June 29, 2012

Polenta Indoors or Out

Polenta, which many Americans know as cornmeal mush, makes a quick and easy alternative to rice or mashed potatoes. It makes a nice side dish (especially with herbs and cheese added), or a base for a savory dish like ratatouille.

Ingredients and Amounts
Most stovetop recipes call for a 1 to 3 or 4 ratio, such as 1 cup coarse cornmeal to 3 or 4 cups water. Salt varies according to taste, additions, and the entrée planned.
The recipe for solar cooking found in Cooking with Sunshine calls for 1.5 to 3.5; but I liked it with more water for a softer consistency.

In the Solar Oven:

  • Measure cornmeal and place in a mixing bowl
  • Add salt
  • Pour water into bowl and stir
  • Place in solar cooker for 1 – 2 hours
  • Stir occasionally, and check to make sure it does not dry out

Stovetop Method:

  • Measure cornmeal and place in a mixing bowl
  • Add salt
  • Pour 1 cup water into bowl and stir
  • Heat rest of water in a saucepan to boiling, then pour wet mix in and stir well
  • Bring to boil, then stir and reduce heat to low
  • Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally (10 -15 minutes)


  • In place of water, vegetable or chicken stock can be used (watch the salt!).
  • For a richer, creamier version, replace some water with milk and add a little butter.
  • For savory flair, add sautéed onions, roasted garlic or red peppers, cheese, fresh basil, or other herbs.

The easiest way is to place on a plate or bowl while still soft and hot.
As a gourmet alternative, spoon the hot mix into a pan, smooth out and chill. Then bake or top and heat to serve.
Baked polenta can be used as a gluten-free alternative to pasta, for instance layering with sauce and cheese in a variation on lasagna.

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