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Polenta is hearty and filling

January 11, 2019

Wikimedia Commons
Polenta served with mushrooms and sopressa, a type of Italian salami.

Polenta is one of my very favorite foods, even though at this time, I am being careful about how many carbs I consume in each day. It is a dish that I must reserve for a special occasion, so of course I keep thinking of ways to invent more special occasions. But so far I have been sticking to a healthful eating plan for a diabetic. I hope you are able to indulge a little more often than I can, because polenta is just that good.


You can find polenta in 24-ounce bags under the brand name Golden Pheasant, or in bulk bins or even prepared in plastic tubes on grocery shelves. I don’t like those tubes very much but each to his own. Maybe I would like them if I hadn’t already been exposed to the old-fashioned kind all my life. If you get desperate, just use regular cornmeal, but to me, the flavor and texture isn’t the same. Here are some great polenta recipes for you to try.

Basic polenta


I have seen so many different recipes and all you really need to know is that for every cup of dry polenta, you use three cups of water.

9 cups water


1 tablespoon salt


3 cups polenta meal


1 cube butter

1. In a large pot, bring water and salt to a boil; slowly add polenta meal, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Turn heat down, and simmer until polenta becomes thick. Taste a bit to see if there is any firmness or crunch left to it. It should take about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and put a lid over the pot to catch splatters, as the mixture will sputter. Open the lid vent or if there is none, put the lid on askew so steam will not condense.


2. Cut butter into small chunks, about tablespoon size, and stir into polenta mixture until it is well mixed. Pour into buttered casserole dish (I use a couple of loaf pans) and let the mixture sit until it becomes firm enough to slice. You may also serve the polenta in its soft form if you wish.

Milanese casserole


I looked for over an hour for this recipe, which I have had tucked away for many years. I think it originated at a Moosewood Restaurant. Use the basic polenta recipe (you may have some left over, or use just 2 cups polenta and 6 cups water) as the base for this dish.

4 cups chopped onion


3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced


3 tablespoons olive oil


2 medium-sized carrots, diced


3 celery stalks, diced


1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 3 tablespoons dried leaf basil, crumbled (note: I do not use nearly this much, so adjust to your own tastes)


2 teaspoons leaf oregano, crumbled, or to taste

'
1 teaspoon salt


Pepper, to taste


3 cups cubed, unpeeled eggplant (3/4 pound)


1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped


1 1/2 cups cubed zucchini


1 1/3 cups drained canned tomatoes


3 tablespoons tomato paste


1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)


3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (12 ounces)


1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Generously butter a 12-inch casserole dish. Prepare polenta and pour into casserole dish. Preheat oven to 375.


2. Saute onion and garlic, using the olive oil, in very large saucepan until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add carrots, celery, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat for several minutes until carrots are bright in color. Add eggplant and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.


3. Add green pepper and zucchini and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine, if you wish. Simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups mozzarella cheese and the 1/2 cup Parmesan.


4. When polenta is firm enough, spoon vegetable sauce evenly over the casserole. Cover and bake in preheated oven until heated through and bubbly. Serve by cutting into squares with a spatula. Makes 8 servings.

Shrimp with fresh herbs and polenta


I really don’t know where I got this appetizer recipe but it may have been clipped from an old Sunset magazine. As before, you may use the basic polenta recipe for this dish.

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1 garlic clove, pressed (or more to taste)


1 1/2 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined


1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil


2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled


2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped


2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika (or regular if you don’t like things hot)


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


2/3 cup dry white wine


1 recipe basic polenta, cooled until firm

1. Prepare a grill or preheat a heavy, large skillet. Preheat oven to 250. Cut polenta into wedges or slabs. Grill or saute in a bit of butter until light brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plates. Place in oven while preparing shrimp.


2. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until light golden, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shrimp and herbs and cook until shrimp are just pink, about 1 minute. Stir in paprika. Season with salt and pepper; add wine.


3. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Spoon shrimp over polenta and serve.

Polenta fries with marinara sauce


You can use the prepared polenta that comes in a tube if you like, such as the flavored one with garlic and basil.

1 (24-ounce) tube polenta, halved and cut into 1-inch thick fries. You can also, of course, use your favorite sauce from a jar.


Olive oil mister or cooking spray


Salt and pepper, to taste


3 Roma tomatoes, cut into large chunks


3 cloves garlic


1 teaspoon olive oil


1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


3 basil leaves


Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450. Spray two baking sheets with olive oil.


2. Place polenta fries on one baking sheet. Spray tops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes and garlic cloves on second baking sheet and spray with additional oil.


3. Transfer both sheets to oven, placing the tomatoes on lower rack. Bake tomatoes for 10 minutes, stirring after 5. Bake fries for 25 to 30 minutes more, until crisp and golden-brown.


4. Transfer tomatoes and garlic to food processor and add olive oil, vinegar, basil leaves and red pepper flakes, if using. Process until almost smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve sauce with polenta fries.

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