The sweet and savory flavor of cornmeal

Cornmeal comes in two varieties, white and yellow, with the yellow variety processing more vitamin A.

by Dorothy Krupnick — 

Cornmeal, called polenta, corn meal mush or grits, is a versatile, gluten-free grain best served with vegetables, cheese and eggs for a savory dish or with fruit for desserts. Cornmeal, or maize as it was called in its original corn kernel state, was cultivated by the Native American Indians for more than a thousand years. The European colonists adopted the Indians’ technology and carried the farming of corn into the 17th century and beyond.

Cornmeal comes in two varieties, white and yellow, with the yellow variety processing more vitamin A. Stone-ground cornmeal retains the fat germ of the corn; is a more healthful product than the enriched variety; and needs to be stored in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity. Enriched cornmeal, however, will make a suitable substitute. Cornmeal, whether stone-ground or enriched, contains iron, thiamine, folate and biotin.

By supplementing your recipes with low-fat cornmeal, you can add texture and fiber. One serving or one-half cup of cooked cornmeal yields approximately 250 calories, 1.1 grams of fat, 2.6 grams of dietary fiber and 5 grams of protein. The following delicious recipes incorporate this vital grain. The Indian pudding is thick, rich and sweet and the cheese polenta is a perfect savory side dish substitute for potatoes or pasta, or as a vegetarian dish. The blueberry crostata is an Italian cookie crust tart, topped with blueberries.

Indian Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 6 cups milk or soymilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup yellow stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 /2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions:

Beat together all ingredients except the cornmeal with 2 cups of milk in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat. Do not boil. In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of milk and the cornmeal and add to the saucepan. Stir until mixture coats the spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat. Add 3 cups of cold milk to the cooked cornmeal mixture, stir until combined and pour into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 300° for approximately 3 hours or until pudding pulls away from the sides of dish and is firm. There might be a crack in the middle of the pudding. Serve warm with ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Blueberry Crostata with Cornmeal Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mace

Instructions:

Combine blueberries, 2/3 cup sugar, mace and cinnamon in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until mixture has thickened to a jam consistency, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature. Mix flour, cornmeal, 1 tablespoon of remaining sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and butter in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the flour and butter mixture together until it resembles small peas. Mix 1 beaten egg with the ice-cold water and incorporate into the ingredients. Form a ball of dough, wrap in wax paper and let rest in refrigerator for 1 hour. Press 2/3 of ball into a 9” pie plate or tart pan and up the sides. Pour in blueberry mixture and smooth the surface. Roll out remaining dough and use a cookie cutter to cut out designs. Place dough on top and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until designs are golden brown.

Polenta with Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1-1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • fresh basil (optional)

Instructions:

Mix cornmeal with 1 cup of cold water and salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Bring remaining 2-1/2 cups of water to boil. Stir in softened cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, beaten eggs, garlic powder and stir constantly for 30 minutes until mixture becomes very thick and coats the spoon. Serve immediately. For frying, pour into an 8-x-8-inch pan and cool in refrigerator. Slice and sauté in olive oil. Garnish with fresh chopped basil leaves and serve with steamed vegetables and chopped tomatoes.

 

Dorothy Krupnick, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, is employed at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center where she counsels patients on nutrition. She owned Gourmet Catering Inc. in New York City and now provides private cooking classes and diet counseling. 480-219-1731.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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