Ground cornmeal, dates, wild honey. These are the foods that come to mind when we think of the desert. From the Inland Empire to east San Diego county, walk into any dusty grocery store and you’ll find these items in stock. A healthy head of kale? A ripe avocado? Good luck! But you’ll never be without dates and honey.
For the past week, we’ve been stranded enjoying a prolonged stay in Borrego Springs, CA while we wait for a new A/C condenser to arrive. A rock punctured it while we were driving up a dirt road and we’ve made the strategic decision to get it repaired. While the weather is currently gorgeous out here in the desert, our route has us heading into the deep sticky south later this year. And having a functioning air conditioner is critical to our long-term game plan to not go insane and kill each other once the humidity hits.
So while we wait, we’ve been soaking up the local scene, and working on some locally inspired meals. Typically we eat oatmeal in the morning, but we’ve decided we might want to give corn grits a try. Corn grits are virtually the same thing as polenta, but instead of using it to build a savory flavor profile, we wanted to go with something a little sweeter. So we picked up some local Medjool dates and wild citrus honey from one of the shops along the sleepy main drag.
The next morning we cooked up the polenta into a thick porridge. We stirred in the honey, added some chopped dates and almonds, and topped it off with a bit coconut milk we made from a powder mix we keep in our pantry. With the golden sun warming the sky to the east and this bowl of polenta warming the depths of our stomachs, we greeted yet another beautiful day out in the desert.
Date and Desert Honey Breakfast Polenta
If you’re bored of oatmeal for breakfast, switch things up! Polenta is one of those dishes that is traditionally savory, but we’ve sweetened this one up with dates and honey for those who wake up with a sweet tooth. We used Bob’s Red Mill polenta which took well to the reduced cooking time.
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons honey
8 medjool dates (pitted and chopped)
1/4 cup almonds (chopped)
Splash of milk of choice (we've enjoyed both coconut and almond milk with this)
BOIL THE WATER: Bring the water with the salt to a boil over high heat.
PREP THE TOPPINGS: While you’re waiting for the water to boil, pit and chop the dates and chop up the almonds (if starting with whole almonds).
COOK THE POLENTA: Once the water is boiling, add the polenta in a slow and steady stream, stirring the entire time to prevent clumping. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently (if not constantly) for about 5 minutes. Take the polenta off the heat, cover, and allow it to sit for an additional 5 minutes.
SERVE: Stir in the honey. Split the polenta between two bowls. Top with the dates, almonds, and milk, and serve immediately.