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Breakfast Polenta: Simple, Sweet, Savory

Breakfast Polenta: Simple, Sweet, Savory

Tired of oatmeal every morning? Try breakfast polenta as

your next sweet or savory brunch alternative!

 

A-maize-ing Polenta

Are you more of a sweet or savory breakfast eater?  Most days I crave eggs during the week, but on weekends I am ready for a plate of fluffy pancakes drizzled in Vermont maple syrup! Some of the typical sweet breakfasts are now showing up with a savory twist.  Hot cereals are making a come back; even more, using unique grains such as quinoa and amaranth. A well known breakfast staple, oatmeal, for example, is now seen topped with eggs, chorizo sausage, and bacon! Move over grits and cream of wheat, there is a new breakfast grain in town. Polenta!

This naturally gluten-free grain made of stoneground cornmeal is mostly recognized in italian cooking.  Whether it is creamy soft or served as thick slices, polenta is extremely versatile at any meal. Topped with meat, seafood, or vegetables, polenta makes a great substitute for rice or pasta in savory recipes. So, why not as a breakfast polenta?

 

breakfast polenta
A sweet breakfast polenta using apples, dates, and crunchy walnuts!

 

Last month, I finally made polenta from scratch instead of the usual packaged form seen in a round casing. I was shocked at how easy (and tasty) it was! I couldn’t decide on a savory or sweet version, so I decided to make both! For a sweet take, I topped polenta with sauteed apples, dates, and walnuts. Those craving a savory breakfast, try this version with sundried tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese!

I would also like to thank my new favorite local gourmet shop in Boulder, Le Frigo. Whenever I am on the hunt for delicious cheeses and gourmet products, such as the polenta used in these recipes, they are always my go-to!

 

Cooking tips for Polenta

Many of us shy away from this cornmeal favorite because of its reputation for overcooking. Why so scared? In reality, it is actually hard to overcook polenta as long as you follow the key cooking basics. These main factors for making polenta include the liquid ratio, cooking method, and cooking time. For more on polenta, check out this excellent article by Serious Eats here.

Ratios for Polenta

First, make sure you have the right dry polenta to liquid ratio depending on the desired texture:

  • For a firm texture combine 1 part dry polenta to 3-4 parts liquid.
  • For a softer polenta mix 1 part dry polentia to  6-8 parts liquid.
  • The most common liquids used in polenta cooking are milk, broth or stock, and water.

 

 

breakfast polenta
Making delicious polenta from scratch is not so scary!

 

Basic Cooking Method

Second, to prevent lumping, follow one of these two methods according to the Rouxbe online cooking school:

  1. In a medium pot, whisk cold water and polenta then turn on medium-high heat to bring to boil. Once the polenta is evenly combined, bring the heat down to simmer.
  2. Bring liquid to boil first, then whisk in polenta meal slow and steady and turn heat down to simmer.

For both methods, whisk together polenta and liquid for the first 10 minutes, then simmer partially covered (to avoid splattering) for up to an hour. For more on cooking polenta feel free to read this article by The Kitchn here.

 

 

 

Savory Cheesy Breakfast Polenta with Tomatoes and Spinach

Savory Cheesy Breakfast Polenta with Tomatoes and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked polenta*
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 cups raw spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (additional for topping optional)
  • Cooked eggs for topping, optional (poached, scrambled, fried, etc)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Set aside the cooked polenta (see directions for cooking polenta mentioned in post). If you prefer the polenta topped with eggs, cook the eggs to your liking while the vegetables cook. Prior to serving polenta, divide into 1/2 cup servings.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat, saute the tomatoes and spinach until the spinach leaves start to welt, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and seasoning, continue sauteeing for an additional 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  5. Top the vegetable mixture over polenta (1/2 cup servings).
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Optional: Top with cooked eggs and/or additional grated parmesan
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Maple-sweetened Breakfast Polenta with Apples and Dates

Maple-sweetened Breakfast Polenta with Apples and Dates

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked polenta*
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • 6-8 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Set aside the cooked polenta. Distribute into 1/2 cup servings prior to serving.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil or butter on medium heat. Saute the apples and dates until slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat.
  3. Stir in the cinnamon, walnuts, and drizzle of maple syrup; toss to combine.
  4. Pour the apple mixture evenly over cooked polenta servings.
  5. Drizzle additional maple syrup, optional.
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