Polenta fries with tomato basil aïoli

A nice alternative to deep frying, the corn meal crisps up quite nicely. Replace the corn meal with whole grain teff for quicker, more nutrient dense versions (simmer for only 20 minutes).


For the polenta
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
1/2t of coarse sea salt
1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
2T of unsweetened soy milk
2T of olive oil (or coconut oil, if you prefer)
1T of garlic, minced
1/4t of dried ground turmeric
2T of nutritional yeast
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the aïoli

1/4 cup of unsweetened soy milk
1t of lemon juice
1T of sesame seed butter
1T of garlic, minced
1T of fresh basil, minced
2t of tomato passata (or pureed tomatoes if that’s what you have)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste


Make the polenta first, then the aïoli.

Bring the water and sea salt to a soft boil in a pan with a lid.
Add the corn meal slowly, stirring as you go.
Reduce heat to low and cook for roughly 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.
The polenta will be done when it’s quite thick and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Add the nutritional yeast, garlic, turmeric, soy milk and any additional seasonings.
Stir thoroughly to combine.
Let stand five minutes to cool.
Spoon the polenta into a lightly oiled (or nonstick) 3″x9″ baking dish, and smooth the top with a spoon.
Let cool for about 30 minutes uncovered in the refrigerator to setup.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Carefully turn out the polenta, cut into twelve slices.
Generously oil a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a little corn meal.
Add the polenta and bake turning every 8-10 minutes or so for about 30-40 minutes — until the fries start to lightly brown and the outside is lightly crisp, Ovens vary. Use the texture and colour as a guide.
Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, and serve with the aïoli.

While the polenta bakes, make the aïoli.
Blend the soy milk, sesame seed butter, lemon juice and garlic in a high speed blender with a pinch of sea salt (I used an immersion blender).
Next, slowly add the oil in a dribble while blending so that it will emulsify correctly.
Mince the basil and add it to the aïoli, stirring to combine.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let the flavours mingle.
Add the passate in drips when ready to serve.

Peanut sauce, salsa and other dips do well this dish. The aïoli also makes a nice spread for sandwiches and other uses. For a creamier fry, blend the polenta for a minute in a high speed blender once it’s cooled and before putting it into the baking dish.

Crispy polenta fries with sriracha, black strap molasses catsup

Oil-free polenta fries paired up here with a healthier, spicier alternative to squeeze bottle ketchup.


For the fries
2 cups water
1/2 cup coarse yellow corn meal
1T fresh garlic, minced
2T unsweetened plant milk (I use soy)
1/4t turmeric powder (or to taste, I use 1/2t)
2T nutritional yeast
Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the catsup
2T tomato passata (or puree)
1/2t garlic powder
1/4t onion powder
1t black strap molasses
1/2t white picking vinegar
1/2t tamari
1/4t sriracha (or similar/to taste — I use 1/2t)
Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional: The fries assume the dip. For something more like a traditional fry, add some oil with the turmeric and other ingredients, brush the fries with a little for baking, or both. I usually add 1 – 2t herbes de Provence to my polenta as well. Minced scallion also makes a nice addition. Teff and chickpea fries are also terrific alternatives. Replace the powders in the catsup with finely minced garlic and scallion white if you prefer.


Make the fries and then the catsup.

In a medium pan with a lid, bring the water to a boil. Whisking, slowly add the corn meal to avoid lumps. Return the pan to a light simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 – 40 minutes, stirring periodically. Much depends on the grind of your corn meal and the heat of the pan. The polenta will be done when it’s coming away from the sides when you stir.

When the polenta is done, remove from heat, add the remaining ingredients, cover and let stand another 5 minutes. Season to taste. Pour/spoon in a 3″x9″ loaf pan. Chill uncovered for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least and hour to setup.

When the polenta has setup, preheat the oven to 450F (or the heat to which your backing paper is rated). Carefully turn out the corn meal onto a cutting board. Slice into stick width-wise (about 16 fries).

On a baking sheet or roasting pan lined with baking paper, bake on the middle rack for 30 – 40 minutes, turning periodically to ensure even cooking. Ovens vary; the fries will be done when they’re crispy and golden. Use the colour and texture of the fries as a guide.

At about the 30 minute mark, mix the ingredients for the catsup. Let stand covered until the fries are ready. When the fries are done, remove from heat, plate, and serve with the catsup on the side.