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Polenta question

I have been buying the "log" of polenta (sort of like a log of goat cheese, same shape) at Trader Joe's to make polenta parmesan. It slices easily, and the rounds are nice little bases for the sauce and cheese.
Now, I would like to make Flexitarian Table's polenta with corn and roasted tomatoes. How can I adapt the log of polenta to that recipe? Do I boil the polenta? Should I just mash it up?
Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

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  1. I'm sorry, but I have no idea about how "Flexitarian Table's polenta with corn and roasted tomatoes" is served up. If your Trader Joe log of polenta is already formed, then, I'm thinking that it's precooked for convenience? Most secondary polenta recipes (where you're not eating a freshly cooked free-form serving of it) work with the startchy firmness that polenta has once it's set up. You might try mashing it with a little chicken stock to free it from the formed shape and then nuking it to see if it will loosen up and using it from that stage in another recipe.

    1. You can definitely loosen TJ's polenta - crumble the log in a pot, add water/stock and stir at medium/low heat until it reaches a creamy consistency. The other option would be to make your own polenta, which would probably take just as much time. The key, according to my father, is to stir really well. Good luck!

      1. there is an easier solution use instant polenta 1,3 or 5 minute,several brands to choose from,all pretty good.Then you can control texture as well as shape.The insant pre-cooked handles easily,and not perishable,think couscous.

        1. I assume your talking about the cookbook, "Flexitarian Table" . I don't have a copy of it so I can't help much without looking at the recipe. If it's only the polenta component of the recipe that's causing confusion (I'm surprised the book wouldn't include cooking methods for that ingredient) and if crumbling prepared polenta is a valid step in the process, you certainly could use TJ's prepared polenta log. Whether you boil it, mash it up or crumble it should be stipulated in the printed recipe.

          1. I used to use the TJ's log-o-polenta all the time until I discovered how really truly fast and simple (and better tasting) homemade polenta is. It's really really super easy and quick, even if you don't go for the instant kind. Give it a try!

            I do the non-instant polenta. Saute some onions in a pot (or don't, if you don't like 'em), once softened add 4 parts chicken broth/stock (veg broth is fine too) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 part dry polenta. Reduce to low simmer, stir not-infrequently, and remove from heat when it stops being soupy (for me, this is about 15 min). Throw in any other herbs/spices/veg/cheese/whatever you want (I like corn kernels, or garlic and rosemary, etc), stir to combine, and either eat as-is in its slightly mushy state, or pour into a low rimmed pan to cool. Once it cools, it stiffens up, and you can cut squares of it for use as a base for sauces and cheese. Or you can fry the squares. Or bake them with accompaniments. Whatever strikes your fancy!

            1 Reply
            1. re: litchick

              Amen, litchick. Please do not attempt to use the log and "go back in time" by trying to return it to it's previous soft, creamy goodness. The idea of that is just "against the grain" (sorry, I had to say it). Once polenta solidifies, there really should be no going back.

              It really is ridiculously easy to make your own polenta. So much so, that you'll be shocked if you give it a try. I love Marcella Hazan's recipe for no stir polenta (it should be call "little stir", cuz you have to stir a little). It has 3 ingredients; water, salt & polenta or coarse cornmeal. You can add to it, whatever you like. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              As litchick suggests, a good way to have solidified, leftover polenta is cut up into small squares and fried or baked. For breakfast it is wonderful!

            2. I got one better than everyone so far:

              Microwave polenta using plain old cornmeal. It's cheap (it is, after all, peasant food) and unbelievably easy, and foolproof.

              I mean, why the angst?

              From elsewhere on Chowhound (that's where I got it:

              "3/4 cup of corn meal and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, mixed together in a pyrex bowl with three cups cold water, and 8 minutes in the microwave. Take it out and stir it up, let sit for 5 minutes and it's done. Or you can put it back and cook it a little longer to make it thicker. She also says you can pour it in a loaf pan and let it cool to a solid form."

              1. I love those pre-made polenta logs (though, I buy them at my local co-op rather than at TJ's). Typically I slice and griddle and/or grill them. I serve them at breakfast with eggs and/or beans, and meals later in the day as a layer in Mexican cooking instead of corn tortillas and as my starch layer in Italian cooking. It's one of my favorite short cut/convenience foods.

                I'm not saying you can't reconstitute it and use if for the polenta with corn and roasted tomatoes recipe in Flexitarian Table, in a pinch you most certainly could, but I actually think it would be more work than it would be to make the polenta from scratch the way Berley's recipe is written. And it might be hard to achieve the smooth, creamy texture of the polenta you'd get with making it from scratch. The beauty of Berley's recipe is that you have this lovely, smooth polenta punctuated by the sweet kernels of fresh corn. I just don't think you'd love the results as much as you would if you made it from scratch.

