We had friends over for dinner this weekend. I tend to cultivate the kinds of friendships where you can have each other over for a box of crackers, but sometimes it’s fun to sit down to a set table and a plate of food that’s a level above the everyday.
Fried polenta is that kind of food for me—as simple as it is, it takes a little foresight and some attentive stirring, which means it’s not the grain I’m typically reaching for at 5:15 on a weeknight. (That said, in making polenta this weekend, I was reminded how much I like it… and after sending our guests home with the leftovers, I’ve already made it again 🙊)
Serves 4 to 6
For the polenta
I used this recipe/method from Serious Eats. The day before, my littlest sous chef Alister and I whisked 2 cups polenta corn meal into 10 cups of salted cold water. We stirred it at a simmer until thickened (we found it took about half as long as the recipe said it would—maybe it was the corn meal we were using). When thick and smooth, we stirred in 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, poured into a baking pan, and smoothed the top.
The next day, when ready to eat, I cut the solid loaf into pieces and fried each side in a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat.
For the smoky millet
I boiled 1.5 cups millet with 2 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp each cumin and coriander. This was way too much millet, especially because we already had a grain—the polenta—so we didn’t need much millet per person. Unless you want leftovers, you could halve this.
For the garlicky red wine lentils
I used this recipe and stirred in a handful of chopped parsley.
For the sunflower citrus dressing
I soaked 1/3 cup sunflower seeds in hot water for about 1.5 hours to soften them. Then I drained them and added to the blender along with 1 cup orange juice, the juice of one lemon, a fat clove of garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt. This was creamy and delicious—it was on the thinner side, which works well to get into all of the crevices of the millet and to add flavour and moisture to the polenta, but in future I will experiment with making it thicker by using 1/2 or even 2/3 cup sunflower seeds to see if I like that better.
For the kale salad
Our friends brought the kale salad, filled with cabbage, red pepper, green onion, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Find a similar dressing recipe here.
For the toasted walnuts
Add walnuts to a dry pan over medium heat and stir often until brown. This will make your house smell amazing! Walnuts burn easily so keep an eye on them. To be totally honest, they usually burn a bit when I toast them, and they still taste amazing, so don’t panic. Once toasted, chop into crumbles. (I toast before chopping because I found when I chopped then toasted, the smaller bits burned before the bigger bits were ready. Better to keep them in their uniform size, I think.)
Plate a few fried polenta cakes, add a scoop of millet beside the polenta, pile a generous scoop of lentils on the millet, fill in the rest of the plate with salad, drizzle sunflower citrus dressing over the lentils and polenta, and garnish with toasted walnuts, chopped parsley, some fresh cracked pepper, and some finishing salt.