Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #98, Polenta


"Polenta" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

It’s time for another item from the DC Omnivore 100 list of the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.

There’s something so comforting about polenta. Maybe it’s the mushiness. Last night, fighting off a fever, I had an intense craving for this cornmeal goo, so I dragged myself off to the store to rustle up a plate.

Polenta is one of the staple dishes of Northern Italy, though it also can be found throughout Eastern Europe and Turkey. Honestly, there’s not much to it – boiled cornmeal using either the yellow or white varieties, fine or coarse grained. But it’s a bit labor-intensive. Like risotto, it requires constant stirring as the cornmeal grain’s starch slowly gelatinizes. But once it does – oh happy day. You get a soft, creamy mixture, and that’s before adding any other delicious ingredients like butter or cheese! It’s also extremely economical, filling peasant food that can be prepared in so many ways, from breakfast to dinner.

If you see polenta on Italian restaurant menus around DC, chances are it’ll be paired with sausage – this is a pretty traditional mix of mild and spicy. Tosca takes it to another level, matching it with sea urchin ragu and caviar (for lunch!). But polenta doesn’t have to be served straight from the pot – you can also cool it and fry it up. Fried polenta has a more complex flavor than when just boiled – the taste of corn is more pronounced. I was inspired by the grilled polenta I recently tried at Vegetate to make an attempt at this style myself. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, We Love Food

DC Omnivore 100: #11, Calamari

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr (a shot from the DC Fish Market)

This week, our continuing quest to try all 100 foods a DC Omnivore must experience checks out calamari. 

Whenever I see fresh calamari, the first thing that comes to mind is Admiral Ackbar slurping, “your taste buds can’t repel flavor of this magnitude!”

Ok, maybe not. But this versatile cephalopod is truly a wonder of the sea.

There are a myriad ways to prepare squid – fried, grilled, stuffed, with the tentacles or not (no tentacles? wimp!). Squid ink makes a glorious rich pasta and salty sauce that can stain your tongue black as night. Raw squid as sushi can be disconcerting or refreshing, depending on your palate. My personal preference is sauteed or grilled. Perfectly prepared squid should not be overly chewy – it should have an initial ever-so-slight firmness that dissolves into a fresh from the sea taste. 

When I was a poor little match girl just out of drama school, I discovered I could get squid quite cheap and saute up a batch for both me and my cat (wow. that is a depressing memory!). But now if I cook calamari, it’s for a luxurious seafood pasta with squid, shrimp, and scallops. 

After the break, a more appetizing picture, and tips for rustling up calamari at home and eating out…
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