Soft Polenta

Soft Polenta

This recipe is the closest thing I know to kitchen magic. Just dump a few ingredients in a soufflé dish and push the start button on your microwave, and in a few minutes you have something beautiful and nourishing. Just one thing: measure both the corn meal and the water with a dry measuring cup--using a liquid measure for the water results in a thin, soupy polenta.  Serves 8 as a side dish.

4 cups water
3/4 cup coarse ground cornmeal
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup softened Gorgonzola cheese or 1/4 cup additional butter

1. Combine water, cornmeal, and salt in 2-qt. soufflé dish. Cook, uncovered, at 100% for 6 minutes. Stir well, cover loosely with paper toweling, and cook for 6 minutes more.

2. Remove from oven. Uncover and stir in butter, pepper and cheese (or additional butter). Let stand for 3 minutes. Serve hot.

P.S. It is not necessary to add the huge amount of butter and cheese at the end that Kafka suggests. I just use a tiny fraction--maybe 2 tsp. of butter--and it's just fine. I never bother measuring how much Gorgonzola I use--depends on how calorie-conscious we're being and how much is available--but just a little of that is fine, too, as is crumbled chevre.

According to Barbara Kafka, the microwaved soft polenta recipe is to serve 8 as a side dish.  These are her instructions about how to cook smaller amounts:

To serve 1 or 2.  Quarter all ingredients (use 3 Tbsp. of cornmeal).  Proceed as in the original recipe, cooking in a soup bowl for 1 minute 30 seconds, uncovered, and then for another 1 minute 30 seconds, covered.

To serve 3 or 4.  Combine 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in an 8-cup glass measure.   Proceed as in original recipe, cooking for 5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer.  Finish as in original recipe, stirring in 2 tablespoons butter and a pinch of pepper.

Note:  To serve 2 people, I usually make the version that's supposed to serve 3-4.  This usually makes a bit more than we'll actually eat at one sitting, but not that much more.  If anything is leftover, I'll eat it for breakfast the next morning--my favorite time of day for polenta. 

Microwave Gourmet, Barbara Kafka.