I cried. I laughed. I sighed. And by the time I got to the end of Eat Pray Love wanted to give author Elizabeth Gilbert the biggest, squeeziest hug I could muster.
I love that woman, not because she is perfect or because I hold to all her beliefs and choices, but because she is so beautifully real, honest, and brave. And, most importantly, because her words reached into one of the darkest times of my life and shed a bright, radiant burst of sunlight that gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I really was going to be OK.
Our backgrounds, lifestyles and worlds could not be more different, yet somehow she felt like a kindred spirit. She truly understood the terror of waking up and realizing you don’t belong in your world anymore, the inevitable fear, self-doubt and insecurity that follow as you try to figure out where you do belong, and the strange, beautiful feeling of discovering what you really love, really want to do, and who you really are.
We shared something else: a passionate love for travel and the incredible mind-expanding, soul-enriching, heart-healing impact it can have on a shattered life.
Strangely enough, I first read Eat Pray Love on a terrace in Italy overlooking vineyards, olive groves, and the Tyrrhenian Sea. I arrived with a broken heart, shaken faith, and a weary spirit, and as I read the book and talked with my dear friends, I was filled with hope and knew I was going to be alright.
I knew exactly what I wanted to make too. No five-course dinner or lavish antipasti spread, I wanted to make a Street Food I had first heard about from Jamie Oliver: Fried Polenta with Rosemary and Salt.
His version looked delicious, but I wanted to amp mine up a bit so I cooked the polenta with chicken stock, garlic and lavish amounts of ground black pepper, stirred in a mound of grated Parmesan cheese, and set it to chill. When it was cool I tore it into bite-sized pieces, tossed them with cornmeal and fried them until they were nice and crispy. Mmm! They looked so good, but I wasn’t done yet. I added fresh garlic and rosemary to the oil and fried them up until the garlic was beautifully browned, added them to the fried polenta and sprinkled everything with salt. Delicious!! Crispy and salty on the outside, creamy and savory on the inside. Perfect.
Fried Polenta with Crispy Garlic and Rosemary
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cornmeal
4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary, removed from stem
4-5 cups vegetable oil
- Bring chicken stock, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to boil. Gradually stir in cornmeal, lower the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in Parmesan Cheese and olive oil.
- Pour into large cookie sheet and chill until cool.
- Tear polenta into bite-sized pieces, toss with cornmeal to coat.
- Heat vegetable oil until polenta sizzles when dropped in. Lower heat if oil begins to smoke.
- Fry in batches until polenta pieces are browned and crispy. Drain on paper towel and dust with sea salt.
- When polenta is done, add garlic and rosemary to oil and cook for 2-4 minutes until garlic is browned. Drain on paper towel and dust with sea salt.
- Combine polenta, garlic and rosemary and serve warm.