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Freshie Faves: Elegant mush anyone?

Next time you are constructing a menu for your supper club, I urge you to add elegant mush to your line up! This was the first description that came to mind when I first tasted polenta. Polenta has humble peasant beginnings in Italy but has been has become the darling of many upscale restaurants.

Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal. It’s near twin brother and a Southern favorite you might know, as grits. Grits are made from hominy that has been ground. Polenta can also be dressed up in many ways.  This delight dish can be served up hot or cold; cut into sections and pan-seared or grilled; or simple stirred with butter and assortment of cheeses and enjoyed like a smooth risotto. Polenta is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6. Moreover, it tastes divine!

Making polenta is a walk in the park. It is just like to cooking rice and other grains. You boil water or stock, add salt and polenta and simmer until tender. The typical ration is 4 to 1 or 3 to 1. Or you could just grab a tube of prepared polenta and toss it in your basket. Another great thing about polenta is that it can be a side or the main star.

Here are a few recipes for you to enjoy the elegant mush.

Polenta Stuffed Tomatoes

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. diced shallot
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup Bellino polenta
1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbs. chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and then whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme and rosemary and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is tender, creamy, and thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and hollow them out. Cut a very thin slice off the bottom of each tomato half so the filled tomato can lie flat without rolling. Arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet and season them lightly with salt. Fill each tomato half with some of the polenta, mounding just slightly (depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may or may not use all the polenta). Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbs. of cheese and the parsley over each. Bake until the tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, then devour!

If you decide to grab a golden tube of premade polenta here are some quick ideas for you!

Slice polenta in ½ inch thick slices. Pan sauté with butter or olive oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Place on foil lined baking sheet. Top with 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce and grated cheese. Place in a top rack in oven at 400 for 3 to 5mins. Keep a close on these morsels. Take them out once the cheese gets nice and melts!