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Recipe Tue Jul 14 2009
Creamy, savory polenta with a good deal of garlic warms something inside me. It's comforting. And it's relatively simple to make.
Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock to a boil. Some use water, but I find that a good stock, adequately salted, imparts a brilliantly tasty flavor on the polenta. (Some might take issue with bouillon cubes, but I have no problem using them). When the water is hot, whisk in 1 cup of medium ground cornmeal. Bring the pot to simmer, and whisk every minute until the cornmeal thickens enough to make your whisking efforts feel more like stirring. Switch to a spoon and stir frequently, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the polenta has absorbed all of the stock. The polenta should be soft. (If it's a bit crunchy at this point, add a tad more water and keep the pot on the heat until the new water absorbs.) Finally, remove from heat.
Meanwhile, sauté two cloves of garlic, minced and salted beforehand, in two tablespoons hot olive oil with a handful of chopped fresh oregano, if you have some handy. When the garlic is tender, put this oil, garlic and oregano mixture aside, and stir it into the polenta when the polenta is soft. (You can just add oil, of course, if you want to make it simple.)
Reuse the pan for a vegetable sauté. (Don't rinse it and you'll keep a bit of the garlic flavor). Heat oil in that pan again, and sauté chopped scallions or onions. When they're soft, add chopped mushrooms, garlic and hot pepper if you'd like.
Serve the polenta topped with the vegetable sauté. For more information on cooking polenta, I recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Various recipes guide you through several different methods. I derived my polenta here from one of his basic polenta recipes.