One of the things I love (but don't make real often- for several reasons) is polenta. It's an age old food, peasant food mostly, of the northern Italians. Over the centuries, it's been made with everything from faro to spelt to millet to buckwheat. In the 15th or 16th century, maize arrived from the New World. And the rest is history. It was a staple of the mighty Roman Legions and a subsistence food for the peasants. Today it enjoys a gourmet renaissance around the world. Being made with corn has significantly lowered it's nutritive value, compared to buckwheat or spelt, but it is a tasty and filling food that lends itself to diverse variations.
I buy Bob's Red Mill Polenta to make sure I'm getting non-GMO corn. It's a very nice coarse ground corn meal and cooks up well, in about 30 minutes. Tonight I made a polenta with braised kale and mushrooms. The first thing is to make the polenta :
In a deep saucepan, bring 6 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to a rolling boil. Using a long handled spoon (I prefer a stout wooden spoon) slowly pour 2 cups of polenta grits in a thin stream into the water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Bring this to a boil and then turn the heat to low and stir often to prevent burning. It will take about 30 minutes to cook. It will be very thick.Make sure to stir it hard all around the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring, and about 15 minutes into it, add 3 tablespoons of butter.
NOTE* This is one of the reasons I don't make polenta all that often. It is labor intensive. You can't go off and leave it, you can't cover it and let it go. You have to be right on top of it the entire cooking time. The other reason is that corn isn't really all that good for humans. But we love it anyway. lol *
You'll need a 9 inch square pan or a bowl that you have oiled well with olive oil. When the cooking time is finished, use a rubber spatula and turn the thick gloppy mixture into the oiled bowl. It needs to sit a minimum of 10 minutes. Then you can turn it out onto a plate and it will hold it's shape. You use a knife and cut off the size and number of slices you need.
This is what it will look like. Pretty, isn't it?
Next, you can choose what you want to top it with. I almost always use some type of marinara sauce...this year I canned a lot of sauce to have on hand for just such occasions. You can use commercial sauce if you like, or you can make your own concoction. I heated up a pint jar of sauce, put it on top of the polenta (on the plate)...topped it with some shredded parmesan and romano cheese. I then rolled up some kale leaves that I ribbon sliced and sauteed them quickly over a medium high heat with some minced garlic and thin sliced mushrooms in olive oil and butter.
The kale is out of the garden, of course. It was beautiful.
As a different kind of a side dish, I had some fresh Christmas Pole Limas that I had just shelled, so I looked around and found a no-nonsense recipe that suited me and went to work on those too. They cooked while I was cutting the kale, and took only 15 or 20 minutes. Very simple.
Heat the skillet on medium heat, 1 tbsp. EACH butter and olive oil. Add the beans, and cook, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes. Add some minced garlic and cracked pepper and sea salt the last 5 minutes. It was wicked good!
Here's a picture of the finished plate. Pronounced "Excellent" by the Irishman and eaten in entirety by us both.
(Click to biggify all pictures!)
Bon Appetit !