The beauty of polenta is the ease with which a home cook can take it from everyday to special in an instant.  –- Maria Speck

This beautifully colored side dish brings just enough opulence to a fall dinner. The sun-dried tomatoes help the polenta take on a lovely auburn or light orange hue. As these days I’m very much interested in experimenting with ancient grains, for me this polenta dish was an elegant Mediterranean twist to our Thanksgiving table. This recipe was adapted from the cookbook Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck.

Polenta
4 cups water
½ cup coarsely chopped dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup polenta, corn grits, or stone-ground coarse cornmeal

To Finish
1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
½ teaspoon dried sage
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (2 ounces) cubed Fontina cheese
2 ounces shaves Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)

To make the polenta, bring the water and sun-dried tomatoes to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt. Using a large whisk, slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, and continue whisking for 1 more minute. Decrease the heat to maintain a gentle bubble. Cover and cook until the polenta granules swell and become tender, about 25 minutes (30 minutes for coarse cornmeal), stirring vigorously every few minutes with a wooden spoon to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Taste and adjust for salt.

To finish stir in the thyme, sage, and pepper, followed by the fontina cheese. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes to allow cheese to melt. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and serve right away.

Martine’s Notes
Some sun-dried tomatoes are very salty. Try a small piece in advance and reduce amount of salt if necessary and adjust to taste after cooking. As I prefer not to cook with too much cheese, I decided not to top the polenta with shaved Parmesan cheese. Although the Fontina was a nice and tasty addition, next time I may omit it too.

Bon Appétit!
Martine

8 thoughts on “Rustic Fall Polenta with Fontina and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

    1. The original recipe suggests pairing it with chicken, turkey or braised beef. Since I’m vegetarian I served it with the leftovers of the roasted tofu I made for Thanksgiving. I like it also with a bit of greens (sautéed spinach , chard, or kale).

      1. Hi, Martine,
        Thank you! Oh, yes, that is why I asked… I knew that you would have a GREAT vegetarian suggestion. 🙂 I am so enthralled with your tofu recipes. This morning I bought two containers of tofu and the rest of the ingredients at the market. I agree that the creamy polenta really calls out for some sauteéd winter grean.
        Best,
        Shanna

        1. Thank you, Martine. I have your tofu recipes and also another one from a different blogger who has a knack for compressed soybean ;-), so I thought that I would try a couple of dishes. I am sort of becoming a pescatarian by accident (I adore salmon – hence the “pesc”)… There are so many wonderful foods to try other than meat. SO many. 🙂 It is really uncharted territory, though. My friend recommended a tofu press, so I may look into that. … I am really just experimenting so I feel some trepidation. I looked over your recipes and photos today and was pretty much in awe. Everything is beautiful. You also have a grasp on international spices and foods that I had never heard of or eaten. Have you ever considered a cookbook? You could mix in your message of overall psychological and physical health with your amazing recipes and find your niche. You have a clear talent. Best – Shanna PS Making your fig banana bread in the morning for Christmas breakfast.

        2. Hi Shanna,
          Thank you. A cookbook? Wow! 🙂 I love experimenting with new and exotic foods and spices. My adventures in the kitchen are not always successful but I always learn and to me that makes the special discoveries and successes even more rewarding. I’m so glad to hear you’re experimenting with tofu and new things for you. That’s great! Yes, you are indeed right, there are so many wonderful foods to try other than meat. Besides tofu there are a plethora of delicious legumes and beans! Keep up the experimenting and soon you’ll feel less trepidation. I hope you tried and liked Fig bread. Did you make it with parsnips and pear or try a new recipe with banana?

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