Otherwise known as grits or cornmeal mush, polenta is a great side dish and very versatile. Basically it is medium grind cornmeal. I buy my polenta in the natural foods section of the local chain store. It's cheap at 89 cents a pound in the bulk food section, one pound of polenta makes a lot. When you bring it home it is a good idea to freeze it for 24 hour to make sure it remains bug free. I have been buying whole grains in the bulk foods area for a long time and not once have I had that problem but I don't EVER want to have that problem so I freeze.
Polenta is also very versatile. I use it in place of pasta by just having sauce right on top (or ratatouille)of it or fajita and taco meat on top it great. I like to cook up a pot, spread it in a loaf pan, chill it, slice it and fry it as a side to eggs or a light salad. I use it under soup in the bottom of the bowl, by the time you get to it it is flavored like the soup.
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups of polenta/medium grain cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan bring water to a boil
reduce heat to medium/low and slowly whisk in the cornmeal
cook stirring occasionally over medium/low for 15-20 minutes adding water as need to maintain a creamy consistency
if you are in a hurry it will be ready to go after 10 minutes but it seems to taste better after a longer cook
you can also keep slowly adding water and cook it longer if you want
it is very flexible
I have found if you want to chill it in a loaf pan you want to cook it with less water so it will set up better for cutting. Experiment by adding cheeses or spices and using it in creative ways. It may seem like a lot of work but if you made loaf pan while you were already cooking something else and set it to chill in the refrigerator for later use it wouldn't be all that much work. Think how nice it would be to come home, whip up a pasta sauce and serve it over pre-cooked and pan fried polenta.