Here’s a dish that you can make entirely from scratch or that you can whip up quickly using packaged products – Black Beans Stacked in Browned Polenta. I served it with a halved tomato and cilantro cumin sour cream.
Slice some cooled and firm polenta, brown it on both sides in a non-stick pan. Set them aside. Heat your favorite beans. To make an nice presentation plate a slice of polenta, top it with beans and repeat. My black beans were flavored with the traditional New Mexican flavors of cumin an jalapeño. And my polenta was flavored with garlic and cilantro. You can easily alter these flavors to suit your tastes. Lima beans with ham and tomatoes pair well with cheese polenta. Red beans with a cajun seasoning pair well with chive polenta. Navy or white beans seasoned with oregano and chopped prosciutto or pancetta pair well with garlic basil polenta. The themes are endless.
If you want to prepare the entire thing from scratch prepare your beans like your normally would. Sort, clean, and soak them overnight. Then simmer them with your desired seasonings until they are tender.
For the polenta try to find a polenta grade corn. If you can’t then you can substitute cornmeal. Polenta is actually a dish in Italy, not really a type of corn. But the corn that is used tends to be much courser than our traditional cornmeal. Follow the instructions on your polenta package, but if there aren’t any try simmering 1 cup of polenta/cornmeal in 4 cups of water for 30-40 minutes. You need to stir it almost continuously. Add seasonings toward the end, if your adding cheese add it at the very end. When all of the water is absorbed and the corn is soft you’ll have a creamy polenta. By the way, you can also replace some of the water with milk for a really creamy polenta.
The polenta is great served just like this with a variety of toppings. To me it resembles grits. But when it cools, it will become firm. Prepare a pan with the desired shape by spraying it with non-stick pray and spoon the polenta in, pressing it down and smoothing the top. Let it cool completely and then refrigerate. I used a small bread pan. Once it’s cold you’ll be able to slice it. Use a butter knife to loosen the polenta from the sides and carefully remove it from the pan. You can use a muffin pan to get perfect little polenta rounds, fill the cups half way. However you decide to shape it, there are endless options for what to do with it next. Try grilling slices of polenta topped with a meat based pasta sauce!
Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!