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Carole Kotkin

Pizza was the first Italian export craze to excite the American palate, then came pasta and risotto. Now humble polenta is creating a stir in kitchens across the country. Once relegated to Italian family dinners, this satisfying comfort food has suddenly become a starring item in some pretty fancy restaurants.

It's not the polenta itself (just cornmeal with water and salt), but the variety and strong flavors of the vegetables, fish, poultry, meat, herbs or seasoning lavished on this otherwise simple dish. Served either as a side dish, first course, or main dish, there are several ways to present polenta. In Italian country kitchens the hot, cooked polenta is poured out onto a wooden board. It immediately firms up and can be cut with a string (string is placed slid under the polenta and pulled through to the top), the slices then placed on individual plates and topped with a sauce. Or it can be spooned piping hot into a dish and drizzled with butter and cheese to be eaten at once, or baked with butter and cheese.

Polenta can be poured onto a cookie sheet, cooled, and then cut into shapes that are fried, grilled, or baked with a variety of toppings. What has made polenta a natural for our home kitchens is the fact that good instant polenta is now widely available, eliminating the 30 minutes of stirring the standard polenta takes. This Sunday I'm following a creative impulse and topping polenta with a tomato and corn sauce. The polenta is followed with chicken drumsticks and roasted vegetables. Fresh fruit or an ice cream dessert will make a refreshing dessert.

Featured Recipes:

> Polenta with Tomato and Corn Sauce

> Chicken Drumsticks Diablo

> Roasted Vegetables

By Carole Kotkin, co-author of MMMMiami--Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere

You can buy the book from our affiliate, Barnes and Noble, online!

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