overfull with summer

polenta with mascarpone and tomato salad

No photo. That’s one big thing that stands between what happens in our kitchen and what happens on lesbo-kitchen. After all, there has been a lot of cooking and eating in these past months. But I can’t seem to get the photographing part right: because I don’t have time, or don’t want the food to get cold, or we have guests. Or I don’t like the photos I took. At least half the time it’s that we don’t eat until after dark, even in summer. And I still have a lot to learn about low-light photography, which – skills aside – doesn’t necessarily flatter food, anyway. My newest reason, and I can’t really complain about this because it is by design, is that the kitchen in our new house doesn’t have west-facing windows. All those btus of afternoon sun blasting through western windows = poor house design = huge air conditioning load = gorgeous, tasty, photogenic light. (Remember those peanut butter cookies ?) Golden afternoon light from the sun slung low: Will never fail to send me running for the camera.

So I’m learning to work with the light in the new kitchen, which is perfect in every other possible way. But for the time being, my new policy is that no photo is still better than a bad photo. And an old photo is better than no photo. And a good recipe is still better than no recipe.

What we ate tonight was far too good to let its unphotodocumentedness get in the way, so, I offer a substitute photo of the pretty good tomatoes we brought home from Los Poblanos

tomatoes and eggplant from lpo

… as a placeholder for the amazing specimens from Rose’s garden, which is more like a tomato forest, where tomato trees dangle huge fruits tantalizingly overhead. I am not joking. The Mr. Stripeys are OUT OF CONTROL. I don’t know what kind of compost she’s putting in that lesbo-garden, but it is something to behold.

We have been lavished for months with these wonders, every week a blue enamel bowl left on our front porch, overfull with summer.

Polenta with Mascarpone, Gorgonzola and Heirloom Tomato Salad
When our friends Katie and Karen left us with one and half tubs of mascarpone after Saturday night’s dinner, Kath & I looked at each other and said “Soft Polenta with Mascarpone and Tomato Salad” in one of those stunning moments of lesbo-ESP.

For the polenta:
1.5 cups polenta
7.5 cups water
salt
a few tablespoons of butter
a small tub of mascarpone
a few crumbles of good blue cheese (optional, but delicious)
fresh thyme leaves

For the tomato salad:
4 large heirloom tomatoes
10 to 15 biggish basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade
1 to 2 pints yellow pear, sungold, or grape tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely minced with a big pinch of kosher salt
olive oil
red or white wine vinegar
salt + pepper

Combine the polenta and the water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add a teaspoon or two of salt now – you’ll need to add some more later. Bring to a boil, stir, cover, and reduce to the lowest simmer your stove can manage. Let it cook covered for about an hour, stirring every twenty minutes or so. (Do not, even if it seems done sooner, cut down on the one hour cooking time. The texture of the polenta depends on the long cooking.)

Meanwhile, slice the grape/pear/little tomatoes lengthwise and toss them in a small bowl with the garlic, and a big pinch of salt. Coat them with some olive oil and a bit of vinegar, to taste. Sprinkle in a few thyme leaves, and set aside to marinate while the polenta finishes cooking.

Thinly slice the heirloom/big tomatoes and arrange them on individual plates. Divide the marinated tomatoes between the plates, including the juices. Scatter the basil chiffonade over top, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

When the polenta is done, whisk in a couple tablespoons of the butter and perhaps a little more salt (or a lot, depending). Spoon onto heated bowls or plates, place a big spoonful of mascarpone on the polenta, and scatter a little Gorgonzola and a few more thyme leaves over top.

The salad and the polenta are meant to be eaten together, with some of each in every mouthful. Don’t hesitate to pour the salad and its juices right over the top of the steaming polenta.

Serves four mountain-climbing women.

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3 Responses to “overfull with summer”


  1. 1 Big Shamu August 31, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Wise decision on photos. Don’t give up though, just keep experimenting. Glad to hear you’re tomato heavy. Next up for me? Tomato Leather.
    Tally Tomato HO!

  2. 3 Miriam December 9, 2009 at 8:00 am

    The photo is luscious….again, I want some. It’s hardly fair to see these delectable taste treats 3 blocks away without sharing with your Zmoms…just kidding, as Rand would say.


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