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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Polenta baked with cheese

Polenta, or corn meal, is a staple in the northern part of Italy. Originally a peasant food, it is now elevated to posh health food status probably because of its extremely low caloric content ( 1 cup of polenta has only 145 calories )

Polenta is a versatile grain as it sets in a cake-like manner allowing culinary innovation. It can be steamed, fried or baked. As such, besides being served as a main course, it can also be presented as a snack or bread.

Derived from yellow corn, similar versions are called grits in the USA and mealie pap in South Africa. Corn by itself is devoid of protein, and prolonged consumption causes a malnutrition induced ailment called pellagra. This was predominant in poor communities whose main staple is polenta or its derivative. Various methods of processing is employed in present day processes to overcome this deficiency. However pellagra is still a scourge in communities experiencing extreme poverty.

Enough of the serious stuff. My concoction with the cheeses involved and beans as a side dish will stave the monster a million miles away. My mantra is simple : Do everything in moderation. With variety and variation, diet induced deficiencies in the developed world should never have to happen at all.

For 3.

Polenta :
1 tsp salt
1 cup polenta
30g butter

2 T olive oil
400g tomatoes
2 cloves garlic. sliced
1 pinch dried rosemary

1 cup pizza cheese
4 T thick sour cream
4 thick slices emmental cheese
2 T blue cheese

Boil 3 cups of water. Pour polenta in a steady stream and whisk for 30 sec until thicken. Add salt and butter. Set heat to low to simmer. Cook for 25 minutes and continue whisking polenta every couple of minutes. Transfer to cool on an oiled baking tray.

Fry garlic and rosemary in medium heat, taking care not to burn it. Pour tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook until it becomes a thick sauce.

Remove cooled polenta cake from tray. Using a long knife, slice the polenta , making 2 thin sheets. Return the lower half back to the tray, sprinkle mozzarella cheese, emmental , cream and dot with blue cheese. Cover the cheese spread with the top half of the polenta.

Ladle sauce over. Grate parmesan or pecorino cheese. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes.

Serve with beans, some green salad and baked fish.

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