Enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean this summer even if you never travel more than a few miles from home.
Polenta Made Easy
Polenta is a traditional Italian side dish made by bringing broth or salted water to a boil and slowly adding cornmeal or other grains while constantly stirring . It cooks for at least an hour until quite thick. It’s the Italian equivalent of grits, but creamier and it’s served hot or is chilled and then sliced and fried. Ancient Harvest makes this time-consuming dish accessible by offering tubes of polenta that are shelf stable, pre-cooked and ready to heat. Just slice the polenta and heat it in the microwave, saute it, bake it or grill it. Once heated, you can use it as the base for any sauce or topping. We topped ours with Italian chicken cooked in a wine and tomato sauce. Ancient Harvest’s cornmeal polenta comes in four varieties: Traditional (just cornmeal and salt), Basil Garlic, Green Chili and Sun Dried Tomato Garlic. They offer a cornmeal/quinoa polenta as well. $3.79 per 18-ounce package. Available at Whole Foods Markets, Sprouts Farmers Markets, Earth Fare, Target, Life Grocery and Sevananda Natural Foods Store. ancientharvest.com
Marinated Feta Made Easy
Who knew that a mile or so outside the Perimeter a local cheesemaker was producing over a dozen varieties of fresh and aged cheeses? We’re big fans of the cow and goat milk cheeses made by CalyRoad Creamery in Sandy Springs . You can buy a variety of their cheeses and arrange a beautiful cheese platter or just set out cubes of their marinated feta. All the work’s been done for you. They hand pack cubes of their house made cow’s milk feta in pint and family-size quart jars and then surround the cheese with a combination of olive oil, sundried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic and cracked black peppercorns. You can serve the cubes alone as a tasty little nibble, or toss them with hot pasta and maybe add some grilled chicken or shrimp. And don’t discard that marinade. It makes a great dressing for hot pasta or add a little vinegar and turn it into a dressing for a pasta salad with the cubes and some crisp vegetables. Ask for the hand stamped tag and recipe card if you’re planning to make a gift of your jar. But don’t forget to get one for you. $15 per pint, $22 per quart. Available at Sandy Springs and Marietta Square Farmers Markets and at CalyRoad Creamery, 227 Hilderbrand Drive, Sandy Springs. 678-773-0843. calyroadcreamery.com.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Made Easy
Adriana Coppola grew up in a small town near Naples, Italy. Now living in John’s Creek, she and her family missed the flavors of home. So she created Alta Cucina Italia, making artisan condiments and sauces in Italian style. The packaging is old-world Italian and the flavors are bright and modern. Among her many offerings, she makes reductions of Italian balsamic vinegar in seasonal flavors like apple and honey and year-round flavors like fig and ginger. She infuses Italian olive oil with lemon, rosemary or red hot peppers. And she makes dipping oils, balsamic jams, tomato sauces and pesto. Salting and drying tomatoes is an age-old way to preserve the bounty of fresh summer tomatoes. Her Sun Dried Tomato Pesto has just three ingredients - dried tomatoes, Italian extra virgin olive oil and Italian herbs. We liked it as a topping for pizza in lieu of a traditional fresh tomato sauce, but it’s also delicious mixed in with hot pasta or rice and perfect for a bruschetta with fresh mozzarella. Coppola offers both shelf stable and fresh versions. The fresh version is available from her booths at the Sandy Springs and Alpharetta farmers markets. The shelf stable is available at local retailers. $7 for the 6-ounce container of fresh pesto. $11 per 6.5 ounce jar of the shelf-stable pesto shown in our photo. Shelf stable pesto is available at Wahoo Wine and Provisions, 1036 West College Avenue, Decatur; The Beehive, 1250 Caroline Street, Atlanta. altacucinaitalia.com.