Get Out & Vote! & Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù

An open letter to my nieces and nephews,

vote_02Finally, the 2016 election is headed into the homestretch. Fed up with the rancor, some (probably most) Americans are heaving a huge sigh of relief. Few would disagree that the tone of the election is disturbing, even horrifying. It worries me. More than a few people are threatening to skip the whole thing. I’m sure you’d never stay home from the polls but just in case you’re thinking about it … please don’t. Cast your vote, if for no other reason than it will make Meme proud.

Perhaps she is naïve or unduly patriotic but your grandmother believes in voting. The first time I voted, Mom waited to cast her ballot until I got home from school so we could go to the polls together. It has never mattered that our views often differ, that our votes cancel each other out. For Meme, voting is important, an important right and responsibility.

Maybe it is because my grandmother, Meme’s mom, was born before women had the right to vote. Nana was of voting age and shoulda, coulda, woulda voted the year Woodrow Wilson was elected president. Instead, she had to wait another four years for the 19th amendment to pass.

The candidates tell us, “This is the most important election ever.” Maybe they are right, maybe not. Many of the talking heads, pundits and pollsters say that millennials could decide the 2016 election. That’s you and that’s a good thing. Who better to decide the future than the generation who will be around to see it? Don’t forget, a Supreme Court position is at stake. Appointing a supreme is a big deal with long lasting effect. The average tenure on the court is sixteen years. The longest serving justice was on the bench for more than thirty-six years.

Anyway, that’s the argument I used with Gramps. Discouraged by his choices, your grandfather threatened to stay home from the polls. That’s a pretty big deal. As far as I know, Gramps has never skipped an election. Okay, maybe he missed a few of those local elections over referenda that almost no one understands. (Sorry – Mom, I’ve missed a few of those as well.)

And so, I had a heart to heart with your disheartened grandfather. I suggested that he vote for the candidate who best represented the interests and needs of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Especially you, the youngest generation of Nyes. I think it worked. At least, he cast his ballot.

It’s okay to be a little selfish about this. Think of your future, your beliefs and values when you ponder this election. Look beyond the melodrama and vote for the issues that matter to you. Wave away the stunts and theater. Determine what’s best for the economy, foreign policy, health care and education. Reflect on your positions on the environment, gun policy, terrorism and trade. Consider where you stand on immigration, marriage equality, treatment of minorities and women’s rights. It’s not easy. There has never been a perfect candidate. There never will be.

Alzheimer’s disease has robbed Meme of her ability to vote. Go in her stead. Know she loves you and make her proud. I love you too.

Bon appétit!

Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
For anyone following the election, a little comfort food is probably in order about now. Enjoy!polenta_mushrooms_kale_01
Serves 6-8

4-6 ounces pancetta or bacon
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms*, trimmed and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry Madeira or sherry wine
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1 pound baby kale, stemmed
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 cup instant polenta
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
1-2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2-1 cup half & half
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the mushrooms and kale: Lightly coat a heavy skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and drain.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until it starts to become translucent, add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine and reduce by half, stir in 1/2 cup stock, add the pancetta and kale and simmer until the kale wilts. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Add the butter and stir to combine.

polenta_mushrooms_kale_05While the mushrooms and kale cooks, make the polenta: Bring the remaining stock to a boil in heavy saucepan, add the polenta and remaining herbs and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the half & half, add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.

To serve: spoon the polenta into shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and kale and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* If you can find them, use a mix of chanterelles, oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

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One Year Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Three Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Six Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Seven Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Dare I ask … what are your thoughts on the election? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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