i’m on a cornmeal bender (things could be worse!)

flower3whiteiris-21822a4e4315500b9847f844202781ba65f74bddI COULDN’T RESIST the soft polenta on the menu one recent cold night at a local restaurant—creamy-style, and laced with cheese. With that warming, cozy meal’s memory in mind, I bought a pound of organic cornmeal for the pantry the next day, imagining simple, filling suppers-to-be. Apparently I’m now officially on a cornmeal bender, from soupy-style farinata with greens and garlic, to crispy cakes for supper, and even biscotti laced with coconut for dessert. A batch of polenta “fries” is coming up next. Things could be worse.

One of my favorite quick, cheap, filling meals is farinata—a sort of soupy polenta with grated cheese, garlic and greens stirred in. I still have kale and spigarello in the garden, which work perfectly.

I form a stiffer version of polenta into slabs and then cut it into cakes, cooked till crispy and topped with onion rings or shredded carrots or maybe some extra crumbles of bleu cheese. The recipe.

Speaking of crispy: The same restaurant where I had polenta for supper used to feature crispy polenta triangles. They’re not unlike these polenta “fries” from Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbooks.com. I chop a tiny bit of fresh rosemary into the batter before forming and cooking the wedges.  Caution: addictive.

Coconut-cornmeal biscottiI was happy to have the perfect closing act show up in “The New York Times” the other day, in a roundup of “wholesome biscotti” recipes. The one that called to me, in my current mindset: Cornmeal and Coconut.  True–and truly delicious, with coconut oil and also unsweetened coconut flakes. Note: It will still be plenty sweet if you back off a few tablespoons from the sugar called for (using 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp., instead of the 2/3 cup called for).  Also: The recipe specifies ¾ cup fine or medium cornmeal; we used a combination of ½ cup fine and ¼ medium.

Where does cornmeal, or polenta, figure into your current cooking plans?

  1. Margit Van Schaick says:

    Margaret, my diet is probably pretty similar to yours, for much of the time because I rely on my garden to help make ends meet on my food budget. Plus, I feel really good when I eat a lot of veggies! I bake bread several times a week. Plain yogurt, potatoes, eggs, lentils, beans, dried peas, frozen berries, a little pasta, and sardines are what I rely on. Ideally, I’d have filled my freezer with kale, chard, tomatoes, lots of soups–with a variety of veggies and herbs, grated zucchini and other squash, herbs, but I was still recovering from major surgery and that interfered with storing food for the Winter. So, at this point I’m researching where I can still buy kale, etc.(organic) as cheaply as possible, to belatedly put in my freezer. My question, after all this rambling, concerns the recent reading I’ve been doing about the paleo diet. What is your opinion about all the talk about grains and legumes being not so good for a healthy diet?

  2. Heather says:

    I grew a crop of corn for the first time- beautiful Oaxacan green corn. Thus far, I’ve only used it nixtamalized for posole and masa for tortillas. I’m a little reluctant to grind it to cornmeal because it doesn’t have the same nutritional value, but I do crave corny baked stuff. I’ve never had polenta.

  3. Teri Chace says:

    Your next book should be a cookbook! :)

    A favorite around here, and a T-giving tradition for us, is johnnycake. It’s my friend Barney’s specialty. His kids break up pieces (it is a bit dry) into a bowl, sprinkle brown sugar over, then pour milk on. Beats Rice Krispies!

    A year or so ago, Mark Bittman ran a series of corn recipes in his NYTimes Magazine column. I make the corn cakes* often, served hot with salsa on the side. Mmmm.

    * 3/4 cup medium cornmeal, 1/2 flour, 2 tsp baking powder + 1 egg w/ 3/4 cup milk. Mix dry, mix wet, mix together. Cook in oiled skillet like pancakes.

  4. Margit Van Schaick says:

    I also wanted to tell you that I’m having a hard time picking which of your very-appealing recipes to make first! Thank you so much for these ideas. I still have some hardy greens in my garden to add. Next year, I’m absolutely growing spigarello!

  5. Minnie says:

    Ooh! Cornmeal! I was raised on this grain from hot cornbread (adding sugar was anathema in my locale), grits, to fresh homegrown ears, all of which I still favor. Just last week we had fish and cheese grits, and polenta in many forms is a regular at our table. I’m going to cook every one of your recipes and the others offered. Thank you.

  6. Deborah B says:

    I frequently make a tamale pie recipe from the Moosewood Low-Fat cookbook that has black beans and lots of vegetables in a casserole topped with cornbread. It’s delicious, especially with a good gritty cornmeal from the whole food store here called Green Earth. I also make cornbread frequently to go with a big pot of tomato-based veggie/bean soup. For that, my fav recipe is from Fannie Farmer – I use the “rich” cornbread recipe but substitute lemon yogurt for the sour cream.

  7. Tibs says:

    We’re talking cornmeal mush, right? Polenta is just so cool cuisine sounding. Would foodies want to eat it if you called it cornmeal mush? A southern woman told my mother years ago that white cornmeal was for people. Yellow was for animals. Or Yankees. I don’t care what it is called or white or yellow, it is delicious.

  8. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com says:

    There are definitely worse things than a cornmeal bender! I tend to not have something for a while, rediscover it, go absolutely crazy with it, then not have it for a long time … Always on some sort of a “bender” — but never thought of it quite like that! :D

  9. Barbara says:

    In response to Margit, your diet already sounds so healthy and similar to mine before I switched to a paleo diet. I eat paleo about 95% of the time with an emphasis on lots of vegetables, small amounts of protein and healthy fats. When I occasionally eat legumes and beans, I will soak them overnight first and have had no problems. Gluten is a big NO on any day. My hashimoto’s is in remission and my arthritis symptoms, digestive problems and brain fog all disappeared. It’s not all that hard when you are into fresh foods and cooking. You will find plenty of support and the science on the internet if you want to try it and see for yourself. I find lots of inspiration in the recipes on Margaret’s site and try to keep an open mind to learning about the best way to eat for me. I wish you the best with your recovery!

  10. cinda says:

    looking for resources for cornmeals. a friend who has moved far used to order in quantities of various grinds & colors – coarse cornmeal to corn flour – wish i knew what her resource was – the red flour was just beautiful – and fun

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