Saturday, April 23, 2011
Have You Tried...Polenta?
Polenta is a dish made from boiled cornmeal. It has many forms around the world but essentially is slow cooked cornmeal. The most common preparation here in the US is an "instant" mix - as traditional polenta takes hours of low, slow cooking to accomplish - or coming pre-packaged, already cooked in tubes.
Gourmet and "foodie" types tend to dismiss pre-packaged polenta...but the results are quite nearly the same without the hours of work. So why hassle yourself? I checked multiple different brands of pre-packaged polenta, and the main issue I saw for the Clean Eater was sodium content. Several of the brands had a higher than I'd like to consume level of salt. I purchased the sun dried tomato and garlic flavor, and the sodium content made me wrinkle my nose but didn't stop me from buying it. Plain polenta is...plain. Depending on the brand available to you and the Cleanliness of the ingredients...I'd recommend a flavored variety.
Pre-prepared polenta is quite versatile - it can be grilled ( it is actually pretty tasty lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled ), fried ( but you don't fry much anymore, do you? ) , and eaten warm with tomato sauce and cheese melted over it.
While researching this post, I found these suggestions over at Chowhound.com . Here are some of the responses...
-- Broil (or even grill) up a bunch of mushrooms, brushed with olive oil and herbs or maybe marinated first briefly, and then serve bowls of hot polenta topped with mushrooms and creamy gorgonzola
-- Make a simple ragu to put over it, or maybe just some high quality sardine packed in oil (simple weeknight supper!)
-- Chill and cut into slices to shallow fry and serve with salad, for example a romaine salad with poached eggs and anchovy dressing
--Slice it about 1/2 inch thick and sautee in olive oil. Top with a good tomato sauce and some great cheese, such as Italian Parm, or Gorgonzola.
--I saute shallots, fresh spinach, & cooked lentils with some chik broth, stir in some fancy vinaigrette at the end, put on top of griled or toasted polenta sauces & then top w/grated parm
--I spoon bean less chili con carne over polenta and make something similar to open face Tex-Mex tamales.
--I slice mine into fries, drizzle with olive oil, then bake at 450 until they're golden and crunchy
.--One of the good things about the polenta in tube is that it is more firm than the homemade and chilled variety. Because of that it is more easily grilled on your gas or charcoal grill. Just slice them into rounds about 3/8" thick, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper and whatever other seasoning you like and grill them. I would serve them with a good sauce of some kind next to a medium rare strip or ribeye steak.
So, go get a tube of organic polenta and see what you can do with it - but look at the ingredients and sodium content before purchasing!