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Polenta is the Italian word for corn and is usually thought of as a pudding-like substance that is made from cornmeal. The most basic kind of is made from yellow cornmeal, salt, and water. That basic variety is also among the lowest in fat content; however, there are many other kinds, as well.
Served in Italian stews, Spanish soups, or topped with sweet maple syrup, the possibilities for polenta are endless. Many people are familiar with the polenta-styled cutlets. They are popular fillers in the vegetarian world, used in similar ways as bread or other grains. The cutlets are made when the polenta is poured onto a tray and then spread smooth. After it cools, it is cut into triangles, dipped into breadcrumbs, and then baked until the triangles are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
Cooking polenta is easy. Simple bring about 3 cups (750 ml) of salted water to a boil. Then add about 1 cup (152 grams) of cornmeal to the water. Keep whisking the mixture as it boils. Next, reduce the temperature on the stovetop to low and let the mixture simmer for around 15 minutes. For people who like creamy polenta, it should cook longer on the lowest heat.
As a rule of thumb, 1 cup (152 grams) of cornmeal makes about three times as much polenta. Although this may seem like a lot, it can be used in so many recipes that it quickly disappear. For example, many people simply like to make the cutlets mentioned above and serve it with tomato sauce. Other people like to top the cutlets with pesto sauce. The possibilities are endless.
Originally, polenta was made from buckwheat, until corn and cornmeal entered the scene. Although the buckwheat variety may be the original, most people prefer the familiarity of the corn-based variety. Although it is most often made from yellow cornmeal, it can also be made with white cornmeal, as is the case with the Venetian variety. In addition, if it is made in the western portion of the globe, it is usually denser than if it is made in the east.
Polenta is one of the most versatile dishes around. Although it originally was the food of the peasants, it is now served in gourmet restaurants worldwide. It can be simple, served with cheese and butter, or quite complex, served with fish, duck, or other meats. Many people love it because it can be used for several days after it is made, making it a great addition to any meal.
I have never heard of polenta before. This sounds like something I would be interested in making and trying.
It sounds like it could also be a healthy food that doesn't contain a lot of calories. I suppose that all depends on what you choose to top it with.
If you used a lot of butter and cheese, you could add on a lot of extra calories in a hurry.
I am now wondering where to buy polenta? Can you find it in a regular grocery store or do you need to find a specialty store?
Also what section of the grocery store would you find this in if you wanted to buy some that was already made?
@andee - I have never tried making polenta in the oven like that, but it sure sounds easy.
The only way I have made it is the traditional way on top of the stove. I slowly drizzle the cornmeal in the boiling water until it is smooth and stiff.
I like mine to be similar to the consistency of mashed potatoes. In fact, polenta is a great alternative to mashed potatoes or pasta.
I have also eaten this for every meal of the day at different times. If we have this in the evening, the next day I like to make a grits polenta for breakfast. I have even mixed it in with scrambled eggs for a hash.
Polenta is one of those great foods because it is so versatile. It is tasty enough to eat by itself, or served with a variety of meals.
There are also several different ways you can make it. I like fried polenta, but I have also used the microwave, and baked it in the oven.
When I don't want to stand over the stove mixing and stirring, I will combine the corn meal, water and salt in a baking dish and put it in the oven for about 50 minutes.
Then I remove it and stir in some butter and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. It all depends on the texture
you want and how soft or hard you like it.
The best part is adding the toppings. There is no limit to how creative you can be. My kids love it with some cheese sprinkled on top. I really enjoy the taste just by itself when it is warm from the oven like that.
I love a nice simple polenta that is fried up with tomatoes and olives. I drizzle the whole thing with a health pour of olive oil.
Honestly, I could probably eat this dish every day of my life until I die. If it wasn't so bad for my waist line I would probably try.
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