By Joe Yonan
The Italian way with polenta, topped with saucy vegetables and/or meat, might have been the original grain bowl. When you tire of rice, barley, wheat berries or the like, polenta is another delicious way to get your whole-grain fix.
What’s important is how you make it. I tried a pretty basic recipe I found in Plant-Protein Recipes That You’ll Love, using polenta from Bob’s Red Mill that’s not stone-ground, and although it cooked quickly, I found the result disappointingly bland. On top went two vegetable sautes, done consecutively in the same pan: rainbow chard with its thinly sliced stems included for texture and color, and a mixture of mushrooms and cannellini beans. They added life to the dish, but the base was still a little boring.
When I tried it again, using stone-ground cornmeal and a Serious Eats technique that involved soaking it overnight before cooking, I remembered all the beautiful corn flavor and fluffy texture I appreciate from well-made polenta.
It takes more forethought and a little more time, but it’s worth it. And just in case you’re wondering: Yes, you can use grits instead. They’re not exactly the same thing (sometimes made from a different variety of corn), but if they’re stone-ground, they’re pretty close, and the Southern-born boy in me would have to approve.