makes 3 breakfast or 6 dessert servings
Italians are not big breakfast eaters. Usually they have caffé latte (coffee with steamed milk) with bread, toast, biscotti (cookies), or cornetti (croissants). When breakfast does include something cooked, it is often polenta prepared in one of two ways: Either polenta con latte (polenta made with hot milk and sugar) or leftover polenta cut into pieces (see page 000) and served in hot milk sprinkled with sugar. These two dishes are typical children’s meals— even for lunch and dinner. When I was growing up, soft— freshly made, that is— polenta with milk and honey was also given to infants. Today I serve slices of chilled polenta, pan-fried and topped with strawberries in honey syrup in place of pancakes for breakfast, or for an unusual dessert.
- 1 pint ripe strawberries (or other berries)
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 slices (3 x 2 x 1/2 inch) chilled polenta
- Confectioners’ sugar
- 6 sprigs fresh mint
Place the sliced strawberries in a small bowl and pour the honey over them. Let them stand, tossing once or twice, while preparing the polenta. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a large, heavy, non stick skillet, melt half the butter over medium heat. When the butter is foaming, add half the polenta slices in a single layer. Cook the polenta, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the polenta to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining butter and polenta. Divide the polenta among serving plates. Spoon some of the berries and their syrup over each serving and sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar. Decorate the plates with the mint sprigs and serve. NOTE: 3 cups (about half the Basic Polenta recipe) hot polenta poured into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan will make twelve slices of this size, with some scraps for the cook to nibble on.