Spring Spirit Polenta

Dear polenta,
Where have you been all my life?
Love, Sarah B

So it happened again, twice in one month. I’ve fallen in head over heels with an entirely new-to-me food. This time, it’s polenta.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have absolutely no memory of ever eating polenta. I suppose when it appears on restaurant menus it’s something that I don’t give any consideration, and seeing it on the grocery store shelves fails to inspire in me in any way. How could this happen? Or rather, fail to happen? Why haven’t I given this delightful food a fair chance to woo me? I am almost ashamed to be singing its praises now as if it’s some new-fangled product that has just hit the shelves. I picture you sitting there, reading all this rolling your eyes: “Thanks for comin’ out Sarah B, but you’re a little late to the party”.

And can we please talk about the versatility of this fabulous food? You can cook it down to a velvety consistency as I’ve done here, creating a creamy, yellow polenta pillow for bright spring veggies to lie on. It’s also delicious with saucier dishes, like tomato-based stews, and of course the traditional meat-centric mains. Or you can cook it with less liquid, spread on to a large tray, slice it and bake or fry it. What?! Consider my mind blown. I am looking forward to experimenting with spreading it ultra-thin and using it as a wrap, or flatbread. And making cookies and cakes. And crackers. Is this old news? Probably. Thanks for continuing to indulge me, even if I am a bit slow on the uptake.

Thank goodness I still have plenty of polenta years left in this life because if the last week is any indication of my future, I will be eating this stuff a lot.

Yellow Corn Carotenioids: A reason to eat more Polenta!
Polenta is typically made from yellow corn, which is delightfully loaded with carotenoids – the special compounds that are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Carotenoids, and specifically beta-carotene, are also believed to enhance the function of the immune system. [1]

Studies are currently being conducted to examine the potential anti-cancer properties of carotenoids, as they have shown the ability to stimulate cell-to-cell communication. Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention. [1]

Keep in mind that carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds, meaning that they must be eaten with fat to be absorbed by the body. Your intake of carotenoids may be compromised by a low-fat diet, or if you have a condition that inhibits fat absorption. To ensure that you are absorbing carotenoids it is a good idea to include healthy sources of fat in your meal, such as a drizzle of olive oil or other plant-based fat. Luckily with this dish, I’ve got you covered.

I always recommend purchasing certified organic foods whenever possible, but I think it is especially important in the case of corn. Organic corn is non-GMO and does not contain any harmful pesticide residues. Better yet, look for heirloom varieties that have not been hybridized.

The inspiration for this dish came from one of my favorite food blogs, Coocnut & Quinoa, written by the amazing Amy Chaplin. Like Amy, I chose a blend of seasonal green vegetables to lie atop the polenta for a spirited combination that sings of spring. Asparagus and sweet green peas are a favorite combination of mine. If you can find wild leeks (sometimes called ramps) in your backyard or your grocery store, snatch them up quickly – their edible season is short. Wild leeks are delicious and add a real allium snap to this dish. You can read more about them in this post where I made a wild leek pesto. And as I am major flower-eating enthusiast, I suggest picking a few of the blossoms too for a garnish. They taste like chives and add such a special touch to the finished dish (pictured below).

If you want to make this dish vegan, simply use flavour-neutral coconut oil in place of the ghee and leave out the cheese – it is still utterly delicious without it.

A warning about cooking polenta: this stuff literally bubbles like lava when simmering, spewing crazy-hot corn grits everywhere. Keep a lid on it between stirrings, and watch those forearms!


So now I am really on fire. Two new foods in two weeks must be some sort of record! What are you discovering these days? What delicious whole foods are getting you all hot and bothered? Please do tell. I am bursting at the seams with inspiration and I’m still hungry for more.
…but what else is new?

Source: [1] whfoods.com
Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

64 comments

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  2. Tea

    Thank you for a great recipe. This kind of thing would never have crossed my mind, and I started making it rather skeptically. In my country polenta is traditionally served with sour fish stew, or eaten for a light breakfast/dinner simply with some milk or yogurt. I had trouble seeing anything beyond that. But it truly does work wonderfully just with some sauteed vegetables like this. I used plain leeks instead of onions, and some chives instead of the wild leek. And I used the thin wild asparagus instead, and it wasn’t bitter here at all. This dish is so satisfying! The lemon and oil drizzle in the end contribute so much! Thanks again!

  3. me

    Fantastic recipe!! This is my go-to recipe when ramps make their first appearance in the markets in the spring…flavors are perfectly balanced and such an easy recipe to put together even if your really busy!! Highly recommend!!

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  8. Annemarie Genis

    While Thonghai’s analysis on collective memory was insightful regarding the power of popular discourse and hegemony, I wondered how he missed the elephant in the room from San Kamphaeng, the opportunist who funded the political and economic disparities of the Northeast, or the power of the negative, and often violent media of the UDD heard throughout the markets of Thailand.

