Spicy Polenta with Cilantro

We’re just on the edge of the fall season, and it’s giving us a nice variety in the CSA share boxes. Delicata squash and root vegetables are rolling in, but we’re still enjoying some summer crops like cilantro and chili peppers. This hearty polenta is the perfect segue from fall to summer. It changes up the normal raw cilantro preparations and is a great foil for spicy serrano or jalepeno peppers. To make these triangles the polenta should be chilled overnight and then baked. If you don’t have that much time on your hands, eat the polenta soft – it’s just as good! Serve with pulled pork and or roasted veggies for a great fall meal.

Spicy Polenta with Cilantro

I used our rich vegetable stock and Farmer Ground Flour Polenta. The vegetable stock is a very rich brown color, achieved by browning the veggies and seasoning with tamari. This polenta is not the traditional bright yellow you may have seen, but the taste is fantastic. Any variety polenta and stock (including chicken) will work for this dish, but if you can try this local polenta. I have seen it at Greenstar, Wegman’s, The Piggery, and more. If using instant, adjust water and cooking time. I recommend doing a little taste test on the serranos for spiciness. You can remove the seeds completely to make it less spicy, leave a few for mild – medium spicy, or leave them in for full on spicy! Dice them up, grate the cheese, and chop some cilantro. The cumin seeds really add to the savory flavor of this dish, they are usually easy to find in the bulk spice section of your grocery store.

Spicy Polenta with Cilantro

The polenta comes together quickly, but watch the bubbling polenta carefully! When the mixture has started to thicken add the cumin seeds and chilies. When the mixture is very thick, add the cheese and cilantro, then taste for salt. If dinner is starting serve the polenta soft. If you have more time spread it into a buttered casserole dish and let cool for 4 – 6 hours, then slice into triangles.

Spicy Polenta with Cilantro

Back for just 20 minutes until the edges are crispy. Garnish with more cilantro and grated cheese.

Spicy Polenta with Cilantro

6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups coarse cornmeal
2 – 3 serrano or jalepeno peppers, minced, seeds removed if desired
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 grated sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Lightly grease or 9×13 pan with butter or oil, set aside.  In a large saucepan bring the stock and butter to a boil. Whisk in the corn meal, and reduce the heat to medium low. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the chilies and cumin seeds, and cook for 5 – 7 minutes more stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and cheese. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Spread into pan and let cool. When room temperature refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut polenta into rectangles, squares, triangles, or use a cookie cutter for circles. Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 15 – 20 minutes until heated through and golden brown. Serve immediately with extra cilantro and cheese.


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