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Polenta with Vegetables and Brown Butter

January 16, 2011

I have a confession. It’s not a major crime or anything, but it may seem odd, all things considered.

I’ve never made grits from scratch until recently. (go ahead. gasp and/or scratch your head in puzzlement.)

Growing up, I don’t remember my Mom making grits. Oatmeal? Yes, even though I hated it. Cream of Wheat? Sure, and I loved the chocolate-flavored variety. But grits? Nope. Not that I remember. In fact, I probably didn’t eat grits until shortly after I graduated college and went on trip South from DC with one of my best friends.

Polenta Cremosa con Verdure

Despite my late introduction, I’ve grown very fond of grits and love dishes that feature grits, especially when someone else was making them for me. But this year, I’m determined to try more and more dishes that are new to me or that are outside of my cooking comfort zone. (which reminds me, i need to buy a new fire extinguisher.)

Now, I realize that polenta is not exactly equal to grits, but they are kissing cousins. And making polenta from scratch would be new to me, if not outside of my cooking comfort zone. And it was an Italian dish of Polenta Cremosa con Verdure from the December 2010 issue of La Cucina Italiana that inspired me to try to make polenta from scratch.

So, this may not be grits, but it’s a start.

Polenta Cremosa con Verdure sounds super fancy in Italian. But, then again, what doesn’t?

In reality, this is a dish of polenta layered with sautéed zucchini and cabbage as well as sautéed carrots, celery and onion, and then topped with a drizzle or two of browned butter. Oh! And don’t forget to grate some grana padano on to it too. The cheese gives it a necessary salty kick.

All in all, it’s a simple, hearty dish. The hardest part was cutting the vegetables and managing the preparation of the cabbage and zucchini separate from the carrots, celery and onions. Granted, preparing the zucchini and cabbage separately from the carrots, celery and onions meant that all the vegetables maintained just the right amount of crunch to complement the polenta.

Actually, the hardest part should’ve been the vegetables. The fact of the matter is that the polenta was a bit of a challenge for me. Mostly this was due to inexperienced, rookie mistakes.

First off, my pan was too small and the polenta very nearly escaped over the edge of the pot when I was less than careful in my stirring. Second, I think the proportions of corn polenta to liquid were off. So instead of a creamy batch of polenta, it was a little more stiff than it appeared to be in the dish.

On the other hand, the polenta broiled up beautifully for leftovers. So I’m not going to complain too much. And, next time I try my hand at polenta or grits, maybe I’ll make a smaller batch or use a bigger pot, and maybe add a dash more liquid than the recipe calls for. We’ll see.

If you want to try Polenta Cremosa con Verdure for yourself, the recipe is over at the La Cucina Italiana website.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 9:14 am

    What a lovely dish Steff — Ive actually never cooked grits from scratch until recently either! Man I’ve been missin out on that stuff. I really love polenta and I like that this dish is vegetarian :) Awesome recipe, I will have to try it!

  2. April 4, 2011 10:47 am

    OK Steff,

    Now you’ve really won me over. Your tweet this morning en route to Three Square had me hooked alreadybut I am a Texas native, “to boot”. Grits? Awesome!

    I am in Chicago, my partner Amy fox in DC. We just finished a webinar with our friends at KaBoom. Let’s talk off line. We are looking at ConAgra after visiting with Jason Clay at TEDxMidwest in October. Segals of Crate were there too and interested in the same things we at Yellow Tractor are and it seems u r too.

    Let’s talk


    Wendy Irwin
    Director of Strategy and Development
    Yellow Tractor Program

    c 847 791-7941
    o 847 603-2814

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