Polenta Week: Hurricane Corn

She’s heeeeeeere.

The outermost bands of Tropical Storm Bite Me, East Coast (aka Irene) just rolled into our town, bringing a soft, steady rain that portends much worse to come. Although I’m still not 100% sure where our flashlights are (actually, do we even own more than one?), I hope we’ve prepared enough to face the onslaught. My mettle was already tested earlier this week, as I stared down the threat posed by… THIS:

Polenta with beans and goat cheese

I know, you’re thinking the sudden drop in barometric pressure has addled my brain; I’m certainly not suggesting that bowl is anything comparable to Irene. But my point is that this week’s theme ingredient – polenta – does have a reputation for malice. In almost any recipe, you’ll see lots of warnings about bubbling, spurting polenta leaping out of the pot in an attempt to singe your skin. It’s nailed me a couple times when I wasn’t using an adequately long-handled spoon.

But overall, we’ve otherwise maintained a wary but uneventful kitchen relationship. If you need help easing your fears of polenta, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen have a great how-to video. Many recipes call for the pre-cooked polenta you simply cut into slices, anyway, and that’s never tried to maim me. So I feel safe in recommending this week’s worth of corny recipes (which you’ll find after the jump).

Nutritionally, I’ll admit, polenta’s not all that exciting. It’s coarse-ground corn – essentially the same as corn grits – that consists mostly of complex carbohydrates and a few grams of protein. There’s nothing inherently troublesome about it, and it does contain a smattering of iron, but there’s also nothing impressive about it.

Where things get impressive is when you pile on some nutritionally dense foods like blueberries, in the seared polenta & blueberry sauce recipe from Eating Well pictured above. Or when you can get a good dose of vegetables mixed with oozy warm cheese with very minimal effort in the kitchen, as with these mini “pizzas” from Eat Well With Janel.

So not only is polenta not really a menace, but its nutritionally stronger buddies are clearly the ones that really pack a punch. No need to be afraid, then, if you take on any of these seven recipes I’d recommend:

  • Blood orange polenta cake, from Bitchin Camero (here)
  • Breakfast polenta, from Weelicioius (here)
  • Polenta with leek & mushroom ragu, from Serious Eats (here) – Hands down, one of my favorite polenta dishes.
  • Polenta with spinach, black beans and goat cheese, from My Recipes  (here)
  • Polenta pizzettes, from Eat Well With Janel (here) – Quick, easy, and could be adapted for any topping you’d like
  • Root vegetables with polenta, from NYTimes (here)
  • Seared polenta with chunky blueberry sauce, from Eating Well (here)

Again, no original recipe from me this week, but if I think of anything while I’m sandbagging the basement, I’ll let you all know.


  1. Janel says:

    Ooo now you have me craving polenta! I have only tried cooking it from the cornmeal once and cannot stand stirring hot things on a stove because it usually winds up badly, so prepared polenta it is for me!

    • eatingtheweek says:

      Good thing you’ve got a stash hoarded already, right? 😉 I agree, the prepared kind is light-years easier to work with. That said, there are a few dishes where I’ll put in the time & cook it, because the consistency is preferable. So long as I’ve got my long-handled spoon, that is.

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