When I served a bowl of this soft, flavorful polenta, topped with simple marinara sauce to my two year old daughter last night, she dug in with enthusiasm even though she had never eaten polenta before. She then turned to me and said “Thanks for making this!” in her darling little toddler voice, doing so for the first time without prompting. I love serving dishes like this that get such sweet responses from my daughter.
The best part of it is that this polenta borrows from the wisdom of Mexico in soaking the corn in lime water to release locked up nutrients. Delicious, nutritious and traditional! And did I mention that it’s very frugal too?
And what did Joel and I think of it? We thought this was the best polenta we’ve ever had! It was flavorful in a whole new way. I’ve made many versions of polenta over the years, but I never got the gumption to try the Nourishing Tradition’s process of making polenta. When I read the several step process during my first run through of reading Nourishing Traditions, my jaw dropped. “How many steps is that?” It seemed overwhelming. It took for a kind commenter asking me about this process to push me into leaping into the project. I admit it. I was too nervous to try it at first, and just plain never got around to it later. I decided to use Sally Fallon’s method to make one of our favorite dishes, soft polenta, one which we haven’t made in a very long time.
Guess what? It’s easy!
Now that I’ve tried it, I realize I should have done it years ago, because it’s so easy! When each step takes 2 minutes, it’s hardly a hassle with a bit of planning. For those few minutes of time, I unlock a lot of nutrition out of the humble corn that we wouldn’t have gotten before. Another traditional practice added to our routine.
I will be sharing more about the benefits of this process in the next post, but today I want to wet your appetite with a recipe for soft polenta that both soaks it to further reduce phytic acid, and “limes” or “nixtamalizes” it to release the vital vitamin b3. This process actually made the polenta very flavorful, and super easy on the digestive system. I didn’t even miss the cheese we used to add!
If you aren’t quite ready for this process, here is a basis non-soaked recipe for it. But, when you get the chance, try this method! It worked well for us.
As I mentioned before, I’ve made a lot of polenta before and tried it a lot of different ways. I’ve found that the recipes using higher amounts of liquid are both more traditional, digestible, taste better and……. take longer to cook. The ones that have you add less liquid cook up much quicker, but won’t give quite as nice of a finished dish. This one uses the higher amount so will take a bit longer to cook (though you could reduce the liquid amount if you were in a hurry), but I find that it works out just fine as I can prepare the rest of the meal while it cooks, as long as I remember to give it a stir here and there.
Polenta can be used in so many ways. It can be topped as simply as a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of cheese, to a meaty tomato sauce, to a roasted vegetable topping.
Soaking in the lime water adds an almost masa harina taste to it. Since we used the vinegar, it gave a nice tang to it. Like I said, flavorful in a whole new way! Pour leftovers into a lightly grease loaf pan and stick in the fridge. This will get quite firm as it cools. You can then cut into slices and fry or bake into crispy little polenta toasts and top with a variety of toppings. Delicious!
1 cup of lime water *
2 cups of coarsely ground polenta
1/4 cup of raw apple cider vinegar (this is what I used) or lemon juice, whey, buttermilk, yogurt,.
2-3 teaspoons of sea salt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil.
8 cups of water, chicken broth, or a combination of both
1-Carefully measure out one cup of lime water, avoiding contact with skin as it can be irritating. Mix with the polenta in a medium size bowl. Let sit at room temperature, covered, for about 7 hours. Then add the 1/4 cup of vinegar or other acidic choice. Now leave for 12-24 hours. You can start this the morning before you want to make this for dinner, to leave plenty of soaking time.
2-When you are ready to cook it up, in a large pot, heat your butter or olive oil. When hot, add your chopped onion. Cook and stir for a few minutes then add 6 cups of the water/broth and salt. Place the lid on and bring to a boil. Meanwhile add two cups of water/broth to the polenta mixture and stir to combine.
3-When the liquid is hot, add the polenta mixture to it, and bring back to a boil, making sure to stir. Lower the heat and keep the polenta at a low simmer. Now it’s just a matter of time. Remember to keep stirring every few minutes (if you want to not have to worry about stirring so often, see this method. I decided against it because our “stainless steel” pans are cheap and things stick too easily to it). Cook and stir every once in a while for about 45 minutes. While this cooks, I make my sauce, and side dishes (salad, roasted veggies that sort of thing). By the time the polenta is done, I have everything else ready as well.
4-As you near the end of the cooking time it will start to thicken a lot more, you may need to stir more often to prevent cooking. When it is getting quite thick and harder to stir you know it’s done. 45 minutes worked great for us. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Then ladle into bowls. I like to let it to sit for about 5 minutes again at this point as it starts to firm up the more you let it sit. Then ladle your choice of toppings over it and enjoy!
*Lime water is from made from Pickling Lime ( calcium hydroxide). You can buy it here and other places on the net. To make, very carefully spoon about an inch worth of lime onto the bottom of a 2 quart size mason jar. Then fill with filtered water and stir. Let this settle for about 12 hours or overnight. After everything setttles back down, the clear water left on the top is the lime water (don’t stir the pickling lime back in! It’s supposed to fall to the bottom). If any gets on your hands, wash right away because it can be very irritating to your skin, and keep both the water and the pickling lime away from children. Store in a cool place.