I attempted making polenta for the first time tonight and learned a few things along the way.
I used a 4-to-1 water-to-cornmeal ratio that I found in my Joy Of Cooking book for making polenta, cutting it down to two 1/4-cup servings. Browned 3 tbsp minced garlic, wilted some baby spinach, then added 2 cups of water on top. Brought it to a boil, added 1/2 cup of cornmeal, stirred constantly until thickened, and stirred in some black pepper and dried basil.
My original goal was to bake it, so I poured the partially-cooked polenta in an 8x8 glass dish, topped it with 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and put it in a 350 F preheated oven for 30 minutes. I cut it into quarters and sandwiched some pan-seared tofu that I crumbled and added to tomato sauce (a fake-"meat" sauce, I guess, haha) to make it like lasagna.
Believe me, this is not a success story! Here's the #1 thing I learned from this: Patience.
I started off good. Really, I did! I patiently stirred the polenta as it cooked in the boiling water for exactly 10 minutes. I patiently waited the full half hour for it to bake in the pan. I even waited for it to cool to room temperature before cutting. Go me! However, The polenta was still runny on the bottom when I cut it, so I put it in a 400-degree oven on the bottom rack for 5 minutes. I saw it sizzling and took it out... then I was impatient.
I cut it again and it looked, uh, better (I guess). I tried using a spatula to take the first 1/4 of it out and onto my plate. I basically slopped it on there and rearranged it into the square it once was. While moving it from the dish to my plate, it started dripping off the side of the spatula and, stupidly, I tried catching it. Because I was too impatient to wait for it to cool this time around, the molten mush burned a few of my fingers.
After assembling the layers of "meat" sauce and polenta (and taking the photos) I was so freaking starving that I shoveled the first bite into my mouth. You'd think the feeling of the semi-burned dots on my hand from the previous incident would have told me, "Hey, stupid! Blow on it, or just wait a second for it to cool down!"
Nope, I burned the hell out of the roof of my mouth. Fan-freaking-tastic! (Note the sarcasm...) This was a yummy dish, flavor-wise, but definitely needs some perfecting before I'm confident enough to share it with others!