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Ugali (pronounced ooh golly)

Recipe: Ugali (pronounced ooh golly)


  • 1 c. stone ground cornmeal or polenta grits
  • Sea salt to taste
  •  Dry sage, crumbled, or poultry seasoning, to taste
  •  Black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 1/2 c. cold water or vegetable/chicken broth
  • Vegetables for topping:
  •  Sun-dried tomatoes,
  •  julienne cut, packed in oil w/ herbs
  •  Onion, coarsely chopped, amount to taste
  • Red peppers of choice, coarsely chopped
  • Garlic, crushed or chopped, amount to taste
  • Sturdy greens such as mustard greens, chard, or kale removed from stems and torn
  •  Italian seasoning herb mix (rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano)
  •  Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Seasoned black pepper, to taste Cumin, to taste


  1. For Polenta: Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Gradually add water or broth, mixing thoroughly. Cook slowly over medium heat, stirring frequently until very thick. When it gets very thick, it will want to spatter, so keep the heat very low and stir frequently.
  2.  For Vegetable topping: Heat skillet or sauté pan until a drop of water sizzles. Add about 1/4c of tomatoes with oil. Add onions and sauté until soft. Add peppers and seasonings; sauté a few minutes longer. Add garlic, sauté a minute, and then add mustard or other greens and sauté until limp (you may need to adjust the heat to keep from burning, or add a small amount of water or broth).
  3. Pour the cornmeal mush on warmed plates, top with a little grated Parmesan if desired. Top with veggies. Makes a great one-dish meal for two. You can sauté chopped chicken meat with the onions if you wish, or add cooked shrimp meat with the greens.

A special Thank You to John & Judy Waller, Scientific Illustrators for this recipe.

Note: If you have a multi-setting  rice cooker, try layering the ingredients, set for appropriate time according to your cooker directions and let it do all the work!  Thanks Charlotte for the time saver hint!


The amounts of any particular ingredient are not critical.  The basis is rice, flavored with saffron and broth, with (usually) one seafood product and one light meat or sausage product, with a lot of prime veggies.  Here is how I do it:

1/2 pound boned chicken, cubed (Pheasant or Grouse)
1/2 pound cleaned Shrimp (some people add or substitute Crab legs, Scallops, clams, oysters, or chunks of white Fish like Halibut)
1/2 pound mild sausage, cooked & sliced in cartwheels, or else cooked up in medium crumble (I always liked using Swedish sausage)
1/2 to 1 onion, sliced and then quartered (not finely chopped)
Half a dozen fresh mushrooms, sliced in “T” shapes
1-2 cloves garlic
chicken broth or bouillon cubes
1 to 1/2 cups long grain white rice
Healthy pinch saffron (cannot make paella without it)
Julienne strips of bell peppers, red and green (maybe a half cup)
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
Any other fresh veggie in season – small broccoli trees, sliced asparagus spears, steamed and halved Brussels sprouts, fresh green beans, snap peas, etc.
Chopped parsley (a couple tablespoons)

Use a large open pan – this should be done horizontally, rather than in a deep soup pot type thing.  Pre-cook the chicken, seafood, and sausage.  Pre-steam (or microwave) the veggies (but don’t let them lie around a long time).  Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a little oil.  Remove and set aside.  Put a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the pan, add the chopped garlic (use real garlic, not powder), and add the RAW UNCOOKED rice to the pan over medium heat.  Stir around for a few minutes while the rice gets a light oil coating.  Before the garlic starts getting over-browned or burned, add broth or bouillon and water.  The amount is variable, since you will undoubtedly have to be adding water several times while it cooks.  Start with 2 cups liquid for each cup of raw rice.  Add the saffron.  As the rice is starting to get al dente chewy, add the other ingredients – except the parsley – and the juices from them.  You don’t want the veggies, or seafood, to be overcooked, so they just pretty much reheat in the rice matrix.  If using frozen peas, either add them slightly earlier, or thaw/nuke them prior to adding.

When everything is heated and done and not dried out, serve with crusty French bread.  Sangria was made for this dish.

Mixed Veggies with Peanut Sauce and Pasta

2 cloves garlic, pressed
½ cup hot water
½ cup peanut butter
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
dash of cayenne or Tabasco
2 scallions, finely chopped (opt)


Use a combination of carrots, onions, summer squash, winter squash, green or wax beans, peas, celery, kohlrabi or Jerusalem artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, coarsely chopped cabbage, peppers, and any other vegetable you have on hand.  Start the carrots (julienne sliced) first, sautéing in olive oil. When almost tender, throw in the onions, garlic, and squash pieces. When tender, add beans and peas, cook for 5 minutes.  Add peppers and cook 2-3 additional minutes. After removing from heat, add kohlrabi, chopped scallions, or Jerusalem artichokes, if available (don’t cook them – you want to retain their crunch).

While pasta and veggies cook, blend the hot water and peanut butter.  Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ginger, cayenne and half the scallions.

Mound the veggies atop the pasta on each plate, and dollop on the peanut sauce as needed.  Garnish with remaining chopped scallions.

This sauce can be thinned using lemon juice to use as a dip or thinned to the consistency of salad dressing to use over fresh veggies.  It can be heated and served over cooked veggies or baked chicken.

Source:  Legume Pages, Nutrition Services section of Family Health Division of Public Health Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services.  AK/DHSS/PH/87-4

NOTE: we often use any veggies we have (fresh or frozen) and mix hot sauce, hot noodles and cooked veggies together for a full meal.

Torta Verde (Swiss Chard and Potato Pie)

Though torte were once more common than pasta in Triora,  says Sandro Oddo, the savory pies were called pasta (pronounced “pashta”)-in this case meaning “meal”, because a torta was often all there was for dinner. We’ve found mild feta to be a reasonable substitute for the homemade tuma fresca used for this torta in Triora.


  • 1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil


  • 8-10 large Swiss chard leaves, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 medium russet potato, boiled, peeled, and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/4 cups crumbled mild feta
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. For dough: Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl. Drizzle oil into flour, mixing with a fork, then sprinkle in up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tbsp. at a time, mixing until dough just holds together. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, then shape into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. For filling: Put chard in a colander, sprinkle with 1 1/2 tbsp. salt, toss to mix, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix together potatoes, onions, parsley, and feta in a  bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Press chard against colander with a wooden spoon to squeeze out juices. Discard juices and add chard to potato mixture. Mix in eggs and 2 1/2 tbsp. oil and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly oil and flour a 14” round pizza pan. Divide dough into 2 balls, using two-thirds of dough for bottom crust and one-third for top crust. Roll out dough for bottom crust on a floured surface to about 15” in diameter, then use pizza pan as a template to trim crust to form a 14” round. Place bottom crust in pan. Evenly spread with filling, leaving 1” of crust exposed around edge. Roll out dough for top crust to 13” and place atop filling, allowing it to drape over edge of filling. Wet edge of bottom crust, fold in, and crimp to seal. Using a fork, pierce surface of torta several times to allow steam to escape during cooking. Then use your fingertips to gently indent surface of pie and drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. oil. Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.

Variation: To make a torta di funghi, or mushroom torta, trim and thinly slice 2 lbs. fresh porcini mushrooms or 2 1/2 lbs. portobello caps. Heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Add 4 minced peeled cloves garlic and sauté until slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 30 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a colander and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Mix together mushrooms and 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley in a bowl and proceed with step 4 above. Serves 8

Source: Saveur, May/June 1998.

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