Polenta is a delicious, easy, and versatile pantry item we love keeping on hand. It can be added to soups, baked into cakes, cut into squares and fried in a skillet...the list goes on. But our favorite way is to keep it basic and eat it as a creamy porridge. To ensure your polenta is the best it can be, there are a few key things to know: the ratio of water to corn should be high (ours is 5:1 here), it will take some time, and it should never be heated to a boil - keep it low and slow! If you’d like to speed up the cooking time however, you can soak your polenta with its water for a few hours in advance of cooking it. When it’s time to make it, just skim off any floating bits and pour the polenta and its soaking water into a pot. Follow the cooking directions below, and plan on the cooking time being cut down by about half.
For the Polenta
½ cup medium grind cornmeal or polenta
2 ½ cups water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
In a medium pot combine cornmeal, water, and salt. Turn the heat to medium, and bring to a low simmer but never a boil (see note below). Turn to low heat and cook, whisking often to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot, until creamy (usually about the consistency of a soft scrambled egg) and no crunchy bites of corn remain - usually about 40-55 minutes. Whisk in butter and season to taste with salt.
Note: It is very important to never let the polenta boil (or come above 212ºF, the temperature at which water boils). This will cause your polenta to get gummy and lose the fresh corn flavor that you get from a nice stone ground polenta.
For the Rapini
1 small bunch rapini or raab, ends trimmed
A large pot of water
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rapini. Blanch for 45 seconds to a minute. Remove rapini and add to the ice bath. Let sit for 5 minutes, then drain and cut rapini into bite size pieces. Set aside.
For the Leeks & Mushrooms
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
½ medium leek, ends trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced
2 cups blanched Rapini (from above)
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add mushrooms and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their water (about 5-7 minutes). Add 1 tablespoon butter or oil, leeks, and rapini and continue cooking until everything begins to caramelize, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute or so. Turn off the heat and season with a squeeze of lemon and salt to taste.
Herbs of your choice (parsley, cilantro, dill)
Dish polenta into bowls, and top with rapini/mushroom/leek mixture. Garnish with herbs and a sprinkle of chili flakes. Enjoy immediately.