As I mentioned in this post, I realized my affinity for figs back in 2004. I was hired to host a Saturday Night Request party at some podunk radio station in Chambersburg, PA. I strolled in on my first night on the job and the current host, who was a college kid that decided to retire, sat at the controls reading some type of Greek literature. He received about five calls all night (pathetic for a six hour show) and nearly destroyed the airwaves with his constant Staind songs (I think he played them around 345 times that night). I was so bored with the events that played out in front of me that for the first time in my entire life I think I dozed off standing up. I vowed that things would be different when I took the reigns the following weekend. The first thing I did was hit the mic with complete arrogance (partially due to my big city training, partially due to the off brand gummy worms I inhaled during my shift). The arrogance worked. At six-thirty the calls began coming and they didn’t stop until well after midnight.
Shortly after, the station hired me to host evening drive time. Bringing in some additional hours (at minimum wage) allowed me to splurge a little for my Saturday night show and instead of cheapo gummy worms I developed a fondness for imitation fig newtons. A two pound package was a little over two dollars (and I would eat them all save for the few I handed to the strangers on the street who happened in during the show). It was on those late Saturday nights, drunk on newtons, that I found peace and really perfected the art of stepping safely off the spinning carousel.
Now that I’ve secured a teaching job and get paid the big dollars, I no longer eat myself spiritual on phony fig newtons. Now I can afford the real stuff. This allows me to make elegant dishes like the fig and onion jelly covered polenta that I ate tonight. That’s some zen.
Polenta with Fig and Red Onion Jelly
for the polenta:
-1 cups vegan milk
-2 cups vegetable stock
-1 1/2 cups cornmeal
-freshly ground black pepper
for the jelly:
-2 Tbs. olive oil
-1 red onion, thin slice
-1 tsp. fresh rosemary (and more for garnish)
-2/3 cup red wine
-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
-a little less than 1/4 cup of fine sugar
-3 figs cut into slivers
1. Pour the milk and vegetable stock into a pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the cornmeal slowly to the boiling liquid, whisking to ensure that it doesn’t clump. Once the liquid returns to a boil, stir continuously for ten minutes. Add the oregano and salt and continue mixing until the polenta resembles a thick porridge.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the polenta onto the parchment paper and smooth out (you want it to be no thicker than 1 cm). Place in the refrigerator for about an hour.
3. While the polenta is cooling, begin the jelly. Place the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions and cook until they are beginning to brown. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and balsamic vinegar. Once the liquid has reduced in half, turn down the temperature to low and add the sugar and figs. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will know the onion mixture is done when it takes the consistency of jam.
4. Preheat the oven to broil. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and slice into triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and place back on the baking sheet (parchment paper should be removed). Repeat with the remaining polenta. Place in the oven and broil until golden.
5. Spoon the jelly over the polenta. Place another piece on top (if you want the peanut butter and jelly feel). Treat it like your school lunch.
Carousel is back with a new release called “Stay Awake” which is a metaphor for the song. It starts off slowly, like a bad piece of pop music, daring you to just fall asleep. Then it breaks out the electro beat and majestic keyboard and dispels any of those false notions you may have had.
After the grazey electro of Carousel, I went a little dirty (although I kept the pop sensibilities close by). Rare Monk’s new track “Death By Proxy” is a spacey sort of jelly jam that balances moments of being buried in the grave six feet underground and others where you are on top, dancing on the grave. The song is up. The song is down. The song takes you everywhere in between.