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  11. forum dyskusyjne

    Howdy! This post could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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  13. Marieke

    You should try making polenta with fresh corn! So delicous! I made the recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty but there are so much great fresh corn polenta recipes out there!
    I love this polenta recipe as well, I make recipes from your blog all the time. An interview of you in a Dutch magazine has inspired me to eat whole foods only as I was tired all the time and had some other physical complaints and now after a few months I feel like I’m really living again. Thanks you so much Sarah, you’re inspirational!

  14. Dana

    I love your blog, constant source of yummy healthy dishes and treats! I also love polenta and found a better way of cooking it, much easier and very tasty – mix polenta with water (or stock as I do) in an oven dish and stick it in the oven for about 50 minutes at 350 F, then run a fork through it and keep it in the oven for another 10 minutes. It comes with crunchy top as a bonus 🙂 You don’t need to do anything with the polenta while it’s in the oven and it doesn’t bubble furiously.

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  17. Georgia

    After seeing your mouthwatering post I went straight home and made this for dinner last night – so delicious! It was good to meet some old friends – polenta and asparagus – again. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. ola

    I don’t know much abput polenta myself, but I really love the wild garlic. and I think that’s what on your pictures. I got curious about the name wild leek you use and according to my investigation, these are two different but very similar plants, with wild garlic being native to Europe, and wild leek to North America. and they have different flowers. That’s of course assuming Wikipedia is trustworthy 😉 Forgive me sharing, I just thought it’s interesting 🙂

  19. Shelby

    Dear Sarah,
    I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Thank you for inspiring me everyday with your blog of treasures and talents… Head over to Tutus&Tea for a list of fellow nominees and the rules for this Award! Thank you and Congratulations!

  20. Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

    what a spectacular photo that first one is … that green just *pops*!!

    we love polenta, and in fact it’s one of the foods I use as an example of how people can eat healthy, *organic* food on a thrifty budget. Cuz polenta’s soooo cheap.

    try it as lasagne instead of noodles .. mmmm….

    PS. I found it amusing for some reason that cancer might relate to a communication breakdown. Doesn’t almost anything bad come from poor communication? Ha.

  21. Natalia

    A couple of months ago, I ate one of the best things my tongue has ever had the luck to taste: blueberry and chocolate polenta brownie. It was AMAZING. Of course i can’t find the recipe anywhere, and Im not kitchen-savvy enough to come up with my own! Should you ever feel like testing out your new-found love for this food on creating a recipe for this brownie, you would be my most favouritest person ever 😉

  22. art and lemons

    I love the ease and versatility in making polenta and like to bake then pan fry it with one seasonal sauce or another. So glad you discovered it. The bright green and yellow colors, plus the snappy asparagus and soft pea textures in your dish.

  23. this humble abode

    I was planning for a spring risotto for our dinner party this weekend, but I might switch to polenta now that you’ve made it sound so tasty.
    One of the most memorable meals in my life involved cross country skiing in the Alps to a restaurant that served polenta topped with mushrooms and copious amounts of olive oil. It was incredible!

  24. la domestique

    I’m a big fan of polenta, but I usually serve it during winter with hearty braises or as shrimp and grits, so you’ve helped me see it in a new way with these gorgeous spring vegetables.

  25. Elle

    I love polenta mixed with sliced black olives, sundried tomatoes and grated parmesan.
    I recently discovered how to make a very light “sauce béchamel” with whole rice cream (very fine flour):
    – whisk 50 g whole rice cream and 500 ml milk (+/-) in a pan(almond, sheep, cow…)until dissolved.
    – Heat on medium heat, add salt, stir until thickening.
    – Add a knob of ghee if you like, a pinch of grated nutmeg… and voilà! Delicious in a vegetable gratin/lasagna, in a cauliflower soup…

  26. thelittleloaf

    I absolutely love polenta and have been eating it for years as my family have a house in Tuscany, land of polenta lovers! It’s delicious with a little parmesan stirred through then grilled in pieces, and works really well in gluten free cakes too. Have you ever tried white polenta? They eat it a lot in Venice and it’s lovely with seafood.

  27. Tereza

    I just cam across your blog looking for raw cashew cake. You have such a beautiful blog and the food is so inspiring, new follower 🙂

  28. Sharyn Dimmick

    Congratulations on discovering polenta. My favorite ways to eat it are cooked with milk as a breakfast cereal and, prepared plain, mixed with flour, milk, eggs and sugar as breakfast pancakes. I wanted to say that I recently learned that Monsanto doesn’t mess with corn that is not yellow so if you can’t buy organic corn products the next best thing is to eat white corn or blue corn.

