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Really Healthy: Perfect Polenta
Cook once, make two ultra-comfort food meals
BY MAGAZINE COO MARGO MAIER-MOUL
To call polenta a cornmeal mush is a most indelicate use of language.
~ Marcella Hazan
Whether you consider it peasant food or haute cuisine, creamy, golden-hued polenta is possibly the ultimate comfort food.
Serve polenta luxuriously soft and piping hot right out of the pot—stir in butter or cheese if you like, but it doesn’t really need it. When it’s allowed to cool the firmer texture suggests a variety of other equally satisfying preparations: sautéed, broiled or baked with sauces or toppings.
My favorite way to cook with polenta is to make twice as much as I need. We eat one half of it for a meal right away. I spread the second half onto a baking sheet to cool. Once cooled and firm, it can be easily sliced and refrigerated for later, when it becomes a quick and easy second meal.
Polenta twice: what to do with extra
- Cut into wedges, grate a bit of pecorino cheese over the top and run it under the broiler until heated through.
- Cut into strips and bake them, as in this recipe for Baked Polenta Fries
- Cube it and sauté in olive oil. Serve on top of chili, soup, or a green salad.
- Top with tomato sauce and your favorite pizza toppings – shitake mushrooms, organic chicken and apple sausage, sun dried tomatoes – bake until warmed through.
Polenta, as Mark Bittman points out in Taking the Fear Out of Polenta, “suffers from the misguided belief that it’s a hassle to make.”
Indeed, it’s really quite simple:
1 cup coarse-grained polenta
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Turn the heat down to medium, so that the water is still bubbling but not boiling vigorously.
Add the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Adding the cornmeal slowly along with the constant stirring will prevent lumps from forming.
Keep stirring. You don’t have to stir non-stop, but don’t leave the pot for more than a couple of minutes. Turn the heat to low as the polenta thickens. Keep stirring, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan as you do so.
The polenta is done when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot as you stir, roughly 20-40 minutes, depending on the grind, age and type of cornmeal you use. I use that time to prepare the rest of the meal, catch up with a friend on the phone, or read the paper.
And of course there’s always sun salutations…
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.