Friday nights are carefree and fun. Anything goes. Another beer with our friends taking up a bench outside one of our favorite bars? Yes, please. Tacos for dinner at 11 p.m.? Sure.
Sunday mornings I adore because they are slow and lovely.
But sometimes worry creeps in between Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. Another week went by. Am I doing everything I need to do? Where will I be in a year? Am I making the right choices? I know worrying or stressing about things doesn’t accomplish anything, and I try not to, but occasionally it can be hard to avoid.
Does this happen to you? What works for you? Calling a friend or my madrina always makes me feel better. Watching “Dirty Dancing” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding” again helps.
This weekend I turned to food, something delicious and nourishing.
Creamy polenta made delicious with Tillamook cheddar cheese and kernels of sweet, fresh corn. Good-for-you beans mixed with tomatoes and the mild heat of jalapeños.
This was a happy accident of combining food we needed to use, but it was exactly what I needed. The first time I made this I used shrimp instead of beans, which was also quite good. But beans were delicious and comforting when it was the kind of meal I needed.
This recipe makes enough for two hungry people. You can easily halve it for your hungry self or double it for friends and family. The polenta might not look like enough until the cheese and corn are mixed in toward the end and the whole yellow thing inflates. It’s plenty. But you may find yourself eating it all because it is colorful, delicious, and perfect comfort food when you’re out of potatoes.
cheddar and jalapeño polenta
For this spicy and cheesy polenta, you have two options: white beans or shrimp. Wait, there’s a third option. Serve the polenta with both.
2 medium tomatoes
2 large jalapeños
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 lightly packed cup cheddar cheese
olive or vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1/2 cup polenta or corn grits
heaping 1/2 cup white beans (optional)
10 or so shrimp (optional)
Cut tomatoes into big chunks and sprinkle with salt. Cut tops off jalapeños and split lengthwise. Use a small spoon to remove seeds and membrane. Slice jalapeños into thin half-moons.
Stand an ear of corn in the center of a bowl. Hold the corn and cut the kernels off by pressing a knife down firmly at the top and working your way down. This is easiest to do right into a bowl so corn does not go shooting off everywhere. Grate cheddar cheese into the same bowl until you have about 1 lightly packed cup or a fistful of cheese.
Bring a medium pan to medium heat. Add a big drizzle of olive oil.
Add jalapeños to the hot pan and let them cook for a minute. If you’re adding beans, add them in with the jalapeños. If you’re using shrimp, season about 10 with salt and pepper and cook separately in a hot pan with a dab of butter and a bit of olive oil just until both sides of the shrimp turn pink. In the meantime, add 1 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil. Stir tomatoes into the pan with jalapeños. When the water in the pot is boiling, add polenta and bring the heat down to medium-low. Keep stirring for about 30 seconds, and then let cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. Stir polenta occasionally, adding a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Mix in the corn and cheddar in the last minute. Watch the cheese disappear.
Take the polenta off the heat, cover and let it stand for a couple of minutes. Split polenta onto two plates and serve with cooked jalapeños and tomatoes. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper.
Serves 2 hungry people.