Here’s a meal that will make you feel good. The recipe for “Braised Mediterranean Chicken with Polenta,” from the September 2009 issue of Everyday Food, celebrates the heartiness of polenta, which is thick, filling, soothing, and simple to prepare. I was happy to cook chicken thighs once again and to use my beloved Dutch oven once more. The succulent chicken was surrounded by the nice zucchini/tomato sauce, atop that smooth polenta.

Instead of using fresh oregano, I used 1 tsp. dried. My wine, a 2008 Australian Pinot Grigio, smelled so great when I added it to the pot with the tomatoes. The wine “almost evaporated” in three-and-a-half minutes. I used vegetable-bouillon broth instead of chicken broth. I added my zucchini with 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, then cooked for a final 20 minutes. As for the polenta, you just need to be patient, pay attention, and keep whisking. Mine was cooked in 22 minutes.

Chicken thighs are so desirable due to their tasty amount of chicken fat, which definitely enhanced the zucchini/tomato sauce in this recipe.

It’s a pleasing dish.

I also made the spectacular “Broccoli with Parmesan Bread Crumbs,” from the March 2007 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below).

I promise you can’t fail with this dish.

Broccoli with Parmesan Bread Crumbs
Cook’s Illustrated, March 2007

Serves 4
Shred the Parmesan on the large holes of a box grater.

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. broccoli
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming, add bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until dark golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water and 1/2 tsp. salt to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli stalks, then place florets on top of stalks so that they sit just above water. Cover and cook until broccoli is bright green and just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Toss hot broccoli with Parmesan in large bowl until cheese melts. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve.

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Let’s admit that we really don’t need a recipe here. Your basic elements are the garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and anything green. I used frozen broccoli with great success; I microwaved it, then added the cheese. My young child loved this one -- every element of this simple recipe is appealingly tasty.

Chicken Thighs (2 lbs.) = $4.36
Cherry Tomatoes (1 pint) = $2.13
Zucchini (3) = $1.75

RECIPES: chicken stew atop polenta is filling and fabulous, and broccoli sings with garlic, breadcrumbs, and cheese
PREP TIMES: if you cook your polenta while the stew is simmering, you could eat in less than 90 minutes; broccoli is a fast flash
TASTES: scrumptious chicken fat enhances the zucchini and tomatoes, which holds up to the smooth heartiness of the polenta; parmesan breadcrumbs are a key to vegetable happiness

Next time, I want to cook “Tempeh Cutlets Provencal,” from the January 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times, along with “Southern Green Beans,” from All Recipes. See my delicious results when you come back to my site on Monday, February 15.