Recipe For Health
Recipe from Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger
Featured Food: Cornmeal Yield: Serves 6-8Learn more about Cornmeal


  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium red onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 c. chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 c. whole or 2% milk
  • 1 ½ t. sea salt (or 1 t. kosher salt or ¾ t. table salt)
  • 1 c. polenta (coarse grind yellow cornmeal)
  • 1 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. fresh chopped thyme (or ½ t. dried thyme)
  • 1 T. fresh rosemary (or ¼ t. dried rosemary)
  • 1 T. fresh chopped parsley
  • Olive oil, for brushing


In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the red onion and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken stock, milk, salt, and pepper then bring to a boil over medium high heat. If using dried herbs, add them at this point. Reduce the heat; when the liquid is simmering, gradually sprinkle the polenta over in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains have been incorporated and no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to very low.

Switch to a wooden paddle and stir thoroughly every 1 or 2 minutes for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened. Stir in the parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and butter. The mixture will be quite thick. Add salt to taste.

Spray an 8 x 12 inch roasting pan or glass baking dish with cooking spray. Mound the polenta into the pan; using a rubber spatula repeatedly dipped in very hot water, spread the polenta evenly in the pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 2 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, preheat a non-stick sauté pan to medium high heat. Brush the pan with oil. Cut the polenta into 8 equal squares and brush them with olive oil. Transfer the squares to the pan and grill for about 6 minutes on each side, or until deep golden brown. Serve immediately.   

Learn More About Cornmeal

When I was growing up in Indiana, my mother used cornmeal in several dishes—cornbread, baked in an iron skillet; mush, browned in an iron skillet; and breading for fish, yes, fried in an iron skillet! I must admit, mush wasn’t my favorite. Could it be the name was a bit off-putting?

Cornmeal by any other name:

This list should help you de-code an otherwise simple ingredient.

  • Fine grind cornmeal also called corn flour.
  • Medium grind cornmeal is the most versatile. If the label says “cornmeal,” you’re getting medium grind.
  • Coarse grind cornmeal also called grits.
  • Grits is cornmeal cooked in water or milk to make porridge.
  • Mush is made by cooling grits until it “sets up,” slicing it, then cooking it again to add crispness to the exterior.
  • Polenta is the Italian name for coarse-grind cornmeal. When polenta (cornmeal) is cooked, it’s still called polenta (why mess with a good name?).  
  • Hominy is corn that has been soaked in an alkaline-water solution to remove the germ and hull. Several cornmeal products are made from dried hominy, giving them a distinctive flavor: Hominy grits is course-grind cornmeal made from dried hominy.
  • Masa is moist dough made from finely ground hominy. Used to make corn tortillas, tamales and pupusas.
  • Masa harina is flour made by drying fresh masa to make it shelf-stable.

Dried corn is ground into cornmeal in two different ways. Steel-ground, a process that completely removes the hull and germ, results in a cornmeal that will store almost indefinitely in an airtight container on your pantry shelf. Stone-ground results in a whole grain cornmeal; more perishable than steel-ground; it needs refrigeration and can be kept up to 4 months.

Wherever there’s cornmeal, there’s versatility. Cook it in water, milk, or broth. Make it into breads, cakes or muffins. Use it to coat fish, meat or vegetables. Sprinkle it on the pan to keep dough from sticking. Cornmeal is truly THE all-American grain. 

Peggy Crum MA, RD

Featured Recipes

Recipe For Health

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisp

Combine tart rhubarb with sweet strawberries, add a streusel topping, and bake until bubbly. Dessert doesn’t get easier—or more classic—than this. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You’re sure to get rave reviews!

Recipe For Health

Farro Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Chewy farro grains are delicious in this autumn-y salad. Recipe yields enough for dinner for 2 to 4 with some left for a couple of lunches. To do this, make the base with dressing, farro, and grilled veggies. Add fresh veggies to the base as you go.

Recipe For Health

Pecan and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Roasting amps up the flavor in everything including pecans. Chef Kurt's attention to detail takes a traditional chocolate chip cookie to another level of yum!

Recipe For Health

Onion Soup

Onions, the simplest of pantry staples, mingle with butter, broth, and herbs to become luxuriously smooth and delicious. Add "homemade" croutons and a blend of cheeses to make a complete and satisfying meal.

More Food and Nutrition Recipes

Find a Recipe

Browse all recipes

Find a Class

Browse all courses

Search Health4U

Food and Nutrition Counseling Services

Food and Nutrition Counseling Services provides you with access to accurate health and lifestyle information, helping you to explore new behaviors and skills, and identifying useful campus and community resources.

MSU community members eligible for food and nutrition counseling services include faculty, staff, graduate assistants, retirees and the spouses/partners of members of these groups.

To schedule an appointment with Health4U you are not required to email us from your MSU email address; please email us from the email address you are most comfortable with. 

Read More

Departmental Services

The goal of department based services is to provide work units and colleagues the opportunity to learn about health and wellness as a group activity or exploration.  

Read More

Health e-Guide

This guide has been discontinued and is no longer viewable.

Visit Health e-Guide