Polenta: The Complete Guide

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Eating Soft Polenta

This is really about as easy as it gets. As long as you've started with good polenta and have good toppings to put on it, it's pretty hard to go wrong. You can do it with nothing but good butter, salt and pepper. It's good with Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh goat cheese, Fontina val D'aosta or just about any cheese, really. And it's great with tomato sauces of all sorts.

Polenta Partners

Like pasta, there is an almost limitless number of things to accompany polenta--perhaps even more because polenta is also good with sweet sauces as well as savory:

    â€¢ Two Great Butters to Melt on Top : A bowl of great polenta topped with a large pat of good butter is such a simple dish, and it's a beautiful thing to behold and to eat. We recommend either the Pastureland Butter from Minnesota or Cultured Butter from Vermont, both available at our Creamery Cheese Shop .

    â€¢ Barrel-Aged Feta from Northern Greece : The very special, barrel-aged feta we get from the Almyros region of Greece is pretty remarkably good, whether you crumble onto (or into) polenta, eat it as is with a slice of bread or use it on salad, omelets or most anything else. It's made from milk that's gathered only from sheep that are grazing in the pastures.

    â€¢ Really Good Gorgonzola : Some simply lay a slab of their beloved blue cheese next to the bowl of polenta; the cheese needs to be at room temperature so that when you pick some up with your fork and put it on the hot polenta, it gets soft and melty. Others lay a whole slice of the cheese atop the bowl and let it soften that way. Better Gorgonzola is of course going to taste better. Ours is coming in from northern Italy, aged by Carlo and Giovanni Giori.

    â€¢ Parmigiano-Reggiano from the Hills of Modena : From one farm in the hills above Modena (home of Balsamic vinegar), this is a very special cheese. Having tasted from probably a hundred different dairies over the years, this cheese consistently stands out to me for its full flavor and fine finish. I could go on at length about what makes this cheese so good, but space doesn't allow it.

    â€¢ Tomato sauces from Il Mongetto : Probably the best bottled tomato sauces I've ever tried, made up in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, not all that far (by American standards) from where the Marinos mill their corn.

    â€¢ Chestnut Honey : If you are eating polenta for breakfast, I really recommend topping it with a bit of this wonderfully bittersweet honey.

    â€¢ Little Dragons from Zingerman's Creamery : This is the newest cheese from the Creamery. It's great on its own but it happens--really just coincidentally--to be particularly good on polenta. It's a fairly fresh goat cheese, one that's very lightly pressed to make for a modestly creamier texture than our super fresh rounds of City Goats, then rolled in fresh tarragon leaves.

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Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.

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