Black Bean Polenta
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ cups polenta or whole grain stone-ground cornmeal (coarse or medium)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups), divided in half
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (1 ½ cups)
- 1 ½ cups salsa, bottled or fresh, mild or hot, drained of excessive liquid
- 1 can (7 ounces) whole mild green chilies, diced
- 2 cans (14 ounces each) black beans, drained and half-mashed
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a 9 x 13-inch, glass Pyrex dish, or similar.
- Bring water to a boil in a 4-quart, heavy-bottomed pot. Add salt. Slowly pour in the polenta while stirring briskly with a whisk to prevent lumping. Reduce heat to low and simmer polenta for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking.
- Meanwhile, prepare the grated cheese (in two piles), green onions, salsa, chilies and beans. Line them up in the order you’ll need them.
- When polenta is cooked (the grains should be soft, with no noticeable core), stir in the sliced green onions and half the grated cheese. Mix well, making sure to reach the polenta at the very bottom. Remove pot from heat.
- Scrape half of the polenta mixture into the casserole dish and spread evenly. (The remaining polenta will begin to firm as it cools, so work briskly at this point.) Spread the salsa, black beans, diced chilies and remaining cheese. Cover with the rest of the polenta mixture and smooth the top.
- Heat uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot in the middle. (Check by poking a paring knife into the middle and pulling it out immediately. If the blade is hot, the dish is ready.) Set aside for at least 10 minutes to firm up, otherwise it might be too sloppy to slice.
If you don’t drain the salsa well enough, it can create too much liquid after the dish is cooked, which makes it messy to serve.
Pico de Gallo is an excellent accompaniment because of the flavors and crunch.
Courtesy of Good Food, Great Medicine: A Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Guide by Miles Hassell, M.D., and Mea Hassell.