creamy polenta with caramelized fennel, bacon, and spanish olives

One of the places on my travel bucket list (among a slue of others) is Spain.

Well, more specifically, the islands off of Spain. I hear Majorca is B-E-A-U-tiful. Of course a pit stop in Pamplona to run with the bulls wouldn’t be a bad option either. I kid. Maybe. I am hoping with Mr.B flapping his arms all around the globe this year, that this bucket list item will get checked off in the near future. Babe, if you are reading this, let’s go to Spain! Babe? You there?

Anyways, I remember as a little girl my grandfather telling me about his visit to Spain. He’s a foodie with a great appetite and a wonderful storyteller. I remember sitting at the dinner table listening to him describe the beautiful churches, the colorful culture, and particularly, how he got to eat every 3 hours. He left no adjective untouched when describing the paella, cheese, seafood, wines, olives, etc. I could practically smell the spicy and exotic cuisines. Besides the eating, I’m pretty sure his favorite part was all the siestas he got to partake in. But that’s just between you and me.

One day, as I was daydreaming at home about how I would eat my way through Spain and take lots of naps on the beach, when I heard the doorbell rang, and when I went to answer it, there was a box placed on my front door. Hmmmm…what could this be? I opened the box and started sifting through all the peanuts. (side note: can we please come up with something better to package breakables than Styrofoam peanuts? Those little suckers cling to you like an ant on a sugar cube!) Inside the box was an assortment of olive oils, vinegars, and olives from the folks over at STAR Fine Foods.

What instantly caught my eye was the Star Farmer’s Market Spain Manzanilla Olive Pouch. Dude, are these not the coolest things ever? I love, love, luvvvvvv me some olives, so to have an option for a resealable, on-the-go-bust-your-olives-out-at-for-an-impromptu-spain-tasting, is totally up my alley.

But today, I thought I would use those olives to create a Spanish-inspired dish. The dish I whipped up is a creamy polenta, topped with my new current obsession, caramelized fennel, with bacon. I put sliced olives on top to give the polenta an even more salty round-house kick.

So, if you’re looking to spice up your “Meh Mondays” make this dish, and then take a siesta.

Disclosure: STAR Fine Foods sent me products to sample. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions expressed are 100% my own! 

Creamy Polenta with Caramelized Fennel, Bacon, and Spanish Olives

Ingredients:

for the polenta:
3 cups water
1 cup quick cooking polenta
1 jalapeno, diced
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

for the caramelized fennel:

1 large fennel bulb, chopped
3 pieces bacon, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon STAR Fine Foods Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon STAR Fine Foods Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper
1 cup STAR Fine Foods Farmers Market Spanish Manzanilla Olives, cut in half
Parsley, garnish

Directions:

for the polenta:
In large saucepan, add water and polenta. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir until the polenta has thickened about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno, cheese, cream, butter, and a dash of s&p. Stir to combine. Set aside until ready to plate.

for the caramelized fennel:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a bowl, combine fennel, bacon, brown sugar, olive oil, and a pinch of s&p. Place fennel combo and baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until nice and caramelized. Remove from oven and let it cool slightly.

Meanwhile, preheat a medium skillet to medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to pan. Add the mushrooms and let them brown for about a minute before adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes or until softened. Set aside when done.

To serve: pour about 3/4 cup of polenta into a bowl. Top with caramelized fennel, mushrooms, olives, and fresh parsley! Enjoy!

polenta adapted from Bon Appetit
caramelized onion from Giada De Laurentiis

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