Thursday, August 06, 2009

your best polenta

Okay, you got me. This is about my best polenta. I've heard this rumor running around that some people don't like polenta. And since we like it a lot around here and find it quite versatile, I will tell you how I make it. The following might even resemble something like a recipe. With some exact, and some eh-whatever, amounts listed. It might become your best, too. No hard feelings if it doesn't.

I usually make a triple batch at a time, using 3 cups of cornmeal. You can buy coarse cornmeal that is specifically labeled 'polenta' but my regular cornmeal, which I buy 25# at a time from a natural foods bulk distributor, is coarse enough for me. I will just write up the amounts for a regular sized batch, but the pictures are from a triple.

4 C water
1 C cornmeal
3 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
a whole buncha chopped up kale (or other greens)

Bring the water, oil, and salt to boil in a good sized pot. Slowly stir in the cornmeal. Keep stirring and turn the heat down so it's just simmering. If you pour the cornmeal in slowly and stir vigorously, there shouldn't be any lumps. Keep stirring while it thickens. I tend to start out with a whisk and then switch to a wooden spoon.


Once it's fairly thick, like pudding, I wash up a lot of kale and chop it. Tip: always put in more kale (or spinach or beet greens or whatever) than you think is right. Once they're cooked up they practically disappear and I like to err on the side of too many greens than not enough.


Then I dump the kale into the pot and stir it in completely.


It should be very thick. Very thick! Es muy importante!


Pour the whole mass into a greased bread loaf pan and let it set up. I put it in the fridge if I have a while or the freezer if I am in a hurry. Which for all my energy saving endeavors is an all around AWESOME idea, sticking just off the burner glop into a 0 degree freezer, I'm sure my freezer hates me. It takes a few hours in the fridge to get good and set up and hard. I think this is the key to making it my best polenta.


Once it's set up, I flip it out onto a cutting board and cut thin slices. If it was cooked slowly and thickly and had enough time in the fridge to set up, it will cut easily and will not fall apart.


I put the slices on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 until brown and crispyish, about 20 minutes. I took pictures of the process, but you can see that the dinner frenzy, the "Mama! I'm Hungry Wight Now!"s and my "Yes, I know you're hungry, that's why I'm cooking dinner"s getting more frequent and closer together, distracted me and I did not grab the camera for the baking part or the eating part. I like to cook them until they're almost a little crunchy. Use your imagination.

We eat it under stuff, like pasta or vegetables or lentils, or on its own in a snacky way, or as a medium for dipping up hummus. So many ways to love polenta! My girl always requests that I whip up some "polenta sauce", which is her favorite way to eat it. The polenta sauce is one of those crazy things I made up once and was so well received it became a family staple (which is honestly the history of most of my dishes). It's stupidly simple and surprisingly delicious and you should make some and try it. It goes like this: you blend together marinara sauce and ground raw almonds. Es todo, no mas! I keep ground almonds on hand (and throw the stuff into all kinds of random things) but if you do not, you should. Gah, so bossy. No, if you don't, you should grind up your raw almonds first and then add the marinara sauce. I can't tell you amounts. I do it until it's thick and, this sounds weird but you'll just have to try it and see, cheesy. It becomes rich and creamy and is very reminiscent of cheese (I first made this when we were very very vegan and while we do eat -goat- dairy now, and have for some years, I'm still down with no animal product meals and eat a lot of 'em) and spooned on top of, or as a dipping sauce for, my best polenta? it's really good.

Oh, and I should mention that you could make this without the greens, but then you'd be making it without greens, and why would you wanna go and do that for?


milkstained said...

I would like to follow you around for a week if for no other reason than to watch the meals you whip up. For real.

I am going to try this - I've always tried to put polenta in a round dish, almost like a pie pan. I want to say that I've never put it in the fridge, and then it sets, but it's almost gelatinous. Again - I've never made it myself more than 2 or 3 times, but it was so bad those times that I felt burned and never wanted to try it again.

I like the baking part, too!

Deb said...

Okay, you convinced me, I'm going to try it. There is a lovely, coarse corn meal from a local place here that is guaranteed to be gluten-free. Oh, it makes the best cornbread, I'm going to give it a try.

midgettroyani said...

I think you mentioned the no green stuff idea, just for me! Maybe I could use green onion tops or something...just so it looks right.

I always want to add stuff to cornmeal. I wish someone else here liked tamale pie, but it's just me and I get tired of it before I can eat the whole pie. Maybe I could make polenta and top it w/ the stuff I'd put in tamale pie. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Jenny in AZ said...

I confess, I'm one of those people who doesn't like polenta. But I love kale, so I made your version (with copious amounts of kale) and I am now a convert. Granted, I made it more like kale nested in polenta, but it's a start, eh?

Deb said...

I texted w/ you last night so you know this, but I want to make it clear to anyone reading these comments that APRIL KNOWS HER SHIT. Good god, this was good. I was one of the ones who told her, "I don't like polenta," and now I am begging her forgiveness because, jfc, it is GOOD. The way she says to do it, anyway. Only 3/6 of my family ate it, but I am going to make it over and over, varying what is in it (can't wait to add caramelized onions & garlic & basil) and cutting it into different shapes. I am calling it "cornbread crackers" because they all have an innate fear of polenta, from where I have no idea.