Monday, October 8, 2012

Quick, Easy, & Gluten Free: Homemade Polenta in the Microwave

For years I made polenta the traditional way. Cornmeal stirred for a long time in a big pot. It's how my Grandma taught me. One day I noticed, in a cookbook by Barbara Kafka, a method for making polenta in the microwave, read it over and mentally filed it away for nearly 10 years. Couldn't be as good as Grandma's, I reasoned. 

And then, in the late 90's when I had to produce a gluten free Italian meal for a friend with celiac disease, with less than a half hour to spare, I remembered. Somehow the neurons in my brain sent me back to Kafka's book "Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook". And there it was. Soft Microwave Polenta. I was saved, because it was fast, easy and crazily delicious. No sweating over a steaming pot of bubbling cornmeal for too long. While I quickly cooked up some Italian sausage from the Italian Market down on 9th St. and added a couple of jars of tomato sauce from last summers garden, my polenta cooked away happily in the microwave with almost no attention from me. And it was good, really good. No gluten, and no sweat. Sorry Grandma.

Honestly, I haven't made polenta any other way since I found this recipe, and I have fooled with it a bit (or a lot) over the years. While we don't eat a lot of grains at our house, this is so good as the base for so many saucy dishes, and as a hot cereal, that when I need a tasty go-to, this is it. nice as the base for vegetarian  and vegan stews, using just olive oil, and water or vegetable stock. I use Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal / Polenta, and have noticed that in a thick, broad pottery casserole dish it takes a few minutes longer to cook than in a 2-quart heatproof glass batter bowl. I also use an 1100 watt microwave to make this while the original recipe from 1989 uses a smaller wattage machine. Your cooking timing may differ, depending on your microwave and container. 

Such good polenta, you may be able to fool an Italian Grandma!
Just don't tell how you made it...
Oh, and check out the little bonus recipe below to make a single serving of fresh, homemade polenta...try it with a bit of butter and maple syrup for a quick breakfast...

And a note to Ms. Kafka: Please, if you ever decide to reissue either Microwave Gourmet or Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook you will make one of your big fans VERY happy!

Microwave Soft Polenta
Adapted from Barbara Kafka

3 qt. microwave-safe container  
3/4 cup Polenta or Cornmeal  
4 Cups water, any stock, or replace 1 cup of water with milk  
1/2 tsp. Salt
2T extra virgin olive oil, butter, truffle butter or any delicious fat you like
Black pepper to taste
(Parmesan, Gorgonzola or Romano)

Mix the dry polenta into the water with the salt. Microwave on High, uncovered for 6 - 8 minutes. Stir. Microwave 6 - 8 more minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir in the olive oil or butter, the black pepper, and cheese if using. Cover and let stand, 3-5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.
Looks easy; it is, and relish!
Single serve Polenta

3/4 cup water or ff stock  
1/4 Cup Polenta or cornmeal  
1/4 teasp. salt

Place all in 2-3 cup microwave safe container. ( I use a 2- cup Pyrex glass measuring cup) Mix well. Microwave on High 3 minutes. Stir. Cook on High about 2 minutes longer, let stand for a minute or so...enjoy. 1 serving.

My favorite, and available just about everywhere.

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