I think it’s time that I declared this to the world: I love foods made with cornmeal. Cornbread? Fantastic. Corn muffins? Delicious – especially with some fresh fruit mixed in. Grits? Be still, my heart. And then…there’s polenta.
A few years ago, I was making polenta on a regular basis. It was a staple in my diet thanks to its affordability and versatility. A cup of cornmeal, once cooked, makes four to six hearty servings, and it can be served as breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the topping. So why did I stop making it? Good question. Thankfully, I remedied this last week as I work to stick to a tighter grocery/dining out budget.
My system has been to make a batch of polenta at the beginning of the week, and then throughout the week as I’m cooking dinners, I’ll have a variety of sauces and other toppings to bring with the polenta for lunches. In the past week and a half, I’ve topped my lunches with eggs over-easy and arugula; sausage, olives, and goat cheese; tomato sauce with ground beef; and, my current favorite, sauteed asparagus and mushrooms with lemon juice, butter, and thyme.
That last one is the perfect meal for spring, and I can’t resist eating it.
2 c water
1 c unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1 c polenta (corn grits)
2 tbsp salted butter
black or white pepper
Combine water and almond milk in a medium-sized pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. When liquid reaches a rolling boil, turn heat down to low and stir in polenta. When polenta and liquid are combined, add butter and stir. Continue to simmer, stirring regularly, until polenta reaches a thick oatmeal consistency. (Note: The instructions I’ve read say that polenta will take 20-30 minutes to cook. Mine usually reaches the thick consistency within 10 minutes. Cooking time may vary for you.)
When polenta has thickened, add pepper to taste and stir. Turn off heat and serve.
You can also pour the polenta into a rectangular baking dish – mine is 1-1/2 quarts – and refrigerate, covered overnight. After that, you can slice pieces, reheat, and serve!
Lemon Butter Asparagus and Mushrooms
3 c sliced crimini mushrooms
2 c asparagus, chopped into one inch segments
2-1/2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pepper to taste
In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and 2-1/2 tbsp salted butter. When butter has melted, add asparagus and mushrooms. Saute until asparagus is tender, about 7-10 minutes. Add lemon juice, thyme, and pepper. Serve over polenta or as a side dish.