Polenta has a reputation for being either quick and easy, or massively time-consuming. My method falls into the quick and easy category. I haven't developed the patience for the 2-hour technique as described so beautifully in Heat by Bill Buford. Maybe one of these days I'll give it a whirl and I'll never turn back... apparently it's just THAT good.
An added factor is that when I want polenta, I usually am not thinking about it two hours in advance. In my southern husband's vernacular, polenta = grits. White or yellow, it matters not. So grits are a common accompaniment to our weekend breakfast extravaganza. It comes together quickly, and as you can see in the picture above, it makes for a hearty lunchtime option as well.
So basic polenta/grits comes together with a very simple formula: 1 cup of water + 1/4 cup of polenta. That makes a hearty serving. I very often make it in the tried and true quadruple form: 4 cups of water + 1 cup of polenta. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add a teaspoon of salt and then whisk in the polenta. Turn the heat down to low, and whisk until it thickens. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes on my stove, and I am very comfortable just putting a lid on the pot and turning my attention elsewhere, coming back for a stir every now and again.
The variations are endless, in terms of adding cheese to the mixture. I've done blue cheese, parmesan as well as cheddar. Each is spectacularly yummy in its own way.
The bowl you see above is a hefty ladle of polenta with another of black bean soup over the top. I mixed in cheddar (generously) to the polenta, and the result was quite pleasing.