I suffer from chronic nightmares. I understand that's a funny thing to say judging by the mostly funny reactions I get from people when I mention it, but it's very true and very exhausting at times. It's a problem I've had for most of my life, and the only explanation that makes sense to me is that they are triggered by some sort of hormonal imbalance (they were off the charts during my pregnancy). On average, I have one bad night a week. But every once in a while, I'll have three to four horrendous nights in a row, and I end up so sleep deprived that it's nearly impossible to peel myself off of my couch for most of the day. Getting back to a normal sleep cycle usually takes time because when I know I'm in the middle of it, I'm actually scared to fall asleep at night. Yes, it's totally absurd, but it feels like this is my life sometimes.
I had one of those rough periods late last week, and when you're tired and annoyed because you missed out on a good night's sleep over something so trivial, it's helpful to indulge in a big bowl of comfort first thing in the morning. Nine times out of ten, I prefer a savory breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I love pancakes and waffles (well, mostly pancakes) just as much as the next guy, but a big dose of sugar as soon as I wake up tends to almost always result in a pretty lousy rest of the day for me. When I'm experiencing nightmare hell, however, I'm more than happy to chug maple syrup by the gallon.
I never really make polenta for breakfast, which is a complete shame because it is so incredibly versatile and is obviously a superb blank canvas for both savory AND sweet preparations. Since I was in the mood for something sugary but also cannot live without some form of protein when I wake up, I decided to stir a bit of peanut butter into my creamy polenta just as it was nearly done cooking. I topped it with a homemade compote and some toasted shredded coconut, and what resulted was what one would imagine a big bowl of warm ooey-gooey PB&J to taste like. I made sure not to make the polenta too sweet because I didn't want my breakfast turning out to be a glorified dessert. The sweetness from the compote was just enough and the perfect accompaniment.
Peanut Butter Polenta topped with Cinnamon Date Compote + Toasted Coconut
Peanut Butter Polenta
1 c. of water
1 c. of whole milk
1/2 c. of yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp. of smooth peanut butter
2. tbsp. of butter
1 tbsp. of brown sugar
pinch of salt
Bring water and milk to a boil. Add cornmeal, turn heat down to low, and stir polenta until it is thick and creamy.* This will take roughly 7-10 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, butter, sugar and salt. Serve into bowls while still hot, and top with compote and some toasted coconut.
*Be incredibly careful when you cook polenta. It loves to pop and splatter, and I got one of the worst 2nd degree burns of my life while cooking polenta when I first started out in kitchens. Make sure your heat is set to low when you are stirring, and to be extra safe, use a spoon with a long handle and even consider wearing an oven mitt.
Spicy Date Compote
1 C. of pitted and chopped dates
1/4 c. of lemon juice
splash of white wine
1-2 tbsp. of maple syrup (add this to taste)
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
Bring lemon juice and wine to a boil. Add dates, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, and stir roughly every 5 minutes. Let the compote cook until the dates have broken down and you have a thick and jammy consistency. This makes quite a bit of compote, but the extra can be stored in your fridge for weeks and is excellent served with cheese.
As for the toasted coconut, it's as easy as it gets. Spread some shredded coconut on a baking sheet and bake at 350º until slightly crispy and golden. This only takes a few minutes, so make sure to keep an eye on it. Your house will smell like heaven, guaranteed.