Whenever I’m strapped for ideas and ingredients to make a quick weeknight meal, there’s one dish I can always rely on: polenta. Essentially “Italian grits,” polenta is simply cooked ground dried corn kernels. In their uncooked form, they last for months. I always have some in the pantry and it’s at its best when cooked with just some salt and pepper.
Since it’s summer, and I like my polenta hot from the stove, I make a fresh tomato sauce and chill it down for contrast when eating this piping hot polenta. Use fresh tomatoes if you have some, but canned always work as well, since they’re canned at the height of freshness and flavor.
Polenta with Chilled Tomatoes
1 cup polenta or stone-ground grits
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 can (15-ounces) whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
Leaves from 1 sprig thyme
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan and while whisking constantly, pour in the polenta and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes and thyme leaves, and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Transfer to a wide, shallow bowl to cool sauce quickly to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill.
- When the polenta is tender, remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and let cool for about 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with the cold tomato sauce.
Serves 6 as a light meal or 4 as a bigger meal.
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