blizzard through our nightly news. Your wonderful feast will certainly nourish my soul!

Eleonora said...

Father Winter is still licking his chops... And so are we!!!

Auguri!

Mister Meatball said...

If only the Mrs were stranded in Minnesota rather than Ohio.

the constant hunger said...

Wow. I can't believe how much it snowed. Your feast certainly made things better. That pasta looks nice and hearty.

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

If only I was your next-door-neighbor! I would have tunneled through the snow for this!

A beautiful meal, Claudia!

mywanderingspoon said...

So nice...I love it:)
We live in CA, don't have blizzard but it is nice to be in the house with such a lovely prepared food and enjoy:)

Torviewtoronto said...

lots of snow
comfort food looks fabulous

Anna's Table said...

Claudia, we had our major snowstorm last week and the city was like a parking lot. It took hours to get around. A feast is a great way to ride out a blizzard. Polenta was a family favourite on Sunday's as I was growing up but never looked as elegant as your dish with gorgonzola sauce. Everything looks delicious. I wouldn't mind getting stuck in your neck of the woods during a snowstorm, as long as there is an extra seat at your dinner table.

We Are Not Martha said...

Everything looks amazing!! I do LOVE polenta :) I'm so jealous of all that pretty snow! Here in Boston we just have gloomy rain :( And I totally want snow to get into the holiday spirit!

Sues

OysterCulture said...

I heard about al the craziness in the TC and the rest of Minnesota from my family. That sounds like a perfect reason for an Italian feast, as if you need one.

Kim said...

Claudia- Sounds like you truly got bombarded with snow. I grew up in the north and know that it is almost unheard of for the stores and businesses to close due to snow. Must be some blizzard you all got! Hope you have the chance to hibernate inside and stay warm.

Love the polenta with the blue cheese sauce. And the pasta, oh yes, you can always count on it to provide solace!

Take care and stay warm!

Beth said...

The polenta sticks look delicious and warming. Thanks for the Dylan Thomas quote!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I would be happy as a lark to be snowed in with all this scrumptious food, what a feast! I remember a snowfall we had here just like yours many years ago, everything was shut down, I have to admit it was sort of fun, of course I was young and crazy back then!

The Mom Chef said...

While I'm sorry you're buried in the snow up north, if it gave you the inspiration to share all these wonderful recipes with us, I'm grateful for it. It all looks fantastic, but the pasta and biscotti (especially the biscotti) caught my eye.

PS: It looks like Minnesota will be paying for the new stadium that the Vikings have been trying to get for so long, eh?

Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having said...

That feast definitely would have brought me comfort! I have a feeling it's going to be one of those winters. More reason to make cookies!

Juliana said...

Claudia, everything sure looks good...what a great feast...polenta...we just had last night at one of the Brazilian BBQ...so good. Love to see snow pictures, but I am glad that I live in Southern California :-)

Mary said...

Not only was it a feast, it was a perfect feast. The polenta sounds really interesting and so does the pasta. I'm sure all present enjoyed it. Stay warm. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Trish said...

I'm a little jealous of all that snow you got - here in CA we don't ever get any :( It looks like you've been cooking up a feast. I've got my eye on those polenta sticks. They sound great. I'm looking for ways to cook polenta because it's one of those ingredients I'm a little intimidated by. Thanks for sharing! Stay warm.

Monet said...

I can't believe the weather you have been receiving! I was watching the news this morning, and I was thinking about all my blogging friends! I'm glad to see that you survived, and you made some pretty amazing food while it was blustery and miserable outside! Your feast looks fit for a queen! And I loved that quote you included at the beginning. I'm eager to check that out! Thank you for sharing love! Stay warm!

girlichef said...

That father winter does have a mind of his own...but I know that is was warm and cozy inside with family and feast. Everything looks like it would warm you all the way to your soul :)

Angie's Recipes said...

24 hours snowfall! Gosh..I thought we were having some heavy snow..but compared with what you are having there...it's NOTHING. I love your spirit-nourishing Italian treat! Looks to die for!

Vittle me this... said...

Just beautiful, the food and the snow!

Barbara GF said...

Winter is certainly here, Claudia, and worse where you live. But being snowed in with all that scrumptious food of yours would be a blessing. Love those polenta sticks and gorgonzola sauce!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

It's actually frightening what everyone in Minnesota is going through - I saw the roof of the Metrodome caving in under the weight of all that snow, on TV and thought about you and Biren, another blogger in your area. I hope you will all be safe and warm.

I love the thought of those polenta sticks under a blanket of cheese! And that pasta with brocolli rabe and chickpeas! Don't like brocolli, but brocolli rabe is an entirely different and delicious beast! Nothing like a warm fire and a table full of carbs to make you feel safe and consoled!

Dimah said...

Beautiful Photos, everything looks amazing and delicious!

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Wow there is cold, here is hot at least today, we can exchange some temperature.

Wonderful menu. Are still leftovers of the pasta with chickpeas and prosciutto? I want it :)

All the best,

Gera

Sophie said...

