About Polenta

Yellow Polenta with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Yellow Polenta with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Polenta is a delicious (gluten free) starch for every season. I love it

  • In summer with grilled vegetables and fish.

  • In Fall, with roasted winter squash, wild mushrooms and quick braised sausage.

  • In Winter with braised meats and greens.

Choosing polenta in the words of Viola Buitoni

At our Cooking From the Summer Garden Weekend Getaway with Viola Buitoni in August, we had a delicious polenta evening. Below are Viola’s thoughts on the types of polenta ~

From Viola:

“There are four different kinds of polenta with which all have space in my heart and pantry. The classic yellow one, whole wheat, white and taragna.

White is the most delicate and lends itself well to decisive and refined flavors with underlying sweetness: fish and seafood, spices and nutty, delicate cheeses. It is generally milled to an even slightly finer ground.

Yellow is a jack-of-all-trades and can successfully espouse a range of flavors: from sweet, to rustic, to acid, to spicy. The mill of it, more than the flavor, will determine your selection. A finer mill (fioretto) is more suitable to a sweeter more fragrant sauce-like mushrooms for example, while a coarser (bramata) grind will hold up well to a long braise, with a red wine base and dark meat. In Italy, one can also find a mill grade called fumetto, a very fine polenta typically used in pastry.

Whole wheat polenta has a nuttier, woodsy flavor that goes well with stinky cheeses, spicy sauces, sweet nuts and butter.

Taragna, which has a percentage of buckwheat in it. I like it with creamy aged and blue cheeses, and redolent vegetables in the cabbage family.”

Cooking Polenta

1 cup polenta yields about 6 heaping 1/2 cup servings

Depending on how you will serve polenta, proportions of dry polenta to liquid should be:

  • For a dry / firm polenta that you will chill then slice: 1 part dry polenta to 3 parts liquid

  • For a wet / creamy polenta:  1 part dry polenta to 4 or 5 parts liquid

  • The liquid can be water, vegetable or meat stock or broth. Milk can also be used or added with water to create a creamy polenta or to make cheesy grits.

  1. Bring the liquid to a boil and salt to taste. You should be able to taste a faint taste of salt.

  2. With a wooden spoon in hand, slowly pour the polenta into the boiling liquid in a slow, steady stream, stirring all the while to keep the polenta from clumping.

  3. Continue stirring until the polenta begins to boil then turn the heat down to a simmer. At this point, the polenta should just puff little bursts of steam. You don’t want it to boil as the polenta will burst out of the pot and can burn.

  4. Continue stirring until the polenta off and on for about 20 minutes or until it is creamy with a bit of texture. You can add a splatter guard or loosely place a lid over the polenta.

  5. Add liquid towards the end if a runnier consistency is desired.

  6. If desired, add a knob of unsalted butter, more salt and white pepper.

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata epitomizes summer. The eggplant sops up the olive oil so use a good one. The dish is layered and made rich with salty and sweet notes. It's perfect served at room temperature as an appetizer but also delicious on burgers, over grilled meats and chicken, or layered in a sandwhich. Makes about 3-4 cups

Eggplant Caponata epitomizes summer. The eggplant sops up the olive oil so use a good one. The dish is layered and made rich with salty and sweet notes. It's perfect served at room temperature as an appetizer but also delicious on burgers, over grilled meats and chicken, or layered in a sandwhich. Makes about 3-4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup good quality, extra virgin olive oil, possibly more

  • 2 Lbs eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 3 Tbls tomato paste, thinned in ¼ cup water

  • 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

  • 6 oz. green olives, sliced or roughly chopped (stuffed olives are good too)

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

  • ½ cup golden raisins

  • ¼ cup capers

  • 2 to 3 Tbls sugar or to taste

  • 2 Tbls finely grated unsweetened chocolate

  • ½ cup basil, sliced thinly

  • 2 to 4 Tbls pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

To Make:

  1. Heat one third of the oil and add one third of the eggplant. Fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes.

  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside.

  3. Finish the remaining eggplant in two batches using more oil if needed. Don’t be afraid to allow the eggplant to absorb the oil, it will add to the dish!

  4. Lightly salt the eggplant to taste.

  5. Reduce heat to medium and add oil if needed to the pan and sauté the onions until slightly caramelized. A pinch of sugar can help the process.

  6. Add the tomato paste - water mixture and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes.

  7. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes.

  8. Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

  9. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant. Cool.

  10. Add the basil and pine nuts and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.