Polenta Two Ways: Creamy + Grilled

That creamy corn stuff that you usually call grits? A classic southern dish loaded with butter, cream, and salt? Nope, not that recipe here! Polenta and grits are not the same thing and originate almost on opposite sides of the world. Grits is a classic southern dish, while polenta is an Italian staple. 

Polenta can be prepared and plated in a whole variety of ways, as the corn doesn’t have a prominent taste so you can serve almost anything with it! It can be cooked on the stove top, baked, grilled, pan-fried…you name it. 

Polenta is a perfect food that can be prepared ahead of time and result in more than just one meal. That is why I decided to show you two ways you can prepare polenta (or fine cornmeal) and create two stunning and delicious dishes! 

One is super creamy, silky, and smooth topped with roasted garlic tomatoes & crunchy Italian-spiced chickpeas. The other is firmer and grilled to perfection. Topped with smoky mushrooms, and drizzled with a bit of truffle oil. That is what I call a menu! 

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Cooking polenta two ways might seem like a full day event, but you don’t have to do it all in one day! Simply serve up half of your creamy polenta (equivalent to 2 generous servings) and pour out the other half on a baking tray. Leave it out at room temperature for about 30 min. and voila, you have polenta that is ready to be thrown on a grill! 

As you let cooked creamy polenta sit out it becomes harder and almost jelly-like. Weird huh? Starch is the culprit for that! 

If you don’t have time to do that all in one day you can refrigerate the hardened polenta for up to 2 days (or longer if wrapped tight), and make the dish later on!

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Polenta Two Ways


By: Taavi Elizabeth     Each recipe makes: 2-3 generous servings 

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Creamy Polenta 
Ingredients 
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal 
  • 5 cups water 
  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • Salt & pepper to taste 

Chickpeas

  • 1 can garbanzo beans 
  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • Salt & pepper to taste 
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp dried basil 
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Roasted tomatoes 

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes 
  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste 
  • Fresh basil 
Directions
  1. Presoak polenta in 5 cups water for 1 1/2-2 hours before cooking. 
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  3. Toss all chickpea ingredients together on a baking sheet. Do the same for the tomatoes. Bake both the chickpeas & tomatoes side by side in the oven for 25-30 min. or until tomatoes have blistered and garlic is fragrant, and chickpeas are crispy. While these are baking, prepare polenta. 
  4. In a large saucepan, pour in polenta and soaking water. Bring to a simmer and stir often. Once it comes to a low boil, stir frequently for 20-30 min. or until thick and creamy. It should start pulling from the sides a bit and be very thick not runny or soupy. If it isn’t thick, keep simmering it on low until it is. 
  5. Once polenta is thick, add 1 tsp of oil and stir. It should be glossy and slightly thicker after adding the fat. Sprinkle in salt to taste. Pour out half of the cooked polenta into a medium-sized baking sheet and spread evenly (look at photo above for reference). Set aside at room temp. for 20 min. for grilled polenta recipe.
  6. Serve: Plate polenta in a bowl, add a few roasted tomatoes (reserve roasted garlic for later), and a handful of roasted chickpeas. Garnish with some chopped fresh basil and cracked black pepper. Enjoy! 

 

Grilled Polenta 
Ingredients 
  • Chilled & firm polenta from previous recipe 
  • 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms 
  • 1/2 diced white onion 
  • Roasted garlic from previous recipe 
  • 2 tbsp tamari 
  • 1 tbsp stone ground mustard 
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke 
  • Sliced green onions 
  • Truffle oil (optional) 
Directions 
  1. Take out firm polenta from baking sheet. You can do this by trimming around the sides, flipping the baking sheet over and slightly banging it on the counter. It should fall right out. Cut polenta into evenly sized rectangles. Set aside. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat up 1 tsp olive oil. Add diced onion and saute for 3-4 min. or until translucent and fragrant. Add in mushrooms and roasted garlic. Cook for 5-6 min. or until mushrooms have lost most of their moisture. 
  3. In a small bowl whisk together tamari, mustard, ACV, & liquid smoke. Pour sauce into skillet with the mushrooms. Stir to fully coat mushrooms in the sauce. Cook for 2-3 min. and set aside. 
  4. Heat a cast-iron stovetop grill (or regular grill if you have one) to medium-high heat. Brush a bit with oil to prevent sticking. Add a few polenta strips at a time to grill. Cook on both sides until there are visible grill marks. The temperature should be pretty high (like it is smoking) or else grill marks won’t be visible. 
  5. Serve: plate up a few grilled polenta, and spoon over some mushroom mixture. Garnish with sliced green onions and a drizzle of truffle oil. Enjoy!
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