Cornmeal and greens (B)

July 7, 2006 at 8:53 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Moosewood, Quick weeknight recipe)

My friend gave me her version of this unusual “polenta” recipe, originally from the Moosewood New Classics Cookbook. She says it freezes well so she typically doubles the recipe.

1 bunch kale (or broccoli rabe, or whatever your favorite dark leafy green is. Depending on how large your bunch is, you might need to use two bunches.)

3 cups water
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
ground black pepper to taste
(My friend likes strong flavors, so suggests adding smoked paprika and cayenne)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Remove tough bottoms of kale or broccoli rabe stems as needed. Coarsely chop the greens and stems. Rinse well and set aside in colander to drain.

Bring the water to a boil in a 2-4 quart pot and SLOWLY pour in the cornmeal while stirring briskly with a whisk. Break up any lumps that form. Simmer on low heat, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick and tastes done (watch out for splatters!). Fine ground cornmeal cooks much faster than coarse ground polenta, so be sure to taste! Stir in salt, fennel, and cheese, if using. Add pepper (and other spices) to taste.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pan. Add the garlic and salt and saute on medium heat just until the garlic is golden. Add the greens, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Set aside until the polenta is done.

Serve the polenta in a bowl with the greens on top or stirred in.

My Notes

I’ve never put ground fennel seeds in polenta before. Wow, I really liked it, and so did Derek. I used 3/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 tsp. ground fennel seeds, and 3/8 tsp. paprika, and a very large pinch of cayenne, plus about a 1/4 cup parmesan. The flavors were strong so even Derek liked it. I did have trouble with lumps though. The next time I time I made it I just added the cornmeal to the cold water like I normally do, and I thought it worked better. Also, I made it once with curly kale and didn’t cook the greens long enough. I was impatient so just gave up and mixed the two together–crunchy kale in the cornmeal is a bad idea, let me tell you. I’ve also made and enjoyed it with collards. Finally, add the salt to the cornmeal at the beginning rather than the end, since it will distribute more evenly.

Using fine ground cornmeal isn’t quite as tasty as true polenta, but it’s really fast. This whole recipe probably only takes about 15 minutes or so. The last time I made it I used a bit more fennel, and I think it got close to overpowering. 1/2 measured ground or 3/4 tsp. measured whole is probably plenty.

Rating: B

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