Whaddya say we take the most ordinary of pantry essential (cornmeal), add some water and salt. Simmer, stir, add in a little parmesan and butter and end up with a rather snazzy dish. Even though the ingredients could not possibly be more plain, polenta is delightfully off the beaten path and packed with all sorts of possibilities.
There are those who say that polenta and cornmeal are the same thing, and others who point out that polenta has a coarser grain than cornmeal, but is essentially the same thing. I prefer the coarse to the creamy, but either way, one part cornmeal to three parts water, a little salt and 25-30 minutes on the stovetop yields some tasty stuff that stands on its own or serves as a great base.
This Polenta Primavera creation is simply a variation on my version of Pasta Primavera, which tends to be a combination of whatever vegetables are on hand, sautéed in olive oil with a good dose of oregano and topped with lots of parmesan.
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 red pepper
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 carrots
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 fresh tomato
- 1 zucchini
- 1 cup of kale leaves, stems removed and sliced thin
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. pepper
- Slowly pour one cup of coarse cornmeal into 3 cups of boiling salted water, and whisk rapidly until mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and add onion, red pepper and garlic. Stir polenta every few minutes while vegetables are cooking.
- Peel and chop carrots. Add to vegetables and cook for another 2 minutes before adding chopped zucchini, tomatoes and kale. Continue stirring polenta.
- Add oregano and pepper to vegetables.
- As polenta begins to take on a solid consistency, add butter and 1/2 cup parmesan. Stir vigorously as butter and cheese melts.
- Spread polenta mixture into an 8 x 8 pan that has been coated with cooking spray.
- Cut the nearly solid polenta into squares and cover with sauteed vegetables. Top with parmesan cheese.