Call them grits, polenta, cornmeal, I love them. The term polenta is actually of Italian origin, derived from the Latin for crushed grain, pulmentum. But the Romans weren’t eating crushed cornmeal. Before the introduction of maize from the New World in the 16th Century, polenta was made from ancient grains such as farro and spelt.
I should mention that I love food history. As an archaeology grad student, I am constantly curious about the origins of dishes, their ingredients, and the cultural exchange that comes with food moving across borders. Enough about me. I’m sure I’ll work more food history in later if it doesn’t inspire too many yawns. Let’s talk more about polenta.
Polenta is boiled with water on a stove top and eaten immediately like a porridge, or chilled and fried, baked, or grilled. I enjoy the pan-frying method here because it gives the polenta a nice color and brings out the garlic and Parmesan flavors.
The outside of the triangles will be crispy brown, but the inside will stay nice and creamy due to the gelatinization of the starch. That’s the magic of polenta and also the reason for its long cooking time. Trust me, just let the magic starches work their creamy magic and stir that polenta for the full half hour on the stove. It’s so ooey gooey good, especially with cheese. Sometimes I’m surprised I don’t eat all of the creamy goodness straight out of the pot before chilling and frying. If you have more self-control that I do, you can even dress up your fried polenta with some arugula and tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic for a light, very Italian lunch!
Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Triangles
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- 1 cup polenta cornmeal
- 3 cups plus 1 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
- In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly for about once minute so the garlic is infused in the butter but does not brown. Add 3 cups of water, and bring to a boil.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine cornmeal with one cup of water and salt. Once the water on the stove is boiling, add the cornmeal mixture and bring down to low. Stir constantly for a few minutes to prevent clumping. The mixture will thicken and sputter as it boils, but should calm down once the temperature drops to low. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the meal from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan and rosemary. Spread out in a square 9 by 9 baking dish, and flatten. Chill for one hour.
- Remove from fridge, and carefully cut into 4 large triangles. Pan-fry in olive oil on medium high heat, about 2 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Serve with a tomato and arugula drizzled with olive oil and balsamic for a quick lunch!
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