The Post

A dish to grab polenta attention

This is a tasty dish that will satisfy on those nights when time is tight, writes Bonnie S Benwick.

- Polenta with balsamic

Are you a polenta snob? No judgment here. I inquire only to save you the chore of gourmand-splaining about how this quick recipe is nothing like the real deal you once had, or spent hours stirring and stirring to an ultracream­iness.

Yet, we are both referring to cornmeal mush, and that descriptio­n fits a cornmeal-based polenta at its essence. Stone-ground or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal will work here – it will thicken in the pot faster than the 20 minutes called for, but keep at it, stirring-wise, because you will be preventing lumps while you build flavour with tomato paste and butter.

After the simple, savoury toppings of green onions, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar have been sauteed, seasoned and warmed through, you will do one more bit of polenta stirring: adding a few tablespoon­s of rich dairy.

The colour will lighten from coral to the palest peach and some creaminess will occur. It won’t rival the artful polenta served in northeaste­rn Italy, but good enough for your table on a weeknight.

Cooking time: 30 minutes Serves: Two or three

Of the many meatless, easy ways you can top a bowlful of cornmeal mush, this one does not disappoint.

Choose a stone-ground or coarsely ground cornmeal, or polenta labelled as ‘‘quick-cooking’’ for this recipe. 4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

1 cup cornmeal or dried polenta (quick-cooking polenta)

2 tablespoon­s unsalted butter

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Freshly ground black pepper

475g cherry or grape tomatoes

10 spring onions

2 tablespoon­s extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Spanish smoked paprika (may substitute sweet paprika) 2 to 3 tablespoon­s good-quality balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoon­s cream (optional)

Freshly shredded parmesan, for garnish

Boil the water in a medium saucepan over mediumhigh heat. Add the salt. Once it has dissolved, gradually whisk in the cornmeal or polenta. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the butter and tomato paste and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often. The mixture will thicken quickly but keep stirring so the mixture is evenly cooked and does not scorch on the bottom. Remove from the heat, taste, and season lightly with black pepper, and more salt as needed. Cover partially to keep warm.

Meanwhile, cut half of the tomatoes in half and season them lightly with salt. Trim and discard the root ends from the spring onions, and reserve the white parts for another use. Cut the remaining spring onions into 5cm lengths.

Heat the oil in medium non-stick pan over medium heat. Stir in the spring onions and cook for a few minutes, just until they are begin to soften, then add all the tomatoes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for two to three minutes, until the tomatoes are just warmed through and starting to soften. Season lightly with the smoked paprika, then turn off the heat.

Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar (to taste) and toss lightly to incorporat­e. Taste and season with more of the smoked paprika as needed.

Uncover the polenta and stir in the cream, if using. Divide among warmed bowls, then immediatel­y top with equal portions of the warm tomato mixture. Drizzle with a little more oil and scatter the cheese on top.

Variation: You can cook three strips of bacon or prosciutto, until crisp, then crumble the bits on top of each portion before serving.

Make ahead: You may have leftover polenta, which is a good thing. It can be refrigerat­ed for up to five days, and reconstitu­ted with milk or broth when reheated. – Washington Post

 ?? WASHINGTON POST ?? Polenta with balsamic spring onions.
WASHINGTON POST Polenta with balsamic spring onions.

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