Polenta can be sweet or savory. It's gluten-free, quick to make, and it's cheap. It's great as an appetizer, a dinner, or for dessert.
It can be used as a little crostini, grilled and topped with olive tapenade or a tomato bruschetta for appetizers, or thrown onto a big wooden board and topped with a hearty Bolognese sauce or osso bucco.
You can make lasagna layers, and do it up "Napoleon-style" with a little pesto and some fried green tomatoes for some crunch.
Anywhere you use noodles, rice or potatoes, try substituting polenta and "wow" your friends and family.
This recipe is from the kitchen of Lisa Schlager at Nani's Cucina in the West Shore Farmer's Market.
3 cups instant polenta
3 cups whole milk (may substitute low fat, skim or other milk)
1 cup of water (have a little extra on the side)
Granulated garlic, salt and pepper to taste
16 oz tub of Mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
8 oz of your favorite cheese: Parmesan, Gruyere, Romano, Gouda, etc.
Optional ingredients for more flavor: Basil, Rosemary, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Coconut. (Make it your own. That's the fun in cooking!)
1. In a large saucepan, heat the milk, water, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low and add the polenta in a slow stream, stirring constantly with a whisk.
3. Once all the polenta is in, switch to a spatula (or wooden spoon) and continue to cook over low heat (very low or your polenta will explode all over your stove!) as you add the Mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses.
4. Stir continuously until the mixture is thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. If you want it thinner, you may add more water until desired consistency is met.
5. Spread the mixture into a tart pan, onto a wooden board, plate, etc. You may smooth the surface if you want it even.
6. Add your toppings and serve.
1. The basic polenta can be done days in advance. Just cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to top and serve.
2. If you are making into squares for an appetizer, polenta must be cooled down completely before cutting. You may also "crisp" the squares on the grill or in a pan with a little olive oil.