Rustic Stew with Parmesan Polenta


1 pound boneless pork country-style ribs, boneless veal shoulder, or round roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium green or red sweet pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 ½ ounce can diced tomatoes
¼ cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
2 cups torn fresh spinach (optional)


1 cup coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup cold water or chicken broth
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using broth)


Fresh tomatoes
Fine cornmeal for faster cooking polenta
Chicken stock to replace bouillon
Serve for breakfast with an egg cooked over easy

Stew: Trim fat from pork. Cut pork into 2-inch pieces or cut veal into 1 ½ inch pieces. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Brown meat in hot oil. Drain off fat. In the same skillet, cook onion, pepper, and garlic in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add meat, undrained tomatoes, wine, bouillon granules, Italian seasoning, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer about 1 hour for pork or 45 minutes for veal or until meat is very tender. If desired, stir spinach into meat mixture. Serve stew with soft, baked, or fried polenta and garnish with parmesan cheese, fresh rosemary and/or oregano. Polenta: In a large saucepan, bring 2 ½ cups water to boiling. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together cornmeal and 1 cup cold water with salt or 1 cup chicken broth. Slowly add cornmeal mixture to boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until the water returns to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until very thick, stirring frequently and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a very slow boil. Stir in parmesan cheese when finished cooking. Spoon soft polenta into bowls and cover with rustic stew. Baked Polenta: Prepare as above, except pour the hot polenta into a 9 inch pie plate, spreading evenly. Let stand for 30 minutes. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake, uncovered, about 25 minutes or until heated through. Let stand on a wire rack 5 minutes. Cut into 6 wedges. Fried Polenta: Prepare as above, except pour the hot polenta into a 8x4x2 inch loaf pan; cool. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Run a thin metal spatula around the edges of the pan. Remove polenta from pan; cut crosswise into 12 slices. In a large skillet or on a griddle, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook half of the polenta slices 16 to 20 minutes or until brown and crisp, turning once. Repeat with remaining slices, adding 1 tablespoon butter to skillet before adding polenta.