Polenta a creamy foil for sauvignon blanc
By michele anna jordan | Jul 12, 2016

Our Wine of the Week, Clos Pegase 2015 Napa Valley Carneros Mitsuko’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, is a sassy thing. On first sip, you’ll notice white grapefruit, lime zest and mild jalapeño, with a delightfully lively acidity that the brain interprets as “refreshing.” This characteristic is more typical in sparking wines and other carbonated beverages, but it’s here, too, if you pay attention. It is tart, a bit tangy and smooth as satin.

At the same time, the wine shines with Dijon mustard, which could translate at the table to something as simple as grilled bockwurst with fried onions and mustard, or as complicated as rabbit or chicken Dijonnaise.

It’s a natural choice with fish and shellfish, too, and pairs beautifully with the green foods of summer, including zucchini, green beans, mild chilies and peppers, and high-acid tomatoes.

For today’s recipe, inspiration comes from the cool evenings we’ve had lately, perfect for enjoying creamy polenta with a light and tangy topping that engages the wine.

Creamy Polenta with Salsa Verde
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal, polenta or grits
— Kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 ounces (¾ cup) grated cheese, such as Vella Dry Jack, Estero Gold or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves or basil leaves
3 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds
1 small Armenian cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into small dice
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
— Juice of ½ lemon, plus more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more to taste
— Black pepper in a mill

Pour 3 cups of water into a medium saucepan and set over high heat. When the water boils, use a whisk to stir the water in one direction to create a vortex. Slowly pour the polenta into the vortex and continue to stir as the water returns to a boil.

Add a generous teaspoon or two of salt and continue to stir. When the polenta just begins to thicken, in about 5 minutes, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are completely tender; it will take from 35 to 60 minutes or longer, depending on the age and size of the grain.

When the polenta is completely tender, stir in the butter and cheese, taste, correct for salt, cover, remove from the heat, and keep warm.

While the polenta cooks, make the salsa verde. Chop the parsley and cilantro or basil; the leaves should be chopped fairly small but not so small that they release their juices. Transfer to a bowl, add the scallions, cucumbers and garlic, and toss gently.

Put the Dijon into a small bowl, add the lemon juice and stir in the olive oil. Pour the mixture over the greens and toss together thoroughly.

Taste, correct for salt and acid, season with several turns of black pepper, and set aside, covered, until ready to use.

To serve, ladle polenta into bowls or soup plates and top with generous dollops of salsa verde. Enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com and visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.