Valentine Bisque with Polenta from Georgia Pellegrini

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It’s exciting to have my friend, Georgia Pellegrini here today! Georgia is a fellow food blogger, chef, girl hunter extraordinaire, and author of one of my favorite books, Food Heroes. She’s as sweet as they come. Be sure to stop by her site, GeorgiaPellegrini.com, and tell her “hello” while you’re there!

Welcome Georgia!

All photos in this post were created by Georgia’s brother, Gordon Pellegrini. Be sure to check out his photography site, Gordon Pellegrini Photography.

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Howdy! Amy is one of my first food blogger friends. I just felt an instant connection to her through the great waves of the cybersphere, and when we finally met in person that bond was sealed. I love the happy community on her blog, and am thrilled to share one of my favorite recipes with you. Thanks for letting me stop by Amy!

Valentine Bisque

Last year, while she was still cooking up a storm, Grandma Pellegrini made a Valentine’s Day Bisque. She even put hearts in it. It’s a work of art. I thought I would share it with you as a fun alternative to the sweet treats we usually have on Valentine’s Day. Grandma P. doesn’t like things too sweet.

This is a root soup, colored with… red beets, nature’s fabulous food coloring! It is delicious, I have had it.
Grandma P. left you the recipe below. In her own words and everything.

It comes with hearts made of polenta in two colors to suit your mood. Red ones, colored with beet juice also. Or white if you want to keep it simple.

Valentine Soup

And a cat tail for garnish.

The thing about Grandma P. is that she’s very good at presentation. That is part of why the food tastes so good. And she has lots of charming salt and pepper shakers and plates and cloth napkins and the right silver spoons.

I use paper towel to wipe my face. I’m not nearly as classy. I am going to work on that starting this Valentine’s Day.

She’s a perfectionist… watch:

An artist at work. She used to be a fashion photographer back in the 60s and 70s, which probably explains it.

And then the perfect placement of the polenta.

I like how they seem to float on the surface.

I bet you could get fancy and do a half and half heart – half red, half white.

I want polenta for dinner for some reason.

And then the red ones. In case you want a second helping and want to try all the flavors.

Our email exchanges go like this…

Her: Have you planned your Valentine’s Day presentation yet? I’m trying out a chocolate truffle cookie recipe (yes with sugar, no Stevia this time). I’m going to try baking them in those cast iron heart molds. I have other heart shapes I like to use; one for Coeur a la Creme; others. I also like making red food; puddings, cookies, cake (Red Velvet Cake!). I use beet juice; it makes an intense red. Our annual meeting at the church falls on Valentine’s Day this year, followed by a soup and bread pot-luck lunch. I’ll bring Borscht.
Me: It’s Valentine’s Day? What month is it? Where am I? Did I miss a book deadline?
Her: Maybe I’ll have something ready by Sunday. Today’s plans came to a roaring halt when I realized the furnace was off. I’m still waiting for the repair man. Ah, he’s here.
Me: OK, just let me know…
Her: Alright the repair man is gone. I’ve decided what to make for the Valentine feature. Title: Valentine Bisque with Polenta. Shall I leave you guessing, or do you want to hear about it ahead of time? The problem is that I need to shop for a few things (or ask someone to get them for me) today. Snow tomorrow! I’m getting serious again about healthy eating after viewing a disturbing program about diabetes on Oprah yesterday. That’s why I decided not to do the desserts. I’m more comfortable with this non-health-threatening idea. It will be equally pleasing to the eye.

And with that, Grandma P. did what she calls her “practice run” for the church potluck.

She was going to make sweets, but I’m awfully glad she made this.

I hope you get to spend Valentine’s Day surrounded by people you love!

Here is how to make it, in her own words:

Valentine Bisque with Polenta

For the Root Soup:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 beet (medium), boiled in water, peeled, and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1/2 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1/2 celeriac (optional), peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cups water (plus more if needed)
6 oz soft tofu (more for a lighter colored soup)

- In a large skillet heat the oil.

- Add the vegetables and sauté them slowly for about 12 minutes, until translucent.

- Add hot water and salt (broth if preferred) and cook for another 12 minutes.

- Transfer it all to a food processor. Add Tofu and process until smooth.

- Add more water or broth as needed.

MAKES 4-5 CUPS

Now for the White Polenta:

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup white cornmeal
3-4 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese (or your choice of cheese, but not too yellow!)

- In a large pot mix 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of salt.

- Slowly add the cornmeal, stirring rapidly. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat  and cook, stirring frequently for 18-22 minutes, until thickened.

- At this point you may stir in the grated Pecorino cheese.

- Pour it onto a platter or large flat pan to a thickness of about 1/3 inch and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

- Use a cookie cutter to cut out hearts. These may be served warm as is, or fried in butter (Polenta Brustula), but the color won’t stay as white.

Grandma’s Note #1: Adding the corn meal before heating the water (the traditional method) helps to prevent lumps from forming.

Grandma’s Note #2: I forgot to mention that the pink hearts were made by cooking the polenta in the water I used to cook beets. Also, a really lovely red comes from adding the Tofu to tomato soup; I call that one ‘Tomato Bisque’

Grandma’s Note #3: It would be good to warn you about invasive coloring of the beets; it gets on everything, the floor, the tablecloth, hands, even on the white hearts.

Grandma’s Note #4: I usually put another root in the soup: Ginger root; a few small slices, and a piece of lemon peel, though it’s not a root.

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So lovely Georgia! Thanks for sharing your Grandma P with us.

All photos in this post were created by Gordon Pellegrini ~ Gordon Pellegrini Photography.

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Comments

  1. 4

    says

    Beautiful soup, and I am just in love with Grandma P. I was wondering, could we come over and share her for a while? She seems just absolutely delightful.

  2. 9

    says

    O.k. how *precious* is Grandma P? I mean seriously.

    Love this polenta! It looks divine…almost tooooo pretty to eat!

  3. 11

    says

    Oh my gosh this is the sweetest post every!! Love the perfectly beautiful hands in the shots… and the love behind what she does!

  4. 12

    says

    this is one of the sweetest posts ever!! i just love Grandma P – look at her, a master at work! and that soup? i would like some of that soup for Valentine’s day or any other day – the color is just terrific!

  5. 15

    says

    I love beets! Going to grow more this year for canning. I pickled several quarts last season. And yes, the color is gorgeous! I used beets in my red velvet sandwich cookies instead of store bought dye.

  6. 16

    says

    Love what grandma P has come up with this gorgeous pink soup! Super cool that the polenta is floating. Yes, I can tell she was a fashion designer.

  7. 19

    says

    I LOVE everything about this post…….the colors, the photography, the story, the recipe…….and yes…the cat tail! haha

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