Magazine article Sunset

The Comforts of Polenta

Magazine article Sunset

The Comforts of Polenta

Article excerpt

* They say comfort food is fattening. Well, they're wrong--at least when it comes to polenta. With very few belt-threatening fat calories, polenta cooks into a creamy porridge or bakes into crusty sticks with all the crunch you crave in fried foods. A few fresh green herbs turn it into a pretty casserole or main-dish topper for meaty portabella mushrooms.

Creamy Polenta

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 20 minutes

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

In a 5- to 6-quart pan, blend 1 cup polenta, 2 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup evaporated nonfat milk. Stir over high heat until mixture boils, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until polenta is smooth to taste, about 15 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste. Scrape polenta into a bowl and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese.

Per serving: 232 cal., 11% (25 cal.) from fat; 12 g protein; 2.8 g fat (1.6 g sat.); 39 g carbo (4.7 g fiber); 201 mg sodium; 7.3 mg chol.

Crusty Polenta Sticks

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 hour, plus at least 1 hour to chill

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1. Follow directions for creamy polenta (preceding), but simmer, stirring often, until mixture is thick enough to hold a trough for about 5 seconds when you draw a spoon across the pan bottom, about 20 minutes total. Stir in all the shredded parmesan cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Scrape the polenta into a lightly oiled 8-inch square pan, and spread smooth. Cover loosely and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. If making up to 1 day ahead, cover airtight and chill.

3. Quickly invert pan with polenta onto a cutting board; lift off pan. With a long, sharp knife, cut polenta into 6 or 7 equal strips (wipe knife clean frequently). Cut polenta strips in half crosswise and pull apart.

4. Put 1/3 to 1/2 cup seasoned fine dried bread crumbs on a plate. Gently roll polenta sticks, 1 at a time, in crumbs. Lay slightly apart on a lightly oiled 12- by 15-inch nonstick baking sheet. Mist sticks lightly with cooking oil or olive oil spray.

5. Bake polenta sticks in a 375[degrees] oven until browned and crusty, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a platter or plates with a spatula.

Per serving: 276 cal., 17% (47 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 5.2 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 43 g carbo (4.9 g fiber); 376 mg sodium; 7.3 mg chol. …

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