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Myra’s Recipes: Polenta with Kale Sauté

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I have been a latecomer to making my own polenta. I’ve always loved it in restaurants, but for some reason I thought it was hard and time consuming to make at home. I was so pleased to learn that’s not true at all! Polenta is made from ground cornmeal, which is traditionally simmered with water or broth to make a creamy porridge that can be eaten soft or cooked up until it’s firm by baking, frying or grilling. Now polenta has become a regular item on my family’s dinner rotation, and this is my favorite way to prepare it. The polenta gets irresistibly crispy when fried up in a little oil, while the inside is rich and soft. It pairs perfectly with sautéed kale and marinara sauce.

This dish comes together fairly quickly if you prepare the polenta ahead of time. I try to make the polenta in the morning while I cook my breakfast, and then it’s waiting in my fridge ready to fry up when it’s time for dinner. Since it can be made 2 or 3 days ahead of time, it’s great to get a jump start on Sunday for a Monday or Tuesday dinner. If you prep the kale at the same time, you’ll be very happy come dinnertime.

If you’ve been trying my recipes, you might already know that I can’t stop cooking with kale. It’s so nutritious and satisfying. This is definitely one of my most satisfying vegetarian entrées, but you can also serve the polenta and kale as a side dish with a piece of chicken (it's delicious with grilled Italian sausage, too), in which case it will serve up to 8. I encourage you to seek out organic corn products, since almost 90% of the US corn crop is genetically modified, and organic corn is by definition GMO free.

Enjoy the Earth’s delicious bounty!


Take Today’s Step and try your hand at this dish. It’s easy and delicious enough that you may never think twice about making polenta again. Then let us know what you — and your family — thought of the recipe in Comments below!

  • Polenta with Kale Sauté and Marinara Sauce

  • Serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as a side dish
    Prep time: 45 mins | Cook time: 1 hr, 15 mins + 1 to 2 hrs to chill
  • Ingredients

    2 tablespoons Butter (plus more for greasing the pan)
    1 tablespoon Minced fresh garlic
    2 cups Whole milk
    2 cups Water
    1 teaspoon Salt
    pinch Freshly ground black pepper
    pinch Red pepper flakes
    1 cup Polenta (corn grits)
    KALE SAUTÉ: (makes about 5 cups)
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium yellow onions (cut in half through the stem end, then thinly sliced crosswise, about 4 cups)
    1 pound dino (lacinato) kale (stems discarded,
         leaves cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide ribbons, about 12 cups packed)
    3 cloves garlic (large cloves, finely minced)
    1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or corn flour
    Safflower or sunflower oil (or another high-heat oil)
    4 cups marinara sauce (homemade or good-quality store bought)
    Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional, as garnish)
  • Directions

  • To make the polenta, generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside on a wire rack.
  • Place the butter and garlic in a medium-size saucepan and cook over low heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, watching carefully to ensure that the garlic does not burn. Add the milk, water, salt and both peppers, and raise the heat to medium. Bring the mixture to the start of a simmer and then slowly whisk in the polenta. Maintain a slow simmer, reducing the heat so the mixture does not spatter. Cook, whisking frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains of polenta are tender, about 15 minutes. The texture of the polenta should resemble thick cream of wheat.
  • Immediately pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish and let it cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until it is completely cold, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
  • Place the marinara sauce in a small saucepan. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook until hot. Keep the sauce warm as you prepare the remaining components.
  • To make the kale sauté, heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the kale (it may be necessary to do this in batches) and 1/4 cup of hot water. Cook, covered, stirring frequently until the kale wilts and is just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes uncovered, stirring often. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the kale warm while you prepare the polenta.
  • Just before serving, cut the cold polenta into 4 squares and then cut each square on a diagonal to create 2 equal-size triangles. You should have 8 polenta triangles. Spread some flour on a plate and dredge each triangle in the flour.
  • Place a large, flat griddle or large skillet (I always use cast iron) over medium-high heat and film with a thin layer of oil (between 1/16” and 1/8”). When the oil is hot, add the polenta wedges (it may be necessary to do this in batches or by using 2 pans). Sear each side of the triangles until crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. It may be necessary to add more oil between batches. Transfer the polenta to several layers of paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  • To serve, place two triangles on each plate and divide the kale among the portions. Serve the hot marinara sauce on the side, or pour 1 cup over each serving. Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano, if using.
  • Calories per serving, kale and polenta only: 450, Fat 20 grams, Cholesterol 20 mg, Sodium 620 mg, Carbohydrates 62 grams, Fiber 8 grams, Sugars 12 grams, Protein 10 grams.
  • Percentage Daily Values per serving (based on a 2,000-calorie diet): Vitamin A 310%, Vitamin C 100%, Calcium 15%, Iron 20%, Vitamin E 8%, Thiamin (vitamin B1) 15%, Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 10%, Niacin 8%, Vitamin B6 25%, Folate 15%, Phosphorus 15%, Magnesium 15%, Zinc 6%, Copper 20%.

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