POLENTA IS a trendy dish.
Once considered a "poor man's food," polenta now shows up on fine china in the most elegant of restaurants in Baltimore and throughout the country as an appetizer or the centerpiece of a main course. A highly satisfying food made from cornmeal, polenta is preferred over pasta or bread in certain regions of Italy, notably the Veneto and Friuli regions.
Depending on the cornmeal used, the texture of polenta can be either coarse or fine. Using a mixture of both can result in a just-right combination.
Polenta was "rediscovered" in the mid-1980s as Americans searched for earthy, soul-satisfying "comfort foods." It is wholesome, hearty and healthy and can be eaten warm, with soups and stews, or cold, with a luscious smear of butter or cheese. When cool, polenta can be cut into almost any shape using a very sharp, metal cookie cutter. The bread can be reheated in a microwave, if desired.
1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1 package onion recipe soup mix
3 cups cold water
1 4-ounce can mild chopped green chilies, drained
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
1/3 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
In a 3-quart, microwave-safe casserole, combine cornmeal, onion recipe soup mix and water. Microwave covered at high 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Stir in chilies, corn and roasted red peppers. Spread into lightly greased 9-inch square baking pan; sprinkle with cheese. Let stand 20 minutes or until firm; cut into triangles. Serve at room temperature or microwave on high 30 seconds or until warm. Makes about 30 appetizer-size servings.