I prefer to cook polenta from scratch. You can now buy it in large sausage shaped rounds with any number of herb, garlic and pepper additions, but there is really nothing quite like the taste of freshly made polenta (or freshly made anything for that matter). Although this might fly in the face of any Italian tradition for polenta preparation I have found the best way to cook polenta is in a crockpot. All the stirring and sputtering that polenta requires while cooking in a saucepan is easily reduced to 2.5 hours of slow cooking with perfect results.
CHOOSING ORGANIC CORN
Corn has been used beneficially by cultures the world over in the form of bread, tortillas, polenta, grits, corn on the cob, and fresh corn kernels. It has also proven to be destructive to our health in the form of high fructose corn syrup and as a genetically modified crop now used in all our animal feed. According to Paul Pitchford author of Healing with Whole Foods, grown organically corn's healing properties include nourishing the heart, regulating digestion, overcoming sexual weakness and helping to strengthen teeth and gums.
There is a wonderful scene in John Sayles film, Matewan, when the striking coal miners have set up a tent city outside of the West Virginia town. It is a brilliant lesson of how our culture was created from this mingling of diverse and varied traditions. In the scene an Italian woman is moved to harshly criticize how the Irish women are cooking their cornmeal, in which the Irish make some derogatory comment on the Italian women's polenta, and it all explodes into the shouting dismay of women protecting their time honored ways. Eventually they share their cornmeal recipes, which have since been folded into the great soup pot that has become American cuisine.
POLENTA RECIPE FOR TEN (OR LEFTOVERS)
1 cup medium ground organic corn meal
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon organic butter
½ cup Romano cheese
When preparing enough polenta to feed 10 people, begin with a 1.5-quart crock-pot.
Let it heat up while bringing 4 cups of water to a boil in a separate pan.
Meanwhile, place a cup of medium ground corn meal and a teaspoon of sea salt in a small blender, the Magic Bullitt for instance, and add a cup of pure water.
Puree this mixture just enough to combine and pour it into the crockpot.
A little more water added to the blender to wash out any remaining grains goes into the pot followed by the 4 cups of boiling water.
Give it a good stir, cover and go about your business.
About 1.5 hours into the cooking, and really, this is optional, especially if you are out and cannot get home in time, uncover the pot and give the polenta a good stirring.
Now, for you crock-pot aficionados, I realize that lifting the cover is a faux pax of extreme proportions and not allowed when following the explicit instructions that accompany the purchase of your crock-pot. But this is cornmeal, not some animal protein that will fail to cook because the steam has been released and the heat reduced.
Well, that's not true, because at some point in the cooking I always lift the lid and take a peek in to inhale the delicious smell of my dinner. Anticipation and smell are always a large part of any culinary experience.
At this point the polenta is creamy and loose and it looks ready, but do not be fooled, it just needs a bit more time to cook.
At the 2-hour mark I open again (gasps of horror) and stir in a tablespoon of organic butter, and a half-cup (or more) of grated Romano sheep's cheese.
Naturally, leave out these two additions when you are in any phase of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse. However, when feeling a bit indulgent and nothing else will satisfy you save for the taste of butter and cheese, a small amount of each can and should be added.
I suggest you give it another 30 minutes to cook to better bring the flavors together, after which you can either spoon the polenta mixture into a ceramic baking dish to set up or serve it as you would mash potatoes with the gravy from your protein entrée pooling in the center.
If you are setting up the polenta you can cut and serve in slices or squares, or grill alongside your vegetables. Whatever you decide it will be delicious.
Delia Quigley is a holistic health practitioner, author of seven health books and an experienced yoga instructor. She also teaches the exquisite science of preparing whole, organic foods to support and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.