Polenta is one of the world's great starches, up there with spaghetti and bread on the comfort food scale. Since it is corn-based, polenta adds a different flavor to a number of dishes: sub it in for pasta or potatoes in just about any preparation: it's great with meat sauce or as a base for stew.
This parmesan polenta recipe, and the broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomato, and pine nut topping that accompanies it, was created by America's Test Kitchen, one of KCET's cooking shows. The Kitchen is known for precision, and here they specify using coarse-ground cornmeal, with grains the size of couscous, as well as maintaining the perfect temperature: no bubbling after the initial boil!
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
7 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
pinch baking soda
1 1/2 cups coarse-ground cornmeal
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 ounces good-quality Parmesan cheese , grated (about 2 cups), plus extra for serving
ground black pepper
Bring water to boil in heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in salt and baking soda. Slowly pour cornmeal into water in steady stream, while stirring back and forth with wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and cover.
After 5 minutes, whisk polenta to smooth out any lumps that may have formed, for about 15 seconds. (Make sure to scrape down sides and bottom of pan.) Cover and continue to cook, without stirring, until grains of polenta are tender but slightly al dente, about 25 minutes longer. (Polenta should be loose and barely hold its shape but will continue to thicken as it cools.)
Remove from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan, and season to taste with black pepper. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Serve, passing Parmesan separately.
Broccoli Rabe, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pine Nut Topping
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup oil-jarred sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch (~ 1 pound) broccoli rabe, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Heat oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, sun-dried tomatoes and salt in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and slightly toasted, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and broth; cover and cook until rabe turns bright green, about 2 minutes.
Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the broth has evaporated and rabe is just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve over polenta, sprinkling individual portions with pine nuts. Enjoy!
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