comfort food: farinata, a polenta delight
WE CALL IT MUSH, my friend Marco and I do, but not in any disparaging way. When the night’s headed into the 20s and you’ve been out in the 40s raking all day (or it’s closer to zero and you’ve been shoveling snow), what you want is just that: stick-to-your-ribs warmth; comfort served in a big bowl, using a big spoon. More molten than soupy, farinata is pure peasant food–nothing more than cornmeal, water, and some kale or cabbage, brought to life with garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
USE KALE, cabbage or another green if you prefer, to make this Italian-style porridge that’s quick, filling and perfect for those of us who consider such things as soupy polenta to be comfort food—and also love garlic. (Count me in on both scores.) This recipe was inspired by something a friend scribbled down from the old public-television show “Cucina Amore.”
Other references call this farinata–the word just translates as porridge or gruel–Farinata di Cavolo Nero (or Farinata with Tuscan Kale). To confuse things, lately the term farinata is often used to refer to a thin, unleavened savory pancake of chickpea flour (also called a socca)…but here we’re in the cornmeal gruel business.
- ½ lb. kale or cabbage or mix
- 6 cups water or vegetable broth (if the broth is salted, or you like a lot of Parmesan, adjust salt below)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ cup polenta (cornmeal); organic recommended to insure it’s GMO-free
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 cloves minced or grated garlic, or to taste
- ¼ to ½ cup olive oil (with extra for garnish)
Wash and chop the greens; I use a coarse chiffonade cut (above photo), removing the toughest stem bits first.
Meantime, bring salted water (see above note) or stock to a rolling boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer the greens until barely tender, just a few minutes, in the water or stock.
Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
Cook on simmer until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Fold in the garlic, cheese and the oil; remove from heat.
Serve immediately in bowls garnished with more oil and pepper. Serves three (or two with seconds). When eating alone, I halve the recipe, and it’s a heaping portion and then some.
For me, a big bowlful is a meal–perhaps with a salad. For guests who eat meat? Grilled Italian-style sausages would make a perfect side dish.