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Grilling: Polenta with Marinara, Parmesan, and Basil

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[Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

Ever since coming across grilled polenta in one of the first grilling books I got way back when, it's continually been on my to-do list, but when an idea sits like that for years upon years without action, it's so easy to just keep putting it off even longer. Still, it was never forgotten, and I finally got around to trying it with some incredibly delicious, if not frustrating results.

First, the frustration. I've never made polenta before, so this was a bit of a learning process, mainly in the correct ratio of liquid to cornmeal and how to tell when it's done. I did some research and put together what I thought would be a perfect recipe, and after a little over 30 minutes of cooking, the polenta looked creamy and thick as I thought it should. So, I poured it into a couple of cake pans and moved it to the fridge where it set quite nicely.

The next day it was time for grilling, and while removing the polenta from the pans, I noticed it didn't quite reach the firmness I wanted, but continued on, undeterred. It turned out that while the polenta was sturdy enough for the grill, it was also just a tad too soft and the outermost layer stuck to the grill.

So now the good: it tasted amazing. The polenta, laden with Parmesan, was rich and flavorful, and the heat of the grill brought back some of its creaminess. It didn't have quite the grilled crust I was hoping for but the sauce, basil, and parmesan topping made this side dish feel more like an entire meal.

So I've gone back and tried to fix my mistakes, decreasing the liquid slightly and knowing when to stop cooking it to get the right thickness. With very tasty results, it won't be long until this polenta will be back on my grill again, making up for lost time.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

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