Saturday, September 29, 2012

Polenta - Two Recipes

Polenta: a little known food item made from ground corn that is quite affordable and can be combined with pretty much anything to create a filling, glueten free meal, or side. When I say affordable, I mean it. I bought 1 pound of this stuff for 99 cents. When I made my first batch, which consisted of 1 cup of polenta and 4 cups, created about 4 average servings. 

You can eat polenta creamy, baked, fried, grilled, as a casserole, with tomato sauce, with no sauce, it can be creamy or plain. Trust me, you have a lot of choices and it's fairly easy to make. 

One thing that has always bothered me about recipes online is their inconsistency. You can look up 4 or 5 recipes featuring the same ingredient but each of them provide different directions. How do you know which one to follow? That's another reason I don't always measure things, typically recipes turn out better when I am not stressing about having the exact recipe right. So after poking around and not finding single common polenta recipe I referred to the greatest veggie cookbook known to man: "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. This cookbook has recipes for pretty much everything veggie you have ever wanted to make. 
  • 1/2 cup of milk (this recipe called for whole, I used almond)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Black Pepper
Combine milk and water and heat over medium heat, almost to a boil. Add in the polenta (cornmeal) in a steady stream, using a whisk to stir as you pour. Turn the heat down and simmer. Whisk the cornmeal for about 15 minutes. 

Mark Bittman's recipe was the one I decided to follow when making my polenta. Other recipes recommend keeping the polenta mixture simmering for about 30 minutes, and stir every now and then (every 10 minutes or so). I have only made polenta this once, and have only had it a couple times during my lifetime, so I am by no means an expert. I thought my version tasted fine combined with some balsamic mushrooms and pickled red onions, but I definitely plan on making polenta again and coming up with a consistent recipe.

**UPDATE** I wrote the above post a few weeks ago and hadn't posted it yet, the other day I made another polenta recipe. The recipe below was more of a success in my opinion.

The other day I tried another polenta recipe.
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Pepper
Bring water to a boil, pour cornmeal in a steady stream while stirring and then turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring, it's not necessary to stir constantly for 10 minutes, but definitely stir frequently and make sure the mixture is not lumpy or sticking to the sides of the pan. When I made this recipe, it didn't seem to take 30 minutes, but I wasn't really paying attention to the time. 

Once prepared, you can eat part the polenta in creamy form or save it later to grill, fry or bake. Pour the rest into a greased pan (I used a cake pan but a sheet pan will result in thinner polenta) and let sit, then store in fridge. 

I used my leftover polenta to create this dish:

So simple. Black beans (half mashed), avocado (mashed) and siracha between two grilled polenta pieces, cut from the cake pan with a small coffee cup.

The kale salad was my re-make of HEB's kale pepita salad with orange dressing... but I will save that for later.

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