Tag Archives: spicy

Butternut Squash Polenta with Spicy Spinach and Shredded Pork

20 Jul

Talk about flavorful!  In an effort to use up the leftover pork from yesterday’s roasted pork loin with roasted garlic and arugula vinaigrette and a butternut squash that was nearing it’s end, I came up with this recipe.  I remembered reading about a butternut squash polenta somewhere, and after a few minutes of Googling, found what I was looking for: this delicious sounding dish from Food & Style.  After making some pretty significant changes to suit our tastes and what I had on hand, I ended up with a meal that was an absolute explosion of flavors.  The polenta was decadently creamy and bursting with the yummy flavor of butternut squash.  The spinach had just enough heat and garlic to really shine against the fattiness of the pork without overwhelming the gentle acidity of the red wine vinegar and distinctive taste of the Caraway seed.  This dish was also amazingly easy to prepare, especially since so much of it could be done ahead of time.  I roasted the squash, shredded the pork, and then left the house for most of the afternoon.  Once Zak was home from work and ready to eat, all I had to do was reheat the pork, whip up the polenta, and sauté the spinach, which only took about 20 minutes.

We both absolutely loved this and I’ll be making it again in the future.  Almost any leftover meat would taste great on top, or it would be delicious as a vegetarian option.

Butternut Squash Polenta with Spicy Spinach and Shredded Pork

Adapted from Food & Style

Serves 2

Shredded Pork:

1.5 lbs leftover roasted pork, cut into large chunks or slices

2 tbs. Brummel & Brown, other butter substitute, or butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. Caraway seed

1/2 tsp. marjoram

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

3 cups homemade chicken stock

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a heavy, medium sized saucepan heat Brummel & Brown over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until golden brown.  Add onions, Caraway seed, marjoram, and salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly caramelized (about 10-15 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium-low and add pork, chicken stock, and red wine vinegar.  Simmer, covered, roughly one hour.

From time to time, reduce heat to low and use two forks to shred the pork.  Return heat to medium-low and re-cover.  If necessary, uncover and simmer until sauce reduces so that pork is barely wet about 15 minutes before serving time.

Butternut Squash Puree:

1 large butternut squash, halved

Cooking spray

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2 tbs. plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray flesh side of butternut squash with cooking spray and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil (for easy clean up) and position a roasting rack over baking sheet.  Spray roasting rack with cooking spray.  Place squash halves flesh side down on roasting rack and roast 50 minutes or until very tender.

Let squash cool.  Scoop out flesh of one half of squash and place in food processor, saving the other half of the squash for another purpose.  Process until mostly smooth.  Add Greek yogurt and process until completely smooth.  Set aside.

This portion of the recipe can be prepared up to a day in advance and chilled in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


3 cups homemade chicken stock

1 cup polenta (also known as corn grits)

1/2 cup asiago fresco cheese, shredded

Butternut Squash Puree (see above)

In a large saucepan, heat chicken stock over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil.  Slowly whisk in polenta.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of liquid has been absorbed by the polenta.  Add the asiago and Butternut Squash Puree (see above) and heat until cheese is melted and puree is heated through.

Spicy Spinach:

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp. olive oil

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained

1 heaping tsp. paprika

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until tender, 1-2 minutes.  Add paprika and crushed red pepper, followed immediately by chopped spinach.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until spinach is heated through.

To serve, place polenta in bowl topped with the spinach followed by the pork and a few tablespoons of juices from the pork.


Southwestern Salad with Jalapeno-Honey Dressing

16 Jul

This is the perfect summer salad.  It  has a great balance of sweet and spicy, thanks to the combination of honey, corn and roasted jalapeños.  The textures were also lovely, with plenty of crunch from the tortilla chips and corn and velvety smoothness from the olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  This was a delicious, healthy dinner!  The dressing could also be made with extra virgin olive oil, but I prefer the clean flavors of canola oil, which has a great good-to-bad fat ratio and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, in this particular dressing.

Southwestern Salad with Jalapeño-Honey Dressing

Serves 2

Crispy Tortilla Strips:

3 soft taco sized flour tortillas cut into 1/2″ strips

Olive oil flavored cooking spray

Kosher salt, to taste

Cumin, to taste


3 fresh jalapeños

1/2 cup packed fresh flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup cucumber, roughly diced

zest and juice of 1 large lemon

zest and juice of 1 small lime

1/4 cup honey

About 1/2 cup canola oil

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Other ingredients:

5 oz. baby arugula

2 cups frozen sweet corn, defrosted

3 large radishes, thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, diced

1/4 cup sliced button mushrooms

1/8 cup black olives, sliced

1/2 large tomato, diced

Shredded Mexican cheese, to taste (not pictured)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place tortilla strips in a single layer on the baking sheet and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Season with cumin and salt to taste.  Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown, stirring halfway through baking time (return to a single layer).  Remove from baking sheet and set aside.  Save baking sheet for next step.

For the dressing, heat broiler.  Spray reserved baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place jalapeños on baking sheet and put under broiler, turning over occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until skin is lightly charred.  Set aside to cool, reserving one roasted jalapeño for salad.

While jalapeños are roasting, assemble other dressing ingredients.  Remove stems from jalapeños and cut into thirds.  If you don’t want your dressing spicy, remove seeds and ribs (or partially remove, to taste).  We like spice, so I left all of the seeds and ribs in the jalapeños.  Some people will recommend you remove the charred skin from the roasted jalapeño, but I personally love the light taste of “char,” so I leave it.  Add parsley, cucumber, zest and juice of lemon, zest and juice of lime, honey, jalapeños, and salt and pepper to taste to a food processor.  While running the processor, slowly drizzle in canola oil until the texture of the dressing is mostly smooth.  Taste and re-season as necessary.  Set aside.

Combine corn, radishes, cucumber, reserved jalapeño, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes.  Add dressing to corn mixture and allow to marinade in refrigerator at least one hour.  Just prior to serving, toss with arugula.  Top with reserved tortilla strips and shredded Mexican cheese blend to taste.


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