Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Tale of Two Polenta Dishes

Some time ago -- we're talking at least five months here -- I discovered something in the organic section a local grocery store: rolls of pre-cooked polenta. I had seen several polenta recipes both in cookbooks and on the net that had piqued my interest, but they always seemed too complex and daunting. But now, having espied the prepared polenta, new worlds of polenta-fication opened up to me.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward several months. The polenta roll I bought on that day oh so long ago still languishes in my cupboard, three weeks past freshness expiration. Had I even thought about how to use the new-found delicacy in all of that time? Of course! But each time I would take the roll out of the cupboard, finger it while pondering all the meals I could attempt with it, only to decide I'd rather make a tried-and-true dinner that I knew would be tasty that night.

Thank goodness for fellow bloggers. I was saved by The Fitnessista. Also a pre-cooked polenta newbie, unlike me she did not let the unknown deter her. About a month ago she bravely sliced up some of her brand new polenta roll, zapped in in the microwave, and sprinkled the rounds with salt and pepper. The result was -- just okay. She put out a call to her readers asking for help devising tastier ways to use the rest of the prepared roll. This in turn sent me to Google for some answers, leading up to today.

I took the day off from work because I am sick, sick, sick. (Really. I look pretty darn messed up.) In need of both some comfort, warmth, and easy eats, I got my polenta roll out of the cupboard for the last time. Taking a deep breath, I opened the package and sliced up half the roll.

For breakfast, I placed the rounds on a baking sheet covered with foil and doused with cooking spray. Then I sprinkled the slices with generous amounts of cinnamon and a little nutmeg and ginger, spraying them with a last quick cover of cooking spray before putting them in an oven preheated to 425*F. After 10 minutes, I removed the tray, flipped the slices, sprinkled a little more cinnamon over the tops, and stuck the whole thing back in the oven for another 10 minutes. I doused them with sugar-free maple syrup and enjoyed them with a peach-flavored Spiriutein shake and butter rum coffee. They were -- delicious! Amazing! The perfect combination of crispiness on the outside with a hearty, slightly sweet/eggish consistency on the inside! I know that description sounds a little odd, but my polenta "pancakes" were serious on satisfaction.

For lunch, I prepared the second half of the package. I followed the same steps as before, only this time I used salt, pepper, and basil as the spices. While the polenta rounds baked, I tested out a recipe I've had my eye on for quite some time. Here's my interpretation of this mushroom polenta concoction, served over my baked basil-ed polenta slices. The results? Delicious once again! The only change I'd make would be to omit the onions I added, as they turned stringy and difficult to chew. The rest of my lunch included peach Fage Greek yogurt and lemon dill brussels sprouts. Yummo!

Balsamic 'Shrooms

8-10 large mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 T garlic, minced
balsamic vinegar

Chop the mushrooms. Place a skillet or pan over medium heat. Once heated, cover with balsamic vinegar as if it was oil. Add the garlic and sautee for a few moments before adding the mushrooms. Stir to coat with the balsamic, add more vinegar as you see fit, then cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Serve over polenta, pasta, plain, or as a topping for a warm winter salad.

Serves 2.

I enjoyed sharing both breakfast and lunch with an old friend whom I have not visited with in quite some time: Mr. C. S. Lewis. His Narnia series are my favorite books of all time. I've always had a more difficult time with his adult works, including his essay collections as well as the space trilogy, which is something like a Narnia for grown-ups. Today, though, I felt like finishing up one of his essay collections that I started a couple of years ago and never quite made it through, The Weight of Glory. It's strange -- I struggled through this text when I first bought it, but today understanding flowed into my heart as if it had always been there, waiting to be acknowledged. Do you ever have that experience with books? I often do. It's as if I'm not ready to hear what it has to say the first time around, that I've grown up in the interim and am ready for just those words at just that time.


  1. I see those tubes all the time, but I would have no idea what to do with them. Do they get crispy enough to like hold things on them? Like a crostini?http://theidleloaf.wordpress.com

  2. I tried my hand at homemade polenta and thought, "Hmmm. I'll stick with grits." I wonder if I'd like the rolls better....

  3. Victoria, I think you could definitely use the polenta rounds for a crostini. Check out this recipe from San Gennaro for some inspiration.

  4. i LOVE! this new layout... where did it come from? so cute!! and i am scared of polenta haha.. but i might try to cook with it after this :)

  5. I've been meaning to make polenta for a while now. I must try it.

  6. Wifey Dessert, thanks so much!! I spent the morning working on it. It was created by http://www.bloggerstyles.com/. I'm still working out some kinks, though.


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