Winter is really a true test of my allegiance. Up here in the North, winter traditionally implies that one’s larder will be full of root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and in the dry pantry, we celebrate legumes and grains like wheat, oats and corn. I must confess, I much prefer to build a dish around a legume and grain than around a root veggie. Weird. I think it must be the texture, or perhaps that I can wrap it around the spices of Mexico, or scoop it up with a chip…Regardless, molded polenta is a really easy dish that often finds its way into our kitchen during the long, cold, winter months, and I love to dress it up like a Mexican pinata for the mental vacation! This polenta was topped with a slather of roasted and pureed butternut squash, and served on a bed of kidney beans with a drizzle of sweet pepper cilantro lime yogurt over romaine.


  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 2 Serrano peppers, minced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 cups cornmeal (polenta)
  • 4 ounces hard cheese – I used Pecarino Romano, grated

Directions: Saute the red onion until it starts to brown on the edges. Add the minced garlic and peppers and mix until you start to cough from the capsaicin! Turn on the exhaust fan and continue working. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn it to a low simmer and add the cornmeal slowly. Mix it well for a few minutes to work out all the lumps. Keep it cooking over a low flame and stir every so often. Cook it for about twenty minutes until the corn gets soft.

To mold the polenta, you can use a bundt pan, a spring form pan, or small ramekins that have a thin coat of spray oil to ensure easy removal. Pour or spoon the polenta into the dish and place it into the refrigerator until it is firm. When you are ready to eat, molded polenta can be easily reheated in the oven or microwave.