Monday, August 13, 2012

Polenta -- made from masa!

I spent the last year living on a very minimal budget. As in, after rent (which is modest and included utilities), I had slightly less than $200 for the month. Some months, because of odd jobs, I had a bit more. But this $200 needed to buy:
  • Gas (occasionally; mostly I bike)
  • Dog food (and her yearly vet bill) for a mid-sized dog
  • Toiletries
  • Food
Occasionally, I allowed myself treats. E and I, for instance, have made one of our housemate-bonding experiences a weekly trip to a fro-yo place where we sit and watch traffic violations and talk about our weeks, books, or television. Or, for example, sometimes I really just want to buy that GF Vegan cookie from the co-op that's so yummy, or to buy coffee out with a friend. Or I needed some article of clothing or pay an insurance. This year, there were also plane tickets -- one a mental break from my rough spring and the other to a funeral.

French Lentils with Marmalade over Masa Polenta
Fortunately, before this year, I had three years of grad school to practice living on a tight budget while still eating moderately well. If you're a regular follower of my blog, you've heard me talk about cooking on a budget before.

But now I'm probably moving soon and I'm trying to use up things I bought over the year. One of those: tamale masa. For a recent Sunday dinner, I made French lentils with orange marmalade and this polenta, made from masa -- all because these were things in my cupboard that I want (and need) to use before I move.

This is a soft polenta, but if you chill it over night, it gets pretty thick and I'm moderately sure you could make fried polenta cakes out of it (let me know how it works if you try it!). 

Masa Polenta
2 cups tamale masa
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized pot or a large pan, combine the masa, water, and salt. Turn the heat on under the pan to medium and stir constantly until the masa has thickened enough that when you drag a spoon through it, it doesn't immediately run back together (with my masa, this took about 10 minutes). Adjust salt if necessary, and grind in some black pepper. Serve.

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