Elena slow-cooks her polenta the traditional way, which can be a soul-satisfying experience if you set aside the time. When polenta is cooked properly, each grain of cornmeal slowly absorbs the liquid until it swells, becoming perfectly tender and seeming to disappear within the whole.
extra virgin olive oil
coarse gray sea salt
1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking; 5 oz)
Bring water, oil, and sea salt to a boil in a 4-quart heavy pot, then add polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently with a long-handled spoon, 45 minutes. Remove from heat, then add butter and stir until incorporated.
Recipe by Elena Faita-Venditelli, Gourmet; photo by John Kernick.