Cornmeal or corn or maize flour is a versatile gluten free flour that can be used with many diverse flavours. It suits well with the Indian flavours, gives enough liberty to experiment and results in a hearty meal always. It is indeed a great alternative flour and this 101 alternative flours will be a series of posts on health food desivideshi to showcase how well we can use our local flours for everyday meals. My aim is not to vilify gluten but a minimal gluten way of life is healthier for sure.
I love polenta in all it's flavours and have tried making it with every possible corn meal we get here in north India. And to my pleasure, have loved them all. I have used corn daliya (from an organic brand), coarse corn meal from my local chakki wala (flour mill) or regular makki ka atta that we get to make makki ki roti. Even fresh kernels of sweetcorn make great polenta if you ask me. I like polenta in a smooth porridge like consistency, a coarse upma like consistency, polenta cooked and set in moulds or baked or shallow fried in sticks or slices. The baked or fried polenta sticks or slices are made after cooking and setting the polenta in cakes.
Today's recipe is one of those baked polenta sticks, packed with my favourite flavours. Sun dried tomatoes, basil, garlic and cheese, spiced up with red chilly flakes and jalapeno peppers. I used a combination of corn grits and cornmeal for this recipe but one can use whatever corn meal is available, just the cooking time and the amount of water will need adjustment.
(serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to soup)
corn grits 1/2 cup
cornmeal 1/3 cup
water 1.5 cup
grated cheddar cheese 1/2 cup
sun dried tomatoes chopped 3 tbsp
chopped basil 2-3 tbsp
minced garlic 2 tsp
red chilly flakes 1/2 tsp
slice jalapeno peppers 1 tbsp
salt to taste
oil to grease the dish
You should follow the instruction on the polenta pack if you are using one of those. I pressure cooked the corn grits till one whistle with salt and water, cooled down, add all the ingredients simmered for a few minutes and added the cornmeal into the simmering pot. Cooked till it make s a lumpy mix, then spread it out in a greased dish.
Let the spread out polenta cool down completely. It can be refrigerated till required. It is better to keep the set polenta ready and bake it just when you make soup or it is the time to serve.
Cut strips from the cooled set polenta, brush with oil and bake in preheated oven at 200 C for 20-25 minutes or till the edges start getting a bit brown.
Serve the polenta sticks hot with soup or with a few dips if serving as an appetizer. Guacamole or baba ganoush taste great with it too. .
I make a salad with such polenta sticks or balls (arancini balls style) baked or shallow fried crisply. With some fresh rocket or baby spinach, some olives, capers, pine nuts and tomatoes. I made a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and thyme for this salad. You can always toss up the salad your way.
Such interesting bits in a hearty salad is good for the whole family. I myself feel so glad that I have been able to incorporate such elements in my salads and now the husband also eats these salads as meals most of the times.
Taste, texture and flavour combination is the trick to overcome a dislike for a particular dish someone might have nurtured. But the good thing is, we can work around flavours and convert people around us to good food.
We loved these polanta sticks with the broccoli and spring onion soup few weeks ago. It was such a satisfying meal, contrasting flavours, interesting textures. The polenta sticks are crisp on the outside and soft and cheesy inside. Bursting with flavours of sun dried tomatoes, garlic and basil.
Been planning to make some more polenta very soon. This is the season to make corn bread, makki ki roti and polenta as we get fresh cornmeal in winters only. I want to make the most of seasonal bounty.
Gluten free meals can be fun. Say yes to alternative flours for everyday meals. Find local alternative flours and experiment more, there will always be something new on the table. Wheat mono-culture has to stop. Use more coarse grains and make a demand for them, the market forces would listen to it.