Mediterranean Polenta Loaf

We had this yumminess last night for dinner, along with soup and salad.  The recipe is from the Vegetarian Times cookbook, with a few tweaks (they ask for parmesan, I use pepperjack, they grill, I broil).  You can make this creamier by adding butter or a bit more cheese while cooking the polenta.  Next time, I think I will add some crushed red pepper flakes to the boiling water to infuse a little more heat into it, and probably add some fresh parsley and dill for a bit more flavor.

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3 oz pepperjack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup olives, chopped

1 cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped

Directions

1.  Bring four cups of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan.  Add salt and pepper.  Over medium heat, slowly stir in the cornmeal a little bit at a time, trying to keep lumps from forming.  Cook over medium to low heat, stirring continuously, until the water is absorbed, the cornmeal starts pulling away from the sides of the saucepan, and your spoon can stand up straight in the polenta.

2.  Stir in the cheese until it has melted.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and artichokes, and mix to distribute evenly.

3.  Spoon into a lightly oiled pan or dish (size and depth do not really matter… just pick a size based on how thick you want your polenta loaf) and put aside to set.  This can be done up to a day in advance of serving.

4.  About 20 minutes before serving, place the polenta loaf under a broiler for about 10 minutes, or until the top of the loaf starts to brown.  Remove from broiler and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut the polenta into whatever size pieces you want and serve warm.

Ricotta Corn Muffins

So I had 1/2 a cup of ricotta cheese left over from a big tub my husband used to make my birthday dessert, with the aforementioned tub also contributing to a vegetable tart earlier in the week.  Hmm.  Let’s see how it works with corn meal.

Ingredients

2 eggs

8 tbsp (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (white)

1/4 cup honey

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup skim milk

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow corn meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.

2.  Cream together eggs, butter, sugar and honey using a hand-held mixer.  Add heavy cream and skim milk and beat on low for about 30 seconds, until combined.

3.  Mix in the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder using a large spoon.  Stir in the ricotta.  Allow the batter to rest for 5 minutes.

4.  Grease the wells of a 12 muffin pan.  Fill each well about 2/3 to 3/4 with the batter.  Bake at 400F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick/tester/knife inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Turn out onto a cooling rack.

The verdict

There was enough batter left for a mini-loaf pan, which took about 45 minutes to bake, or perhaps another 4 muffins if you wanted to make a partial pan.

The muffins had a nice, golden color.  They didn’t have fat muffin tops, so I guess a little extra baking powder is in order for the next batch and perhaps filling the muffin pan wells a little more.

The muffins we extremely moist, perhaps too much so.  They didn’t have that nice moist but crumbly texture that works best for corn muffins.  There was some crumble at the surface, but no crumble in the middle.  Next batch, I think I will omit the skim milk.  And I think I might have to experiment with buttermilk instead of heavy cream.

Taste-wise, the muffins were great.  Just the right amount of sweet with a hint of salt, along with a nice note added by the honey.  I couldn’t taste the ricotta at all.  I guess it just contributed to the texture.  All in all, the 1:1 ratio of all-purpose flour to corn meal was much tastier than the 2:1 or 3:1 flour to corn meal ratios I’ve tried based on other recipes.