Pronounced “Po-len-tah”, this native dish of Italy is made with ground yellow cornmeal. Unlike grits, which is corn that has been soaked and processed to remove the tough outer hull, polenta has the hull and is therefore more nutritious and less processed.
If you are tired of rice, pasta, quinoa or other grains, you can make something really good with this simple staple. Try to buy organic cornmeal because 80% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified to be fed to cattles and other farm animals (there isn’t enough grazing land to feed 10 billion of them!) Come to think of it, it is outrageous that this ancient plant native to the Americas, that was available in so many diverse types has been reduced to a patented engineered seed that has taken over the market. Don’t get me started on this!
But I digress, what is nice about it, is that you can make it in all different ways. You can serve it soft like mash potatoes for a rustic meal (a little like grits). Want to impress your guests? Make thick slices, balls, patties or sticks for an appetizer. Can you see the possibilities?
It is quite versatile, you can serve it with your favorite sauces, maybe a tomato sauce, a curry or mushroom cream sauce. In the photo, I simply pan fried it until it is golden brown and crispy and served it with a dipping sauce. You can also grill it. You can even serve it sweet for breakfast on a cold winter day. When cooked polenta takes on a smooth, creamy texture But don’t stop there, pour it into a dish, let it cool off. Then you can slice it.
There are 2 kinds of polenta (cornmeal). Most stores carry the regular kind but you can sometimes also find instant polenta, which cooks much faster. I don’t mind using the regular kind, because I am in the kitchen usually preparing the sauce while it cooks. This way, it is nice, cooks over medium heat. No rush, no stress. That’s my motto and I am sticking to it!
COOKING THE POLENTA
Similar to other grains, you need to boil water, add salt and grain, and simmer until tender (approximately 30-45mn). The ratio for the basic recipe is 3 parts liquid to 1 part polenta. You will need to stir every 10mn to keep it from sticking or turning lumpy. If you want a softer result, add a little more water.
When the polenta is cooked, transfer it to a greased loaf pan.
Let it cool off for a few hours or refrigerate, then cut the polenta into slices.
Easy Polenta Fries
- Long wooden spoon
- Deep pan
- Baking sheet
- parchment paper or silicone mat
- 1 cup polenta coarse or fine
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp vegan butter
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp paprika sweet or smoke
Prepare the polenta
- In a deep saucepan, mix broth, garlic powder, black pepper, vegan butter and turn on medium heat.
- Slowly pour the polenta and quickly whisk to eliminate all clumps.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes constantly stirring with a long wooden spoon.
- Make sure that you don't burn yourself because hot polenta can quickly turn into molten lava and litterally explode out of the pan!
Prepare the fries
- Set a baking pan aside and line it with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- While the polenta is steaming hot, pour into the pan and imediately flatten it.
- Set it aside for a few hours to cool off.
- Once the polenta is totally cool to the touch, flip the polenta over a board and score to make fries being careful not to break them.
- Place back into the baking tray, making sure that there is no overlap. Drizzle a little olive oil and bake at 375 F for 10-12 minutes.
- Serve with a salad for lunch or with your favorite dipping sauce as an appetizer.
You can add fine herbs, mushrooms, black olives or sun-dried tomatoes, capers, vegan cheese. So many possibilities!
E tutto (that’s it, in Italian!)