August 19, 2010
Unfortunately, it was dark out last night so the photos do not look as lovely as this polenta actually tasted. I baked the polenta to serve as a base for the white beans and spinach, but will post the recipe separately here. Polenta is easy, healthy, fat free, and delicious. I baked and served it in wedges here, but it can also be served in its creamy, unsolidified form immediately after its cooked (and in half the time).
Polenta is a great vehicle to play up or down depending on what it's being served alongside. Stir in generous hunks of mozzarella and fresh basil and you've got a decadent Tuscan side dish. Bake it topped with mozarella cheese and red sauce and you have an Italian casserole, or with refried beans and Pepper Jack for a Mexican dish. It's also wonderful as a side to any meat (chicken or shanks would be delicious choices).
Regardless of how it's served, I like to mix dried basil into my polenta, as you can see above as the little flecks in the photo. It adds depth, flavor, and a bit of interest to this simple staple.
Baked Polenta: (serves 4-6 as a side)
1 cup polenta (not quick cooking)
4 cups water
1 T. salt
1 T. dried basil
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Slowly add the polenta as you stir. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for approximately 20 minutes. Stir in the basil, (stop here if you want to serve creamy) then pour into a baking dish and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.