Waw, it is certainly cold & smowy over there at your home.


The food looks festive & tasty, as always, dear Claudia!

Foodessa said...

The other day a blanket of snow came blessing me with a little personal time. Nowhere near the mountain of pristine flakes you got...but enough for three of my clients to postpone our meetings. I was doing the happy dance...hence happy snow to look at from the comfort of my home anytime!
I become very creative in my kitchen as well as I could imagine from the images you shared with us today Claudia ;o)
Just, as you've mentioned to me in the past...we'd make great partners at the kitchen table ;P

BTW...thanks for that link to the Christmas Blizzard story...I'm keeping it as a read over some time off throughtout the holidays.

Happy times in the kitchen and flavourful wishes,
Claudia

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

A veritable feast indeed! Love Italian food at anytime or weather! Warm and hearty! Love reading Dylan Thomas, my favorite is Under Milkwood. I think I should stop complaining about the rain here! Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays!

Christine Wu said...

With that kind of weather, everyone needs a feast to cheer them up! :)

Kristen said...

What a storm!! My brother is living in Minneapolis while he receives training from work. Because he is only going to be there for a few months before being transferred somewhere else, he didn't buy a snow shovel. He has been using his wife's cake pan to scoop snow off of his car! We keep telling him that there is a limit to being cheap!!

Your feast sounds/looks so good; just the thing for a cold day.

theUngourmet said...

Oh my goodness! Now that's some snow!

What a wonderful winter feast. The polenta with blue cheese sauce looks marvelous!

Stay warm!

bella (roz) said...

Claudia, I love how you prepared the polenta and will have to save this recipe! The Cooking Light recipes sound wonderful too! Now for the snow - - whew, I saw the dome rip open on tv and just could not believe my eyes! My sister, husband and daughter had driven up to the Twin Cities from Des Moines in the midst of that blizzard to see the Vikes play the Giants and what a mess they found themselves in! Just glad it happened when no one was inside! Stay warm! ROz

Reeni said...

I hope the snow is well on its way to being melted by now Claudia! But really I wouldn't mind with all this deliciousness you have going on! I am loving the polenta and blue cheese - a combo I've never eaten before. And all that follows is delicious too - especially the pasta!

fromBAtoParis said...

I love all your pictures, although I don't know if I would survive so much snow !!! I honestly regret not being "your neighbor/friend" to be able to eat all those incredible meals that remind me so much of my childhood!!

Mari said...

Claudia, what a blizzard!! I miss the snow.

The food looks great and with a table set like that...let it snow , let it snow, let it snow.

Have a great afternoon.

Island Vittles said...

Claudia, how wonderful that we get to exchange stories through our posts! You found Outlander, and I have found A Child's Christmas in Wales. It's a good thing to brush up on your Thomas every now and then.

That's probably the best gift exchange I'll have this year! Theresa

El said...

I'm so glad you visited my blog and that we're getting a chance to connect. I love Italian food and am thrilled to try some of your dishes. And the cookies--dynamite!

Ruth said...

Hmm wish I'd been there! We get bl;izzards but no Italian feasts so far! Just given me the inspiration! Yep, nothing like a bowl of Pasta!

My Little Space said...

I can imagine how freezing cold it is at the other side of the globe. I hope you've done all your X'mas shopping already and keep everything stock up before X'mas. I have the feeling that the weather going to turn bad to worst. Do take care and stay warm. With all those good looking meal, I'm sure you're in comfort zone. :o) Have a great day!
Blessings, Kristy

The Mom Chef said...

Hi Claudia ~ I've left an award for you on my blog. It's definitely for your cooking and wonderful writing, but just between you and me, it's also for your ability to put up with the weather in Minnesota. You're a stronger person than I. I ran away to the south. :)

UrMomCooks said...

These recipes are so comforting and delicious looking... Just what winter in Minnesota calls for! The polenta has got my mouth watering...Stay warm and happy cooking! Luv your recipes!

Chef Dennis said...

you certainly did prepare a feast!! You had me at polenta with that blue cheese sauce!!
Cheers
Dennis

Fresh Local and Best said...

I think the snow is beautiful, plus it provides a good incentive for everyone to gather around the kitchen and enjoy your wonderful comforting polenta and cozy up with biscotti.

Bridgett said...

Wow, and here I thought our big rain storms were cold and here you had a blizzard! How perfectly comforting to turn to a warm feast to satisfy the soul. Wonderful! Wishing you and yours the best this holiday!

Jen_from_NJ said...

I would happily be snowed in at your house! What a delicious feast! The pasta is calling my name.

A little snow is festive this time of year but... I would have had to turn off the radio too...

Magic of Spice said...

Wow, that is really some feast! I think I could handle being snowed in at your house :) But boy that snow, hoping you are staying warm...

Diana's Cocina said...

You think you should pack your bags ans come and visit me for a few days ;). The polenta looks divine. Stay warm.