Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Polenta with Butternut Squash

         I  have a new favorite recipe to share but I’ve had a difficult time getting a good photo. So I have been waiting on this, but I decided to share it even with pictures that did not do it justice. I have been making polenta for a while but I saw a wonderful addition to it recently on an online magazine called Food and Style.com . I love Viviane Bauquet Farre’s fresh, delicious recipes and her lovely photos and videos. Go take a look at her awesome website!

 If you are at all familiar with my recipes you can tell that I love butternut and winter squash. So hearing about the combining of two of my favorites, creamy polenta and butternut, made me want to try it right away. I combined my recipe for polenta with Viviane’s idea of adding butternut. I think her recipe sounds fantastic!  She makes it with crème fraîche  and toasted pumpkin seed oil which would be fabulous but I did not have what I needed to follow her recipe exactly, though I will try it soon.  I also want to try some of her other delicious recipes. Be sure to check out her online magazine Food and Style and especially this recipe  that inspired me to add butternut to my polenta!
I add lots of butter and 2-3 oz of cream cheese to this polenta recipe but you can skip these or cut back quite a bit if you are steering clear of dairy or trying to cut back on calories. If you are skipping butter, you will want to add a few TBSP of dairy free butter substitute or olive oil. The cream cheese makes this rich and creamy but again, I know many of you cannot do dairy so just skip if you must. If you are on the fence, just try it with the butter and cream cheese- they really make polenta better and this recipe makes about 6-8 side  servings so not really much butter or cream cheese per serving!

Polenta was originally from Italy. It is similar to American grits and many restaurants not in the south will use polenta in place of grits. Polenta is made with cornmeal simmered in water or broth. There are various things you can choose to add if you wish, butter and cheese for example. Polenta is great topped with fish, sautéed greens, vegetables or various sauces. Left overs can be chilled, sliced and grilled or fried.  I buy Bob’s Red Mill corn meal for grits or polenta. If you need completely gluten free, they have a gluten free option that is not milled in the same place as wheat or soy products. Don’t buy instant polenta or already made, sold in tubes!  Polenta, similar to risotto, needs about 30 minutes to cook up and should be stirred often. I have heard somewhere that a pinch of baking soda is a good addition but I have not tried it.

Now, on to the delicious combination of polenta and butternut. Since butternut seems to be available nearly year round, I don’t think of it as a fall/winter vegetable.  I use it all the time, and usually keep some butternut puree in the freezer to use in recipes.  One thing I like about adding butternut to polenta is that I can make this gluten and lactose free! I will admit I usually make my polenta with a good amount of butter and parmesan, but I have tried polenta with butternut, olive oil and no cheese and the squash makes it all good J

Polenta and butternut or plain polenta is an excellent accompaniment to all kinds of greens, which are abundant in summer in gardens and farmers markets. Swiss chard is something I can grow well in my garden that our large bevy of bunnies does not devour.  It also goes great with grilled fish or shrimp, which seem to be summer staples in our house. So this recipe for polenta with butternut is a wonderful go to main or side dish for summer fare.

Creamy polenta with Butternut

4 cups of water OR 3 cups of water and one cup of vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 cup polenta (medium ground corn for grits)
4 TBSP butter, unsalted
2-3 TBSP grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 heaping cup of butternut, roasted and pureed *
2-3 oz. cream cheese, low fat
More salt if needed
Extra butter if desired

*Roasting butternut-You can cook and puree the butternut anyway you like. I prefer to wash and  cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and string and place cut down  in baking pan with a bit of water—no more than ½ “. Bake in 350 or 375 oven for 45 -60 minutes, checking for doneness often. Once it is softened, remove from oven and let it cool. Peel or cut skin off or scoop out all the squash. Place it a small batch at a time in food processor with a tsp. of water and process until smooth. You could also use a hand masher or ricer. If there are leftovers, place in a cup containers and freeze.

Heat water and salt to vigorous boil. Lower to medium boil and slowly pour ground corn polenta in a little at a time, stirring or whisking well for 2 minutes.

 Lower to light simmer and cook, stirring often, for 30-35 minutes until creamy and no longer gritty. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer a few minutes, stirring well until everything is mixed in and warm. If you would like to prepare in advance, cool and then heat in microwave or on stove and vigorously fluff with wooden spoon.

                                                                  To serve:
My favorite way to serve up polenta is to top it with sautéed greens, especially Swiss chard or spinach.    I sometimes will add slivered onion to the pan first with some olive oil and let it cook on low for 10 minutes before I add the greens. Wash, pat dry  the greens- chard, spinach, kale or others. For chard or kale, cut along the sides of the tougher, larger stems and remove them.  Next, chop the greens well before sautéing for just a few minutes in olive oil, with a couple cloves of mashed garlic, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes with salt and pepper.

Greens with bacon-Another way to cook greens is to cook up some bacon, about 4 slices and remove it from the pan. Cook the greens in the left over bacon drippings in the pan for a few minutes till tender and then crumble in the bacon. 
I wanted to close with  a couple photos of my daughter's kitten. She has been staying here quite a bit and we have enjoyed having a little kitten around. She is just so much fun!

Okay, so she is a little spoiled. She prefers to be carried around while she naps.
 How can I say no to that face? 

 I hope to have a tour of the new kitchen soon! It is almost complete, just a bit of trim to re-do and one more light to get up.


  1. Denise, the recipe looks wonderful. But I must say, my favorite photo of this post is the kitten! Indeed, who could say no to that face?

  2. Love the polenta... but the kitten... awwwwwwww!! Too cute!! :)

  3. Making this tonight - so excited! Although, it does not replace personally eating your amazing cooking, it will have to suffice.

    1. I am glad you can recreate some of our favorite dinners together in your new home :-) I will keep posting gluten free/dairy free options :-) miss you!