Italian Polenta and Quinoa “Polenta”

Serves 2-3 as a main
(No gluten, dairy, legumes, egg, or nightshades)

Polenta is the Italian word for coarse cornmeal and also the dishes made from it. This is made with maize, which grows like corn on the cob, but is chosen for its starchiness rather than sweet eating properties and mostly ground into flour. Traditionally, yellow maize is seasoned and cooked in stock like a savoury porridge. It is then served as a side dish similar to a vegetable mash. Or the porridge is poured into an oiled square or round dish and chilled until firm. Immaculate golden slices can then be sliced and baked or fried, forming a satisfyingly crisp, toast-like crust with tender interior. These are consistently popular. Some restaurants slice polenta into baton shapes and serve them like chips.

A standard version follows, which is most recommended in terms of taste and texture. But for those who must avoid corn there is a quinoa version. Here flaked quinoa can replace the cornmeal, and finely diced meat (a good way to use up left-overs) can be used instead of the usual parmesan (both options are given). A small amount of the spice turmeric gives a hint of golden colour to the quinoa version. Both are delicious baked with large, oiled and seasoned mushroom caps. Accompany with mixed steamed vegetables (such as cauliflower, carrot and green beans) or salad. For heartier appetites: serve with an egg.

If preferred, all ingredients can be increased by half and the mixture set in a larger 28cm x 18 cm (11” x 7”) dish. Or freeze the unbaked mixture; thaw and bake before serving. Polenta is forgiving.

Note that corn is a grass family member botanically similar to wheat, rye, oats, barley and also sugar cane. If you are intolerant to one of these then over consumption of the other members can lead to yet more intolerances (contact this office for an allergy test).

Italian Polenta

1 cup water
¾ cup polenta or coarse cornmeal (available in supermarkets)
   ***
1½ cups homemade or top quality chicken stock*
heaped ¼ cup finely chopped cooked or raw chicken or red meat (or replace  
   meat with ¼ cup parmesan or crumbled sheep or goat cheese stirred in after
   simmering)
1 small onion, well chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried sage (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
   ***
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
1 tsp sea salt with kelp*
   ***
extra oil
salt and pepper

Combine the water and polenta and set aside to soften. In a medium saucepan add the meat, stock, onion, garlic, sage and thyme (meat and onion must be in small pieces for the polenta to slice easily later). Boil uncovered 1 minute. Stir in the olive oil and the polenta mixture. Return to a boil and then turn to low. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until thick like porridge. Stir in salt and optional cheese. (Adding salt to boiling grain or legumes can slow their cooking).

Oil a square or round 20 cm (8”) glass dish. Pour in polenta and spread smoothly. Chill 4 hours or longer until cold and firm. Slice into 16 – 20 pieces (squares or triangles depending on your dish; or slice even smaller for finger food). Oil a baking tray. Place pieces on tray and brush with oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fan Grill at 180º C (350º F) or Bake 190º C (375º F) about 10 minutes. Turn and bake a further 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

Quinoa Polenta

1 cup water
1½ cups quinoa flakes*
½ tsp turmeric
   ***
1½ cups homemade or top quality chicken stock*
heaped ¼ cup finely chopped cooked or raw chicken or red meat (or replace 
   meat with ¼ cup parmesan or crumbled sheep or goat cheese stirred in after
   simmering
1 small onion, well chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried sage (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
   ***
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
1 tsp sea salt with kelp*
   ***
extra oil
salt and pepper

Combine the water, quinoa and turmeric and set aside to soften. In a medium saucepan add the meat, stock, onion, garlic, sage and thyme (meat and onion must be in small pieces for the polenta to slice easily later). Boil uncovered 1 minute. Stir in the olive oil and the quinoa mixture. Return to a boil and then turn to low. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until thick like porridge. Stir in salt and optional cheese. (Adding salt to boiling grain or legumes can slow their cooking).

Oil a square or round 20 cm (8”) glass dish. Pour in polenta and spread smoothly. Chill 4 hours or longer until cold and firm. Slice into 16 – 20 pieces (squares or triangles depending on your dish). Oil a baking tray. Place pieces on tray and brush with oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fan Grill at 180º C (350º F) or Bake 190º C (375º F) about 10 minutes. Turn and bake a further 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Quinoa: (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed from Peru: high protein and fibre, low-starch; good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, flavonoids, some Omega 3 and other anti-inflammatory factors. It has a mild nutty taste; resembles and is used like a grain such as rice. Many people who are grain-sensitive can do well on quinoa as it is not a member of the grass family. Whole quinoa (looks like millet) and flaked quinoa (resembles rolled oats) are in most supermarkets. Use 1 part rinsed quinoa to 2 parts water or stock. Cover and bring to a boil; simmer about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed or kelp (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

• Stock: use homemade meat or fish stock from simmered bones for maximum flavour and nutrients or vegetable stock (for recipe see The Shape Diet), or top quality purchased stock such as Essential Cuisine (in soft pouches in supermarket chiller or meat section). Most supermarket stock has sugar, wheat and artificial additives (see website TIPS: MSG).

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