Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Perfect Polenta

Why didn't anyone ever tell me that you could make polenta in the oven and that you didn't have to break your arm slowly, slowly, slowly pouring and stirring the cornmeal into the boiling water? Granted baking it takes about 5 times as long, but if you can't lift your arm after you're done, what's the point? I am loving this recipe!

Of course I have Martha Rose Shulman from my favorite Recipes For Health column of The New York Times to thank for this discovery. I had to turn to her column for some dinner inspiration tonight. I haven't shopped for groceries in about a week so I'm down to the pantry staples and going out almost every night doesn't help. Of course I wasn't in the mood to go to the store after work when it was completely packed, so I had to get inspired from what I already had.

Fortunately I uncovered a package of cornmeal in the back of my cupboard that I probably should have thrown away about 2 years ago. Then I managed to find some leftover tomato sauce buried in my freezer that I just had to defrost. Voila! Dinner! By the way,
polenta is a great source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B6 (and a gluten free alternative) in case you were wondering why you would want to eat something that resembles Cream of Wheat for dinner. Listen, just throw a bunch of butter and Parmesan on it and you'll eat it...and like it! (Omit if you care about fat and calories.)

Oven Cooked Polenta with Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)

1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 quart water (4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Tomato Sauce (or high quality prepared tomato sauce)

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Combine the polenta, water, and salt in a 2-quart baking dish. Stir together, and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the butter and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and stir again. Return to the oven for 10 minutes more.

2. Remove from the oven, and stir in the Parmesan. Spoon onto plates, make a depression in the middle, and spoon 1/4 heaped cup of tomato sauce into the depression. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve. Serves four.

Variation: Polenta and Tomato Sauce Gratin - (You can make this dish with leftover or chilled polenta.)
1. Preheat the oven to 375
˚F. Oil a 2-quart gratin dish. Cut the leftover polenta into squares or rectangles, and arrange in the gratin dish, overlapping the pieces slightly. Spread tomato sauce over the slices, sprinkle on Parmesan, and drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
2. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until sizzling. Remove from the oven and serve.


WendyB said...

I like how when you don't have anything to eat at home, you still come up with something delicious, while I end up eating mustard out of a jar in desperation. Sigh.

Jennifer said...

Are you not going to the food store because you're now knitting?

VE said...

First I want to know what in the world polenta is...how do I know this isn't from another planet?

Kathy Gillespie said...

A truly under rated grain...try spooning it into muffin tins, make a hollow in the center, crack in an egg, sprinkle with cheese and bake...OMG...and to think this recipe came from Rachel Ray!

stacy lomman said...

Yum. I'm starving. I'm liking the tomato sauce idea...