Polenta, or cornmeal mush, can be a delicious alternative to oatmeal and shows up in many nations across the world. In Romania and Moldavia, it is known as mamaliga; in South Africa, as mealie. In 1607, English settlers who came ashore at present-day Virginia were offered steaming bowls of what the Native Americans called rockahominy, corn without skin. Polentina refers to a creamier, more liquid form of polenta that is often served in Italy as a comforting breakfast porridge and is used as baby food.
1 2⁄3 cups water, plus more as needed
1 2⁄3 cups milk, plus more as needed
1 1⁄2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3⁄4 cup polenta or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
1⁄2 cup pure maple syrup, warmed
Melted unsalted butter for drizzling (optional)
In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the 1 2D3 cups water, 1 2/3 cups milk, the sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and, when the liquid is barely simmering, drizzle in the polenta in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains have been absorbed and the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Reduce the heat to very low. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir thoroughly every 1 to 2 minutes until the polentina is loose and creamy, about 15 minutes. (For thicker polentina, cook for up to 30 minutes.) Add a little more water or milk if the polentina gets too stiff; this should be a very liquid mixture.
Ladle the polentina into individual bowls. Distribute the bananas over the top. Drizzle with the warm maple syrup and the melted butter.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Breakfast, by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2003).