Polenta is my favourite. I think I have said it earlier too, probably many times. I like polenta as much as I like my makki ki roti. I know both are very different from each other but I always found a similarity, the sweet nuttiness of cornmeal that is so characteristic and the way both can be served in so many different ways.
The polenta I used to make earlier with corn grits was a regular for some time and then I started adding fresh corn to polenta, see the gruel type polenta with mushroom goodness and fresh corn polenta with cheese. Check out the baked polanta sticks too.
But then I decided to use regular makki ka atta (corn meal meant to make makki ki roti during Indian winters) to make polenta cakes. The result has been very encouraging, the polenta cakes set well and I can toast them really well on the cast iron skillet too. It doesn't take too much time in preparation and tastes really good. And the best thing is, that it is great even at room temperature. A win win situation really.
This time I served it doused with arrabbiata sauce and sage butter infused vegetables on the side, sprinkled generously with Parmesan.
(2 meal servings with loads of stir fry vegetables)
for polenta cakes
corn meal (or polenta, I used makki ka atta) 150 gm
water 300 ml
grated cheddar 1 tbsp
salt to taste
oil or butter to grease the skillet and the metal rings to shape the polenta cakes
*arrabbiata sauce (I used home made) 1/4 cup (recipe in the end)
for stir fry vegetables
cauliflower florets 2 cups
cabbage chopped in big chunks 2 cups
sage leaves (fresh or dried) about a dozen
butter 1 tbsp
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of the platter
Mix the ingredients for polenta cakes in a deep saucepan (except butter) and whisk together. Now place the saucepan over stove and cook while whisking till the mixture becomes thick and soft dough like. Take the pan off the heat and grease the steel rings.
Now place the steel rings over silpat or a greased surface, spoon about 2 heaped tbsp of cooked mix into each ring and press down making a flat round cake (or tikki like shape). You can spread the whole cooked dough over a greased silpat and let it cool while it sets. Then cut into squares or triangles.
You can toast the polenta cakes while still hot as they set perfectly well and quickly. Or you can cool down completely to be sure, the cold polenta cakes can be refrigerated for later use too. Toast on a greased skillet to serve.
Since I make them fresh and toast them while still warm, it takes about 20 minutes to make two servings.
Smear the cakes with prepared hot arrabbiata sauce, grate Parmesan cheese over them and serve with meat or vegetables or whatever you like it with.
I made this sage infused stir fry for the side.
To make the stir fry parboil the cauliflowers and cabbage chunks separately in slated water. Drain and immediately dunk into a skillet with butter and sage leaves, toss on high heat for a couple of minutes, season and serve immediately.
recipe of arrabbiata sauce..
garlic cloves 10
fresh oregano leaves 2 tbsp or dried oregano 1 tsp
fresh thyme leaves 4-5 springs or dry thyme a generous pinch
fresh basil torn about 12 leaves
red chilly flakes 1 tbsp or as per taste
salt to taste
chopped tomatoes (preferably blanched and peeled) 3 cups
balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp
olive oil (extra virgin) 1 tbsp
Parmesan cheese grated 2 tbsp
Add olive oil, garlic and herbs in blender and make a coarse paste. Add the paste to a pan and place the pan over stove. Let the oil and herbs start sizzle, add the chilly flakes followed by the tomatoes, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook till it all gets saucy.
Add the grated Parmesan and let it get incorporated. Adjust seasoning and consistency as required and bottle. Keep refrigerated for about a a couple of months.
This sauce is a good condiment to keep in the fridge. You can toss a quick pasta or even boiled potatoes or cauliflower with this sauce to make a healthier meal. Never make this kind of sauces in small amounts, make enough for at least three to four meals for the family. I like the arrabbiata auce hot but you can always tone down the chilly heat a little bit.
With this polenta cakes the sauce doesn't taste so hot. Polenta tones down the heat as it is a bit bland in taste, with a nutty taste of it's own of course.
This is one of the most comforting meals one can have, that too very calorie efficient I must add. All the good fats, not an overload of proteins and all the carbs in the meal are complex and low glycemic index type.