Recipe by Chef Cindy
Polenta is a healthful alternative to potato, pasta or rice!
Are you bored of eating the same old pantry staples at home? Well, polenta is a great vegan and gluten-free alternative! Creamy Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Chickpeas provides the "comfort" feeling we all enjoy from traditional meals that use potato, pasta or rice. The best is, polenta is extremely versatile. Try it - baked, seared, layered, fried, cubed - get creative!
Why should you eat polenta?
- a good source of fiber and protein, and is very filling.
- rich in complex carbohydrates.
- a source of carotenoids, vitamin A, essential minerals.
- low in fat.
- low in calories.
What is the difference between grits and polenta?
Both polenta and grits are made from stone-ground cornmeal, dried corn that’s ground down into smaller, coarse bits. So how do they differ? Based on geography: the Italian version is known as polenta whereas the Southern version is known as grits. Polenta is made with "flint" yellow corn and grits are made with "dent" white corn.
But in the end, what does it matter in a recipe? If you are in the market and you can't find something that says "polenta" or "grits", buy a coarsely ground cornmeal and call it a day!
Is polenta considered sustainable?
Polenta has a low carbon footprint emitting only 0.6kg of Co2 per 1kg of polenta products. It also does not require a lot of water to produce, with only 130 gallons of water required per 1lb. However, corn is an intensive crop. Corn production depletes the level of nitrogen in the soil, among other important nutrients, and the majority of corn grown in the US comes from GMO crops. Corn production typically also uses a relatively high level of pesticides.
So, while polenta, in general, is not considered sustainable, organic polenta is a lot more sustainable, especially if you’re able to buy it from a local source employing regenerative farming techniques.
Can I buy polenta produced locally?
Probably! While polenta originated in Northern Italy - which is why we associate it so much with Italian cooking - the largest producer of corn in the world is now the USA, followed by China and Brazil. Anywhere corn is grown polenta can be made, so look out for local brands!
But isn’t polenta bad for me?
By itself, polenta is plant-based, gluten-free, and does not contain any common food allergens; it is what is traditionally added to polenta, such as a lot of butter or copious amounts of cheese that is responsible for polenta being traditionally considered an unhealthy food.
Cooked in a considerate way, polenta can be really great because a little goes a long way to helping you feel full, it can help reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of developing macular degeneration, dementia, cancer, and diabetes.
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Creamy Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Chickpeas
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup polenta coarse ground cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional
- 1 ½ pounds wild mushrooms chopped
- 14 ounce chickpeas drained
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 4 sprigs thyme remove from stem
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- small bunch of spinach or kale cleaned & stems removed
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a medium size pot, heat 3 cups water and salt to a boiling. Whisk in corn grits to prevent from clumping together. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes, add in more water if necessary to keep it creamy. When done, stir in vegan butter and nutritional yeast. Add more salt if desired.
- While the polenta is cooking, mix mushrooms, chickpeas, garlic, thyme and oil in a large bowl and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Roast for 25-30 minutes. Toss halfway thru so the mushrooms & chickpeas crisp all around. Stir in the greens within the last 5 minutes until they wilt. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Divide polenta into bowls and top with the mushroom & chickpea mixture.
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