Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Zucchini over Creamy Polenta

Two of my favorite places to get recipe ideas are the farmers' market and the Recipes for Health section of the Times. Since gardens everywhere, and therefore farmers' markets everywhere, are overflowing with zucchini at this time of the year, I decided to take inspiration from this zucchini & polenta combo I stumbled upon a few days ago. This dish was quick and used local, in-season veggies.

I used a 2:1 mixture of masa harina and yellow corn grits for my polenta, which gave it the perfect consistency and texture - not too stiff, but definitely not soupy. The masa is very finely ground and gives an amazing smoothness to the polenta. It also cooks almost instantly. The corn grits are coarser ground and have a little more body. You can use traditional polenta, corn grits, masa, or any combination of the three. It's fun to experiment with different types!

Above: corn grits on the left, masa harina on the right.

Since I used masa, my version of polenta is perhaps more Mexican than Italian (Surprised? Didn't think so.). It takes about 2 minutes to cook, is incredibly creamy, and perfect for a quick fix dinner. You could easily adapt this idea to use up whatever vegetables or greens you have. A quick saute with some tomatoes and herbs, pour it over polenta, and you're done! The juices from the vegetables soak into the polenta and the combination of textures is awesome.

For the polenta:
1/2 cup masa harina
1/4 cup corn grits
2 cups water
Splash of olive oil (optional)

For the zucchini:
1/2 onion
3 zucchini, cut into long strips (see 2nd photo)
2 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Fresh basil
Salt & pepper

Make the polenta...
1. In a small pot bring the water to a boil, then add the salt and olive oil.
2. Slowly stir in the grits and masa, stirring constantly until the mixture is as think as you want it. You can adjust by adding more water or polenta.

Make the zucchini...
1. In a large saute pan, saute the onion in olive oil until it's translucent.
2. Add the zucchini and garlic, sauteing until the zucchini are fully cooked through.
3. Add the tomatoes and herbs and simmer on low until the tomatoes break down and begin to thicken.
4. Toss in the fresh chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.

Fun facts about polenta...
Polentone meaning "polenta eater" (literally "big polenta") is a derogatory term sometimes used by Southern Italians to refer to Northern Italians. Thanks, Wikipedia! It's always nice to add a new insult to your name-calling repertoire.


  1. What a wonderful way to use zucchini. I love polenta.

  2. Thanks! I love it too. This masa polenta was so quick I'm going to have to add it to the regular weeknight lineup!


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