Recipes – № 94

Green Polenta

Kale goes undercover

This is an Alice Waters' inspired variation of my Painless Polenta recipe. The polenta is cooked in the microwave, which would undoubtedly make Alice cringe, but it saves you an hour plus of near constant stirring and does not affect the flavor or consistency one bit. The Alice touch is added at the end when you stir puréed kale into the cooked polenta, which colors it a beautiful forest green and tastes delicious. It's a great way to add nutrients to your starch and to make kale-wary eaters - kids or adults - chow down the kale.

Serve green polenta with anything you'd serve plain polenta with: Roasted, grilled or braised meats or poultry, vegetarian stews or sautéed mushrooms. 

Makes 4 sides

1 large or 2 small bunches of kale. Any variety will do.

1 cup (dry) polenta. A coarsely ground, flavorful variety is best, such as Cayuga Pure Organics’.

¼ cup grated Parmesan, loosely packed

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil

1½ tsp fine sea salt


Blender or food processor

Large microwaveable glass or ceramic bowl. It should be large enough for the contents not to come within 2 to 3 inches of the top of the bowl (to prevent boiling over) but not so large that it wouldn't fit in your microwave oven with a plate below (to catch spillage) and a lid or plate on top (to trap heat and steam). Unless the bowl comes with its own lid, it should be round to allow you to cover it effectively with a (microwaveable) plate.


Before you get going, a word of caution: It’s easy to burn yourself on the steam trapped under the bowl's cover or on the polenta itself. The thickness of polenta makes it stick to your skin (or tongue) in a way that feels particularly brutal. Always protect your hands with a kitchen towel or oven mitts when removing the lid or moving the bowl.

Mix the polenta and salt with 3 cups of water in the bowl. Cover the bowl, place it on a large plate and microwave at full power (1,000 watts) for 10 minutes. Stir, cover the bowl back up and microwave another 3 minutes at full power before stirring again. Repeat these 3-minute intervals until the polenta is soft, approximately 25 minutes total.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, wash the kale leaves and remove the stems. (No need for a knife or cutting board: just hold the stem end in one hand and rip the leaf off with the other hand by sliding your fingers up the stem.) Cook the kale leaves in the boiling water until tender, about 6 minutes for Tuscan kale. Drain and preserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Purée the kale in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding some of the cooking liquid as needed to prevent the leaves from getting stuck. You should end up with about 1 cup of puréed kale.

Once the polenta is cooked, stir in the parmesan, butter or olive oil and kale purée and taste for salt. Serve.


The required cooking time in a microwave is roughly proportionate to the quantity. In other words, if you double the quantities in this recipe, you'll also need to double the time in the microwave oven (20 minutes initially, then 6 minutes increments for a total of about 50 minutes). The estimates of cooking time in this recipe will also vary a bit with the type of polenta. My numbers are based on Cayuga’s polenta. Finely milled, store-bought polenta will cook a bit faster. At the other extreme, cornmeal that I ground myself from specialty farmers market varieties took even longer to cook than the Cayuga kind. 

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