Welcome to The Cooking Cardiologist Blog! I write about health, food and cooking from my perspective as a cardiologist (as you can imagine, there’s a lot to know). If you don’t see something you’re interested to know, please ask!
What is Polenta? There are several ways to answer that question, but there’s one constant in every answer: Polenta is an awesomely appetizing excuse to try a delicious food that you’ve never eaten before, or maybe that you’ve never even heard of before. Polenta is an Italian dish derived from cornmeal that is boiled to a paste, and then can be served in a variety of ways - ranging from baking the Polenta to frying it. Some serve it up as a savory side dish, but it certainly can be incorporated into main-course entreés that will bring the entire house up for a standing ovation. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners – there’s no limit to how Polenta can be used. It’s a do-it all recipe, a Swiss army knife in the cookbook, and the great news is that there are many added health benefits to eating Polenta as well.
If you’re already having nightmares thinking about the high carbohydrate and sugar concentration in Polenta, here’s your chance to breathe a deep sigh of relief. The nutritional advantages of this dish far outweigh the disadvantages, so feel free to dig in and chow down. Polenta is made up of complex carbohydrates, which are high in dietary fiber and are digested more slowly in the body, meaning that they are also much better sources of energy than simple carbs. Polenta also hosts a red-carpet party for A-list nutrients, with the likes of zinc, iron, thymine, magnesium and phosphorous attending on the guest list.
The secret to making the smoothest Polenta possible is in being attentive and devoted to stirring it on the stovetop. It is usually thickened with cheese, such as Parmesan or Gorgonzola, and butter is also added. I recommend substituting plant sterol margarine for the butter for a heart-healthy alternative. You can also spruce up your Polenta with many complementary toppings such as a roasted tomato pesto or asparagus.
This dish can be served soft, firm, grilled, or sautéed as either a side dish or main course. Below is a video where I demonstrate how to cook one of my favorites, Polenta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto. So, to revisit our earlier question, what is Polenta? Polenta is yummy, that’s what it is - check it out for yourself!