Maybe it’s because I’m part Mexican. Maybe it’s because I’m part Paraguayan (the lost land of South America). Or maybe it’s because I’m American-born. But I’m quite a fan of any food that is based on corn as a grain. Corn tortillas, tortilla chips, corn nuts, Fritos, grits, tamales, cornbread, pop-corn, Corn Pops… I once lost, and swallowed, a baby tooth while eating Corn Pops. Corn Flakes are kinda boring, but I’d eat them, I guess. And let’s not forget Cheetos. The crunchy kind, not puffy.
And then there’s polenta, the Italian answer to American grits. Both are a simple combination of cornmeal and water to produce a porridge, but polenta is cooked longer than grits, to bring out more flavor from the grain. Additionally, there is soft polenta, and firm. Soft polenta is a more velvety version of grits. Firm polenta has a creamy interior, yet is able to hold its shape. Either style can be fashioned in a variety of ways: as breakfast, lunch, or dinner; main dish or side; sweet or savory; boldly flavored or mild. Cornmeal is awesome…
Firm Polenta (to impress your friends and family)
2 cups cornmeal (I used half coarse and fine ground)
6 cups water
salt to taste
any other desired herbs or spices (optional)
butter or olive oil (optional)
1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 2 cups of the water to make a mush.
2) Heat the remaining water to a boil. Add the salt, and whisk in the cornmeal mush. I also threw in some black pepper, nutmeg, and paprika. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir almost constantly. As time passes, the polenta will thicken. (I went for 30 minutes, arms got tired.)
3) Once the time is up, spread the polenta onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can spread it as thick as one inch, or thinner. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. I neglected mine for a couple of hours, actually…
4) Once the polenta is cooled, you can cut it into any shape you desire. I happened to have received some AWESOMELY AMAZING animal-shape cutters from Henry’s sister, Justine. I couldn’t help but use the rabbit… Thaaank yoooouuu Justiiiiiiinnne :)
5) Bake your
bunnies polenta at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, or til desired crispiness.
After that, you can do what ever you like with your polenta. But I have a suggestion…
Saute a few cloves of garlic and a cup of sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. Add half a cup each of chopped black olives and raisins, and half a pound of fresh spinach (trust me on the olive-raisin combination, especially if you like sweet-and-salty stuff). Once the spinach is cooked, season with salt, pepper, and some vinegar if that’s your thing. Then throw in a quarter cup of chopped nuts or seeds. I used pistachios, but anything will do.
Some paprika for color, and CUTEST DINNER EVER.