                But, if you do decide to try it, the instructions for "reconstituting" it are right on the outside of the package and are pretty much as Judyluvs describes--you just have to mash it up with a liquid (water or vegetable stock, rather than chicken stock, to be true to Berley's "Flexitarian" concept). I guess you could just proceed with stirring in the corn kernels into the polenta in a saucepan once you got the polenta soft again.

                If you do try it, please let us know how it turns out.


                1. OK, OK. I am convinced. Thank you all for your suggestions (especially TDQ for her detailed response and encouragement). I do plan to make the polenta with corn and roasted tomatoes (from Flexitarian Table), but I will use regular, grain polenta. The fact that so many of you said it is so easy to prepare, and Wayne's actualy prep directions (thanks, Wayne) convinced me.
                  Just as an aside, I actually took a Flexitarian Table cooking course with Peter Berley last month at the Institute for Culinary Education, here in Manhattan.He was just delightful and very reassuring and the class was a lot of fun. We prepared 5 complete menus form the book, and it was wonderful.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bxgirl

                    bxgirl--in turn, thank you for your encouragement. Lately I've been feeling like I'm posting into the wind, my words swirling away into oblivion without impact. So, it's good to know at least I've made a small difference to someone.

                    Anyway, I'm so envious you got to take a cooking class with Peter Berley--was it over the course of several weeks? Surely you didn't do 5 menus in a single day?

                    I would love to hear more about what you cooked with Berley--your favorites and not-so-favorites and any special suggestions he offered or you discovered for any of the dishes. You could start a new thread or, maybe post in beetlebug's long-standing (and outstanding!) flex table thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434103 or in the general thread from when Flex Table was COTM http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514822 ?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      First of all, I always hope to get a response from you, when I post a question on CH. I do trust your opinions, so you're certainly not posting into the wind!!!
                      To answer some of your questions...
                      The course was a one-night class, from 6PM-10:30PM. There were 14 of us, and Berley divided us into groups of 2 or 3. Each group did one, complete, menu. After we were all done cooking,each dish was plated and put on a large table, served buffet-style. We filled our plates with whatever we wanted to try, and then we all sat at a large table, made a toast (there was wine) and dug in. Truthfully, there was sooooo much food, it was a little hard (since my plate was piled high with food!!!) to even remember what was what.
                      What we did make was:
                      Steak/Portobello menu
                      Tofu with lemon,soy, brown butter menu
                      Shrimp in harissa
                      Crispy pressed chicken/tofu menu
                      We also made a ratatouille, but I'm not sure if that was part of one of the menus I already mentioned, or from a different menu.
                      I think there was one more menu(perhaps the one with ratatouille?), but I do not have my book (and notes) handy.Sorry.
                      In terms of Berley, one thing that I sense from him, as he wandered around each of the groups, and commented on how we were doing, was that he seems to believe in high-heat cooking. I often heard him say that the heat could be higher, so I gather he cooks with high heat. I've been doing that myself, now.
                      He seemed very friendly and easy-going, and it really was a lot of fun.
                      In terms of the actual food, I think the shrimp in harissa was a little too spicy for my taste, but that is certainly "fixable". I was in the group that made the steak and portobello menu, and the steak, on the commercial(professional kitchen) grill was out of this world.
                      Hope this answers most of your questions, and, again, thanks for all your great posts.

                      1. re: bxgirl

                        Oh, aren't you sweet, thank you.

                        High heat! Interesting, maybe I should try that.

                        Interesting set-up for the class--a good way to cram a lot of things into one evening. I've made the first three dishes you mention! How fun. And, yes, I think it would be easy enough to adjust the heat (spice-level) on the shrimp. So cool! Thank you for sharing.

                        And good luck with that polenta!


                  2. Baked polenta is so very easy! The finished polenta is every bit as tasty and soft as if you stood at the stove and stirred for a half hour.

                    4 cups water, 1 cup polenta cornmeal, a pinch of salt. Mix all in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Open oven and stir. Continue cooking for 10 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving... you can add cheese at the 40 min. mark.

                    I put the polenta into the oven before I prep for the meal and everything is ready to serve at the same time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Gio

                      Genius! I can't believe it never occurred to me to try the oven.

                      Hmm, this may just inspire me to buy a new counter-op oven since I don't think my current one will fit both the roasting bird and the cooking polenta.