When it still doesn’t feel like spring…

The trees are beginning to bloom, the tulips and daffodils are out, the birds are singing….but it still doesn’t feel much like spring here in the Pacific Northwest, where we’ve had only a few days with temperatures of 60 degrees or (slightly) above.

In the kitchen the other day, stirring a pot of polenta, I thought — Wait a minute– It’s May! Isn’t that a bit late in the year for a stick-to-your-ribs hearty dinner?

Well the truth is, polenta is good any time of the year.

Traditionally,  in northern Italy, they made it in big copper kettles and stirred it for hours. When Cathy and I went to Ticino, in the Italian part of Switzerland, we saw an adapted method — still made in a copper kettle but stirred with a motor.

A country cafe made polenta outside, with the motor stirring the mixture for three hours.

When I make polenta, it’s a lot simpler — and quicker.

I’d bought some spicy Italian-style (seasoned with fennel and hot pepper, that is) chicken sausage, which made a great accompaniment to the polenta.

It was so good that I made it the next night too. This time, with some tomato sauce atop. I had some more of that chicken sausage in the sauce, but I’ve also made tomato sauce with cannellini or navy beans in it to top the polenta. Or I’ve served it topped with just cheese (grated pecorino or parmesano, soft goat cheese, feta, etc.). Or with roasted vegetables. Or with greens.

Or all by itself. Any way you eat it, polenta is fine.

Polenta

  1. Bring 4 cups of water and half a teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Gradually add 1 cup coarse polenta cornmeal, stirring constantly so you don’t have any lumps.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding water as needed to keep the mixture free of lumps.
  4. After about 15 minutes, taste the polenta to see if it seems done. (If not, it can cook another 5 or 10 minutes). Then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, to taste. Add salt and plenty of pepper to taste. Serve, topped with whatever you like.
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