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

North African Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Meatballs in red sauce are classic all over the world. The spice defines the cuisine. For these lamb meatballs, a sauce might begin with tomatoes or red peppers; season with coriander and cinnamon; finish with fresh mint; then serve over couscous.

Recipe For Health

Trout Tarragon

In this recipe Chef teaches us to make a simple pan sauce. Sauté to develop fond (incredibly flavorful stuff stuck to the pan) add some aromatics, loosen fond with wine, reduce liquid over heat, finish with butter and fresh herb. For this recipe—tarragon!

Recipe For Health

Badamaash Pork Cutlet

Chef Kurt’s Badamaash Pork Cutlet, spiced with Indian flavors, won him 2018 Chef of the Year from Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association! He served it with dumpling and other tasty sides. He says it makes a great sandwich, simply served on a bun!

Recipe For Health

Wild Rice Tomato Soup

Not your typical wild rice soup, Chef Kurt’s version is loaded with vegetables and grains. And deliciousness! Soups in general are flexible. Feel free to switch out the veggies to whatever suits you. Add this one to your repertoire of warm, cozy meals!

More Food and Nutrition Recipes

Find a Recipe

Browse all recipes

Find a Class

Browse all courses

Search Health4U

Coaching and Counseling Services

Coaching and 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 coaching and counseling services include faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and retirees

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

Your one stop resource for reliable medical information. Explore Health Topic information for specific health concerns. Interactive Tools uses your responses to questions to help with making medical decisions,  and Learning Centers can provide a more complete understanding of medical concerns.

Visit Health e-Guide