For the wine here, I used our house white at Delancey: Château de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne, a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s bright and crisp and citrusy.
Set a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the rhubarb in a Dutch oven or other deep oven-safe pot. Add the sugar, wine, and vanilla bean, and stir to mix. Bake (uncovered) for about 30 minutes, or until very tender, giving the pot a gentle stir about midway through to ensure that the rhubarb cooks evenly.
Note: I like to eat this cold, though I imagine you could also serve it warm.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on how greedy you are
I used whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe, and I love how it works. Whole wheat pastry flour is more finely ground and lower in protein than regular whole wheat flour, and it yields a product very similar in texture to my usual all-purpose flour scones. I considered using white whole wheat flour, which I’ve also used occasionally in baking, but I really do prefer whole wheat pastry flour. White whole wheat flour, while more delicate than regular whole wheat, is still too coarsely ground, and it’s tougher, less delicate.
You can make these scones with any kind of dried fruit you want, but I like them best with dried apricots. My favorites are from Trader Joe’s, labeled “California Slab Apricots, Blenheim Variety.” They’re soft and have a very true apricot flavor, sweet and also quite tart. (They’re sulfured, which some people avoid, but I prefer the flavor.)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching with your fingertips until there are no butter lumps bigger than a large pea. Add the sugar and dried apricots, and whisk to incorporate.
Pour the half-and-half into a small bowl, and add the egg. Beat with a fork to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir (with the fork; it works fine) to just combine. The dough will look shaggy and rough, and there may be some unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t worry about that. Using your hands, gently press and shape the dough, so that it holds together in a messy clump. Turn the dough and any excess flour out onto a board or countertop, and press and gather and knead it until it just comes together. Ideally, do not knead more than 12 times. As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 ½ inches thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges.
Put the wedges on the prepared baking sheet. Pour a splash of half-and-half into a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat to glaze. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm – with butter, if that’s your style. (My mother used to split the Earth/Lovelight ones in half and toast them, and then smear them with butter. Very good.)
Note: If you plan to eat them within a day or two, store the scones in an airtight container at room temperature. For longer storage, seal them in a heavy plastic bag or container, and freeze them. Before serving, bring them to room temperature. Either way, reheat them briefly in a 300°F oven. They’re best served warm.
Yield: 8 small scones
I use Bob’s Red Mill brand corn grits polenta, which is not fancy, but it works fine.
Bring the water to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk or stir in the polenta, then stir until the water returns to a simmer. [I did this step, and the steps that follow, with a whisk.] Reduce the heat until the polenta only bubbles and sputters occasionally, and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring as needed, until thick but still fluid. If the polenta becomes stiff, add a trickle of water. Taste. Add salt and a generous dose of butter. [I used 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and about 2 tablespoons of butter.]
Transfer the polenta to a double boiler set over simmering water. Wrap the lid tightly in plastic wrap (*see note) and cover the polenta. Allow the polenta to rest that way for at least 30 minutes – or up to a few hours, depending on your schedule. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make a close approximation by setting the saucepan containing the polenta on a small, ovenproof ramekin centered inside a wider, deeper pot, and surrounding it with barely simmering water. Cover the pan as directed above.
Serve hot. If you want, grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, though I like mine plain.
Note: The plastic wrap doesn’t seem like great idea to me, but I’m not sure. Heating plastic can cause it to release chemicals, but since this plastic wrap isn’t actually touching the food, is it safe? I followed the recipe as directed, but I wanted to raise the question. If you’re worried, maybe skip the plastic wrap? Or instead, try placing a sheet of parchment over the saucepan, under the lid?
Another note: This polenta would also be delicious with a spoonful of tomato sauce or meat sauce, or with some sliced sausage. You could also serve it with some sort of braised beef or pork. I had polenta topped with duck ragu and a fried egg at Flour + Water in San Francisco, and it was out. of. control.
The last note: If you have leftover polenta, spread it about 1 inch deep in a lightly oiled baking dish. Allow it to cool, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to roast, grill, or fry it.
Yield: 4 to 8 servings