  29. Joy Ciaffoni

    I recently started going to a fabulous Italian restaurant where they serve polenta cakes with the main entree. I usually split the meal with my man, and I find it very difficult to want to share the polenta with him.

  30. karina

    I l-o-v-e polenta!
    Can’t wait until I dare to eat any cheese again – plain polenta with cheese and some damped spinach and mushrooms is the best!

  31. diana

    Hi Sarah,

    After this post and the Sunday post by Happyolks (grits with asparagus and poached eggs)I am going to have to try polenta too. Looks yummy.

    Your blog continues to impress me. It is lovely!

    Diana

  32. Anonymous

    in holland, ‘vegetarian’ cheeses (for which a vegetable or microbial rennet has been used) have a ‘V’ sign on them. all the other cheeses (unfortunately, most of them) are all made with enzymes from a mammalian stomach and are considered ‘non-vegetarian’. I try to buy only vegetarian cheeses, though sometimes they are just too hard to find. I am a little confused however, what IS ‘animal’ rennet? Where does it come from? Everything google offers me is too complicated..;)

  33. Sarah B

    Oh Wow! Thanks for all of your comments so far, friends! I am so happy you are on the polenta train too 😉

    As far as the rennet in cheese in concerned, I learned very recently that most of it is not in fact from animals, as it is cheaper to manufacture it (not sure if this is “better”, as I’m sure it is highly processed). But I always say, everything in moderation. Especially dairy.

    Giulia, your Italian polenta dish sounds outrageous! That is THE coolest idea ever. I love the idea of everyone digging in to one big cloud of saucy polenta in the center of the table. What a beautiful image. Sigh.

    Love to you all,
    Sarah B

  34. giulia

    Here in northern Italy polenta is a typical winter food.. There’s a particular way to serve polenta, called “polenta stesa”: it consists in spreading hot polenta on a large wooden chopping board and and cover it with sauce. It is like a large plate and everyone eats directly from it. It’s enjoyable 🙂

  35. Sasha

    I love the grainy and misty feel of your photographs. They’re just magical.

    And so is polenta. I just got into it about two years ago when I had a roommate who who would whip it up for breakfast and top it with an egg. I got into the same habit and added lots of fresh herbs. It is so incredibly delicious and versatile. I even made a savory artichoke tart the other day that used polenta as a crust. It was a definite winner.

    And about new delicious discoveries of late, yesterday I tried wild garlic for the first time (which is very popular in pesto here in Germany) because I couldn’t find any good looking spinach for homemade pizza. Boy, am I glad the spinach wasn’t fresh as I think this is love. A green leaf with a slight smell and taste of garlic . . . mmmm

  36. Elenore (E)

    Sarah, outstanding pictures alert! Wowza! I´m mesmerized by them! And -duh- by you aswell! I would love to get some heirloom polenta! I have always been a bit “afraid” to buy it because of the widely spread hybrids.. Tell be if you have a good polenta source secret;)

    LOVE

  37. Anonymous

    Im so happy to see this post on polenta! I’m ridiculously slow to jump on the polenta bandwagon myself, in fact only last week I was staring at it at the supermarket thinking what the hell I would do with polenta if I bought it!
    Im going to pick some up at the supermarket and make this dish sometime this week. Cant wait to see some other ways to use it on here too!

    Liz 🙂

  38. Ellen

    Oh polenta, i’ve known about it but not really thought about doing something with it. Where I live there’s a lovely forrest and in May it bubbles over with wild leeks, it smells like leeks (duh) but like a lot, a lot.

    When that time come i’ll be sure to try this recipie! Cant wait 🙂

  39. Anna

    @jen, I was wondering too. Here in Holland not many cheeses have vegetarian rennet so most cheeses are even considered ‘non-vegetarian’ here… That makes it so hard to find good cheese, for a cheese lover like me.. 🙁

  40. Jen

    How do you feel about the animal rennet found in most cheeses?
    I haven’t been able to find a vegetarian Pecorino Romano, (although I have found a parmesan made with vegetable rennet) so do you just use the regular?

  41. Kate

    Polenta is fantastic! Have you tried it for breakfast?
    You can make it the night before, store it in the fridge, and when you’re ready for breakfast throw in a splash of coconut milk, reheat, and a pinch of cinnamon and brown sugar. (or agave nectar, stevia, or another sweetener). Its fabulous 🙂

  42. Sarah

    I love love love polenta. So delicious. My newest food is emmer. I just made it for the first time with a balsamic reduction and mushrooms and it was mighty awesome.

  43. Louisa

    Polenta is the best! I also like to make a savoury ‘cake’ with it and fry pieces to have in panzanella type salads.
    For me, nut butter is a new thing, which I was encouraged to try from your site! As it’s autumn here in Australia, I’m also using chestnuts and persimmons for the first time. Great post!

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