Pan-fried polenta is an ideal base for any main course dish. You can make the polenta ahead of time (I generally do it the day before), refrigerate it, then pan-fry it right before serving. When you’re not in the mood for pasta, rice, or some sort of ancient grain, this is a starchier side that can go with pretty much anything.
Pan-Fried Polenta with Sundried Tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan and for frying
3 cups water
3 sundried tomatoes (not in oil), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt
3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon nondairy buttery spread (optional, but recommended)
Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper. Brush with olive oil.
Put the water, sundried tomatoes, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Add the cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, continually stirring the cornmeal mixture with a wooden spoon, very thick and the cornmeal is tender, not raw. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth evenly. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve.
Use the parchment paper to lift the solid polenta out of the pan. Cut into 9 squares, then each square into 2 triangles. Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Fry the polenta until brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side–I also fry the edges, not just the faces. Repeat with the remaining polenta triangles, transferring each to a plate and covering with foil to keep warm. Serve warm.