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Call it mush, people giggle. Call it polenta, people will genuflect.

What's in a name? A great deal, at least in the case of boiled cornmeal. if you call it mush, people giggle; if, on the other hand, you call it polenta, people will genuflect. Such is the current popularity of Italian cuisine.

It was not always so. A San Francisco bred friend of Italian extraction remembers how her family survived on polenta during the Great Depression, pasta being prohibitively expensive. They supplemented their diet with crab (from a fisherman father) and artichokes and an occasional rabbit (from farm relatives in nearby Half Moon Bay).

She has no deep, abiding love for polenta. But if she tried it lavished with Fred Herzer's sausage sauce, richly flavored with fresh and dried tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese, her memories of polenta might glow more brightly.
Speedy Polenta with Sausage Sauce
 3 ounces (about 2 cups) dried
 About 1 1/4 pounds (5 large) Roma-type
 tomatoes, cored and
 coarsely chopped
 1 pound mild italian sausages
 1 large onion, chopped
 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
 1 cup each dry red wine and regular-strength
 chicken broth
 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 Freshly ground pepper
 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
 Microwave polenta (recipe follows)

Freshly grated parmesan cheese Place dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Add boiling water to cover and let soak for 2 to 3 minutes, then lift out tomatoes. Whirl dried and fresh tomatoes in a food processor or blender until pureed.

Remove sausage casings and discard. Crumble meat into a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium heat; stir often until sausage is well browned, about 20 minutes. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.

Add onion and garlic to pan; stir often until onion is limp, about 10 minutes. Stir in pureed tomato mixture, mushrooms, wine, broth, cinnamon, pepper, and basil.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat; stir often until sauce is thick enough to leave a path when a spoon is scraped across pan bottom, 30 to 40 minutes. To avoid scorching, stir more frequently as the sauce thickens.

Spoon hot cooked polenta onto a rimmed platter; spread so mixture is I to I 1/2 inches thick, then ladle sauce onto polenta. Spoon portions onto plates and add cheese to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Per serving: 360 cal.; 15 g protein; 18 g fat, 36 g carbo.; 482 mg sodium; 42 mg chol.

Microwave polenta. In a 4- to 5-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups polenta, 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, 3 1/2 cups (2 cans, each 14 1/2-oz. size) boiling regular-strength chicken broth, and 1 1/3 cups boiling water; stir until well blended.

Cover polenta and cook in a microwave oven at full power (100 percent) until mixture boils and thickens, 18 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Mixture stays soft enough to spoon for only 3 or 4 minutes.

The argument over the cbolesterol-cutting capabilities of oat bran may still be raging, but there's no dispute over its claim to virtue as a source of fiber. Moreover, as bulk, it lessens the amount of space available in a recipe for ingredients of higher calorie count.

There are many people who believe that oat bran enhances the texture (and possibly even the flavor) of breadstuffs. Certainly chef Tom Anderson's waffles are delicious, as well as being low in cholesterol. (Of course, if you insist on a big pat of butter, all bets are off.)
Apple Bran Waffles
 1 cup buttermilk baking mix (biscuit
 1 cup oat bran
 1 teaspoon baking powder
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 About 2 tablespoons salad oil
 2 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
 1 small (about 2 1/2-in.-diameter)
 apple, peeled, cored, and finely
 Maple syrup

In a large bowl, whisk together the baking mix, bran, baking powder, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons oil, egg whites, and milk until smooth. Stir in the apple.

Set a waffle iron on medium-high heat (or at 375 degrees). When hot, brush grids with salad oil. Ladle batter over hot grids (about I cup for 8-in.-square grid). Close pan and bake until waffle is well browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Serve, or place directly on racks in a 200 degree oven to keep warm for up to 30 minutes. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 3 waffles, each 8 inches wide.

Per waffle: 379 cal; 14 g protein; 16 g fat,- 56 g carbo.; 700 mg sodium; 2 mg chol.

While in New Orleans, Martin Yonke sampled a "barbecued" shrimp preparation he deemed worth stealing. Borrowing the steps, he added a Sichuan touch with Chinese chili paste: use with caution, too much will make you glow in the dark.
Hot and Spicy Shrimp
 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
 1 medium-size onion, chopped
 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
 1 large (about 9 oz.) firm-ripe tomato,
 peeled, cored, seeded, chopped
 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (or to taste) hot
 Chinese chili paste with garlic, or
 other hot chili paste
 1/4 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
 1/2 cup dry white wine
 1/2 pound large shrimp (30 to 32 per
 lb.), shelled, halved lengthwise,
 and deveined
 1/2 cup regular-strength chicken broth
 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
 1 green onion (including top), ends
 trimmed and thinly sliced
 Crusty bread

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir often until onion is limp, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in tomato, chili paste, mushrooms, and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil, uncovered, until most of the wine has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium; add shrimp and stir often just until shrimp begin to curl, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, parsley, and green onion. When hot, ladle into soup bowls and cat with bread. Serves 2.

Per serving: 260 cal.; 22 g protein; 14 g fat,- 12 g carbo.; 292 mg sodium; 173 mg chol.

Cheesecake is one of the great triumvirate of restaurant desserts, along with caramel custard and chocolate mousse. It is often served with a topping of fruit or a touch of flavor, but the purist sticks to unadorned vanilla or lemon.

When Bob Jones left home to go to college, his mother, Betty, sent two recipes with him: he threw away the meat loaf recipe at once, but worked on the cheesecake until he considered it perfect. He has been generous in sharing it with us.
 Collaboration Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
 About 1/4 cup 1/2 lb.) butter or
 margarine, melted
 1 cup sugar
 2 large packages (8 oz. each) cream
 cheese, at room temperature
 3 large eggs
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
 1 pint sour cream

In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Pat crumbs evenly over bottom and about I 1/2 inches up the sides of a lightly buttered 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim. Chill 15 to 20 minutes.

In a large mixer bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the sugar with cream cheese, eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon of the vanilla until very smooth. Pour mixture into chilled crust. Bake in a 375' oven until center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, about 20 minutes. Remove cheesecake from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, turn oven up to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl (or the carton), stir sour cream to blend with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and remaining I teaspoon vanilla. Gently spoon mixture over cheesecake, then spread evenly. Return cheescake to oven and bake until sour cream appears set when gently shaken, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. Cut into wedges. Makes 14 to 16 servings.

Per serving: 296 cal.; 4.9 g protein; 21 g fat,-23g carbo.; 209 mg sodium; 92 mg chol

Calling all cowboys and cowgals: what's cooking?

We are particularly interested in specialties you cook on the grill or over an open fire at the ranch or on the trail. Do you have a signature barbecue sauce or historic family recipe? What are some of your typical trail foods? Know a menu that pleases the fussiest cowpoke?

Send your original recipes to Cowpokes, Sunset Magazine, 80 Willow Rd., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chefs of the West; recipes
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Decadence, torte, or shortbread ... they're malted.
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