Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Post: Parmesan Polenta Recipe

Today's guest post is from Robyn Webb who is an award winning nutritionist, cookbook author, chef and teacher, Robyn Webb has been a passionate advocate of cooking well and eating wisely for most of her life. Because of health problems within her own family, mostly notably diabetes, Robyn learned early on the importance of a balanced, healthful approach to eating.

In 1996, Robyn received the prestigious President’s Council on Fitness, Healthy American Fitness Leader Award, co-sponsored by the National Jaycees and Prudential Life Insurance Company. She is an active member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and serves currently as the past chairman of the Cooking Schools and Teachers section. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition and Florida State University with a Masters of Science degree in Nutrition. Robyn is also known for her upbeat TV appearances, classes & workshops (she owns Pinch of Thyme Cooking School in VA). and she is the Food Editor for Diabetes Forecast Magazine.

This recipe is vegetarian, but not vegan so even though it sounds delicious I will not be testing it out. But, if someone would make some for my husband I know he would be very grateful!

Polenta is one of those great comfort foods that reminds me of the little black dress: you can keep it plain and simple or jazz it up; either way it’s a standout.

I got hooked on polenta many years ago while in Italy and ever since have been on a quest to find the polenta I remembered having in Rome. It was very smooth, went down like silk and was more white in color than the typical yellow colored one offered here in the US.

While having lunch one day at the Tasting Room, a wonderful restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, I stopped next door on the premises to their store called the Butchers Block that sells wonderful and interesting gourmet products. Tucked into a little basket in the corner was Moretti, a fine grained polenta that through the package I guessed might be the end of my quest to find that Italian polenta I still dream about.

I decided to a be bold and test this out on a my students at Open Kitchen one night for a Tuscan class. I figured why not go beyond my opinion to see what the masses thought. Well, all I can say is that I had everyone asking, now how do you spell Moretti?

Moretti Polenta can be found at Butchers Block, King Street, Alexandria, Va 22314

4 servings

Polenta Pointers
Make sure you have a long handled wooden spoon to stir. You will be stirring A LOT and the wooden spoon will give you some stability.

When you add the polenta, do so slowly in a steady stream. This will ensure the polenta comes out smooth and creamy.

Polenta may be made with milk, but I prefer the lighter taste with water.

Learn a basic polenta first. It’s one of the most classic Italian dishes to learn how to prepare well. Then get crazy: add herbs, spices, serve with sauteed meats on top, etc, etc.

This is the classic porridge style polenta. I prefer this version. If desired, you may pour the contents of the cooked polenta into a square pan, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, cut the polenta into squares or diamond shapes and grill or broil the pieces. Serve them with a nice marinara sauce on the side.

4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup imported polenta
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (please don’t use the stuff in the green can!)
1 Tbsp butter
Garnish: basil leaves

1. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan set on medium high heat. Slowly whisk in the polenta.
2. When the polenta has been whisked in, begin stirring with a long handled wooden spoon, wearing kitchen mitts to avoid splattering yourself. Reduce the heat to medium and stir for 7-15 minutes until the polenta is thick and comes away from the sides of the pan.
3. Add the cheese and butter and stir well. Taste and correct for seasoning.
4. Pour onto a flat platter and serve immediately. Garnish with basil leaves

Photograph: Olga Berman

And now a few words from Olga: When Robyn gave me this recipe to test and photograph, the directions said to stir polenta for 20-30 minutes. However, when I started to make this recipe, it was perfectly done after about 9 minutes. I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised: that meant there was no need to stir polenta for 30 minutes, and my arm did not feel like it was going to fall off. I called Robyn, and she said she just wanted to make sure I was getting the same results as she did: I passed the test!
In other notes, I did not have basil, so used dill. Feel free to use any fresh herbs you have on hand.

1 comment:

  1. I think many are scared off by how simple it can be to make polenta, so this is fantastic - thanks for the great guest post! Robyn Webb knows her recipes!


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