This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. The following content is intended for readers who are 21 and older. #ShareWineandBites #CollectiveBias
Balsamic Italian Sausage and Grapes over Goat Cheese Polenta is a rustic yet welcoming “small plate” that’s perfect for entertaining!
Have you noticed many restaurants now have a “small plates” section on their menu? Small plates are slightly more substantial than an appetizer but not as heavy as an entree. For Spanish it’s tapas, Greek it’s meze and Italian, it’s cicchetti. I am totally in love with the small plate concept because it means I can enjoy two or three different things on their menu.
I’ve done numerous gatherings personally and professionally as a personal chef. I found doing individual appetizers is labor-intensive and time-consuming. When entertaining, you’re doing it because you want to enjoy the company of your family and friends, not work so hard you’re exhausted by the time they arrive. A small-plates party is the perfect casual way to entertain.
This rustic Balsamic Italian Sausage and Grapes over Goat Cheese Polenta is perfect on a small plates menu!
But first, I want to share something I recently discovered that is also very special: The Dreaming Tree Wines.
First of all, don’t you just love that name? The name takes me back to when I was single and living in my east-side Milwaukee brownstone apartment. I didn’t have a balcony or patio so if I wanted to sit outside, I would have to sit on the front steps of the building. Instead, I went to a beautiful lakeside park to enjoy the outdoors. I always chose one specific maple tree to sit under and read. That tree had to be over a hundred years old because it was so massive.
When my husband and I began dating, we picnicked under that tree. I picked a leaf from it to remember our picnic which I pressed and dried in a book and later framed. 23 years later, I still have it. I get emotional just thinking about it!
The makers of The Dreaming Tree Wines (and yes, that is Dave Matthews you see there!) are passionate about making beautiful, high-quality California wines that are easily accessible to wine lovers everywhere. And, they are GOOD wines. One of their varietals will pair well with whatever you’re serving and they’re priced so they can be shared with a group of your 21-and-over family and friends.
However, the makers also have a deep social and environmental conscience. They are committed to kinder, sustainable winemaking practices and have donated over $1 million to causes that protect and restore tree and forestry areas here in the United States and around the world. I love that my old maple tree in the park might possibly be protected by their activism!
You can find The Dreaming Tree Wines almost anywhere. I found them at my local grocery store but you can also find them at drug stores, supercenters and mass stores. Simply go to The Dreaming Tree website, look for their store locator and type in your zip code. It’s that easy!
Your friends and family will love their wines! Not everyone gives the environment a lot of thought. Because of all the things they stand for, serving The Dreaming Tree Wines is a great way to start a conversation and promote awareness about the environment.
Their social and environmental conscience is truly inspiring! It got me thinking about what I do or should be doing to support and preserve our environment.
Here are some things my husband and I currently do:
- Combine as many errands into one car trip as possible (unless it’s an emergency).
- Recycle everything we possibly can such as aluminum, plastic and paper. We keep only a small supply of plastic-bottled water for use in an emergency. (Yes, we drink tap water.)
- Compost all vegetable trimmings and eggshells. (Quick gardening tip: Egg shells add calcium to your soil.)
- Use reusable fabric shopping bags. If we do acquire any plastic shopping bags, they are reused for another purpose or we return them to the store for recycling. (Remember to wash your fabric bags occasionally.)
- Try to be creative about repurposing things. An example is, flimsy plastic produce bags really annoy me because they’re hard to open and too many times I’ve put something in them only to have it break through and roll out the other end. To solve this annoying problem, I reuse the mesh bags from large quantities of lemons and other citrus fruit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped in the grocery store by someone and asked where I found such great bags. When I tell them, they think it’s a great idea! Apparently, a lot of people despise those plastic bags!
When cooking for my clients, I:
- Use an electric pressure cooker to speed up cooking for items that require a lot of time such as tough cuts of meat and stews.
- Reuse cooking water as much as possible. For example, a single pot of boiling water can be used to blanch vegetables, cook pasta and kill bacteria in bowls I used for things like meatloaf and meatballs without harsh chemicals.
There are so many little things each of us can do for a healthier environment! What are some things you do? I’d love to hear about them.
Now let’s talk about this beautiful, rustic Balsamic Italian Sausage and Grapes over Goat Cheese Polenta!
Polenta is one of my favorite comfort foods and goat cheese polenta is my favorite way to enjoy it. It’s similar to grits in that they are both made from stone-ground cornmeal but they’re made from different types of corn. The number of times it’s milled, the fineness of the grind and the taste and texture differ. Instant polenta is easier to find, however, you’ll want to use coarse polenta here.
Coarse polenta takes a lot of time and attention to cook if you do it the traditional way on the stovetop. I prefer to cook it uncovered in the oven instead so I can do other things.
While the polenta is baking, brown the Italian sausage and grapes. Place them in the oven to finish cooking alongside the polenta. (Cooking things simultaneously at the same temperature conserves energy!)
Make a quick herb-infused balsamic-based pan sauce, slice the Italian sausage, toss with sauce, plate over the goat cheese polenta and enjoy! Balsamic Italian Sausage and Grapes over Goat Cheese Polenta. The perfect pairing with The Dreaming Tree Wines!
Go to The Dreaming Tree website to learn more and be sure to serve this lovely, casual dish with The Dreaming Tree Wines! Give them all a try: Crush, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Their “Crush,” Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are our favorites! This is a quality wine you can feel good about!
Balsamic Italian Sausage and Grapes over Goat Cheese Polenta is a rustic yet welcoming "small plate" that's perfect for entertaining!
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- 2 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup polenta (coarse ground, not instant)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- SAUSAGE AND GRAPES
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound spicy or mild Italian sausage links (pork, turkey or chicken)
- 1 pound red grapes, cut into 4 - 5 bunches with stem attached
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1/2 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
POLENTA: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the inside of an oven and microwave-safe baking dish with olive oil. Whisk together half-and-half, chicken broth, polenta, salt and black pepper to taste in the prepared baking dish. Microwave on High for 3 minutes. Stir, then transfer to the oven. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
Stir in the goat cheese and butter and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep warm.
SAUSAGE AND GRAPES: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish.
Add the grapes to the skillet, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and lightly brown them. Transfer to the baking dish with the sausage. Bake 20 - 25 minutes alongside the polenta or until the sausage is thoroughly cooked.
SAUCE: Meanwhile, add the shallots to the existing fat in the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring often, being careful not to burn the shallots.
Add the balsamic vinegar, chicken broth and rosemary or thyme to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes to reduce slightly. Stir in the butter and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
TO SERVE: Transfer sausages to a cutting board and slice on an angle into thick slices. Cut grape bunches into 8 - 10 smaller bunches. Spoon polenta into small bowls or onto small plates. Top with 2 -3 sausage slices and a small bunch of grapes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon sauce and garnish with an herb sprig. Serve immediately.