Monday, August 30, 2010

Chickpea-cornmeal polenta

I had company for supper last night.  The Moon Goddess came for dinner because all her Men were away playing some game.  So I made an extra effort and more than one dish.  But this is the dish I invented for the occasion.  Does the creativity never end here at The Airy Way? 

I'm sure all of you have tried (or at least heard of) regular (cornmeal) polenta, mainstay of the Roman legions; and I'm sure some of you have tried (or at least heard of) chickpea polenta in one form or another...but this is a brilliant combination of both.  Not as nutritionally empty as regular polenta, healthy and flavourful as only chickpea flour can be, yet with that excellent cornmeal's chickpea-cornmeal polenta!  Again, I'm quite sure that I can't possibly be the original inventor of this dish, but I invented it at least for myself, and now I can share it with you.

Zoa's chickpea-cornmeal polenta
Serves 4

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
4 cups water + 1 tbsp broth powder OR 3 cups vegetable broth
Salt to taste

Add the cornmeal and the chickpea flour to the water and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain.  Taste for salt and add more salt if needed.  Bring to a relative boil, then continue to cook on medium-low heat, covered, but stirring frequently, until thick and smooth, about 20 minutes.  The "beany" taste of the besan flour should be gone by this time, and the mixture should be sticking more to itself than to the sides of the pan.

Now pour the mixture out onto a smooth surface.  This picture is messy because my original surface, one of those plastic cutting boards from Ikea, decided to buckle and heave with the heat of the polenta, and so I had to transfer it at the last minute to a casserole dish.  I hope you will learn from my mistake and just pour your mixture into a casserole dish.  Press down with a wet spoon or (when slightly cooled) your wet hands, and set aside to cool.  It can cool for some time under a protective cloth, up to half a day if need be.

Now take a cookie cutter or a sherry glass, whatever is most convenient, and cut circles out of the cooled polenta. 

There will be some edges and corners between the nice circles; these will form your bottom layer in the pan in which you will bake the finished dish.  Top the scraps with your lovely circles:

Brush with olive oil or melted Earth Balance, and pour on a simple tomato sauce (this is my favorite very simple raw sauce of canned tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, ground up with an immersion blender), and bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes or so until hot and beginning to brown.

This is just amazingly tasty.  Served here with mushrooms fried in olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper; large lima beans baked in broth, broccoli roasted with lemon pepper and olive oil, and a special kind of bun stuffed with zucchini, onions, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  So good!

Unfortunately, the Moon Goddess learned beforehand that Grandma Lulu and Katee were having macaroni and tomatoes over at Katee's house, so her mind was half elsewhere.  You know how sometimes some members of a family will have absolute favorite dishes that other members of the same family (albeit different generations) just don't get?  That's macaroni and tomatoes.  What is macaroni and tomatoes?  Gah, what does it sound like, people--macaroni, and tomatoes (and raw onions).  I just don't get it, but it is the comfort food par excellence of my mother, aunts, and grandmother.  Mind you, I hear from informed sources that Katee's version was something really extra-special, with--gasp--additional ingredients...


  1. I've never been a fan of polenta, but this version sounds interesting...I especially like the look of those zucchini buns.

  2. I think I saw a cooking demo of the chefs at Ubuntu Napa making chickpea flour polenta a long time ago, but I won't tell anyone. Besides, I'm more impressed with the Zucchini-Stuffed Buns.

  3. I love polenta a lot so am reluctant to interfere with it, but adding besan does seem like a good idea. Have you tried frying any of those circles? I mean in a pan with a little oil, not deep frying.

    I'm with you on the macaroni and tomatoes. Doesn't sound too good, while your meal looks and sounds sounds heavenly. Relatives can be so misguided at times.

  4. Your supper looks fantastic and should not be overshadowed by "mac & tomatoes". But MY supper took only 10 minutes and it really is comfort food. I did cook the onions and garlic first and put fresh tomatoes and of course added feta cheese when it was ready to serve...mmmmmmmm Guess the desire for it skips a generation! Misguided relatives :) ha!

  5. Katee, good to see you're back online (at your own computer, I hope!).

  6. Roman soldiers didn't eat corn (maize) polenta. Maize is an American grain; it developed in Mesoamerica (Olmec and Mayan territory) and spread north and south to the rest of the Americas. They did eat a meal or porridge of grains present in Europe and the Mediterranean.