Pass the Polenta, Please! by Chef Isabella

PolentaPolenta is to the Italians what rice is to Asians and potatoes are to the Americans, Irish and Germans. This Italian staple is made from medium to coarse ground yellow or white cornmeal, which is then combined with water, milk, cream or butter. You can make it yourself or you can purchase it at the store.

Besides its delicious taste, the beauty of polenta is that it’s versatile. It can be used in dishes from antipasti to desserts. It can be baked, broiled, fried or grilled. It can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, dinner or even snack-time.

Ready to make your own? Here are two easy recipes to get you on your way:

Basic Polenta (side)
POINTSPlus® Value: 2
Serves: 6

3 cups water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Polenta Shortcake with Raisins, Dried Figs, and Pine Nuts
POINTSPlus® Value: 4
Serves: 16

1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
Salt pinch
Heaping ½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup dried figs, cut into ¼ inch pieces
Pan spray
1 egg
2 tbsp. fennel seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan, then adjust heat to medium and add the cornmeal, pouring it in a thin stream while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When all the cornmeal is in, add the salt. Continue to stir for about 15 seconds until the mush thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan when you stir it. Remove from heat.

Add the sugar, pine nuts, raisins, figs, egg, and the fennel seeds, to the cornmeal mush and mix thoroughly to combine all ingredients uniformly. Add the flour, and mix well to form a smooth cake batter.

Pan spray a 9-inch round cake pan. Add the batter, leveling it off with a spatula. Place the pan in the upper level of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven

While the cake is still warm, loosen its sides from the pan with a knife, and invert the pan over a plate, shaking it a little to cause the cake to drop onto the plate. Then turn the cake over again onto a serving platter. Serve when it has become completely cold