Cook the Book

Chard- or Collard-Wrapped Polenta-Chile Tamale Packages From 'Heart of the Plate'

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[Photograph: Mollie Katzen]

Polenta and greens take a new form in Mollie Katzen's tamale-like polenta packages. These small bites from her new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, are surprisingly simple: make a pot of thick polenta laced with Anaheim chiles and sautéed onions, blanch a dozen chard or collard leaves, scoop, roll, and sauté. They make for a good appetizer or light lunch, especially if served with a warm salsa or a few dollops of guacamole.

Why I picked this recipe: Despite the fact that I eat greens and polenta all the time, these cute wrapped "packages" are something I never would have thought to make on my own.

What worked: I had my doubts about Katzen's polenta-cooking method, but it turned out to be a perfect way to render a thick, tender filling for the greens.

What didn't: I used collards as my wrappers since they looked the best at the store. I would use chard leaves next time, though, because I found the bitterness of the barely cooked collards to be a little overpowering.

Suggested tweaks: You could jazz up the polenta even further by adding fresh corn, smoked paprika, and/or chipotle peppers. Serving the packages over a peppery sauce like romesco would also be a great idea.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Heart of the Plate to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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