Foca-enta: Focaccia o Polenta?

All my Italian friends may be outraged. But I plod on.

On my recent trip to stunning Como, I had this delectable olive-colored, nutty polenta. I learned from my host that it contained buckwheat, a speciality (Polenta taragna) of the upper Lombardy region.

On the same trip, I also learned the cause of the fall of a successful and beloved international Chef: he made the unforgivable mistake of adding chorizo to paella, explained an enraged Spaniard to me. This charming “outside the box thinking” actually inspires me. Moreover, what I could swear were disks of yellow polenta turned out to be gnocchi (Gnocchi di semolino), and, the absolutely fantastic gnocchi turned out to be spätzle! In the spirit of creative continuum, here I offer my Foca-enta (rhyming with Pocahontas): utterly simple and quick, with incomparable deliciousness. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Wire whisk, Cast iron pan.


  • 1 1/2 cup polenta taragna (or 1 cup buckwheat flour + 1/2 cup corn meal)
    + 1 1/8 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp ground black pepper + 3/4 tbsp baking powder + 1 tbsp sugar + 2 tbsp fresh rosemary needles
  • 1 cup buttermilk/yogurt + 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Iron skillet version:
    • 1/2 cup white flour + 2 eggs
    • Filling/fortification:
      1/2 cup prepared Cremini mushrooms: stemmed with black gill removed and cut into coarse pieces. Prepare by roasting (dry) in a frying pan for 3 to 4 minutes, in medium heat, until softened.
  • Sheet pan version:
    • 1/2 cup garbanzo flour/besan + 1/4 cup milk
    • Filling/fortification: 2 tbsp flax seeds


[Note that if you use white flour, then you use 2 eggs and bake in an iron skillet. If you use garbanzo flour, then use additional milk and bake in a sheet pan (lined with silicon silpat).]

Mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk. Mix all the wet ingredients with the same whisk and fold into the dry ingredients. Mix in the filling ingredients. The batter should be thick. Pour onto an oiled cast iron pan or the sheet pan lined with silicone silpat (or parchment). Even out the surface and make little dimples with your knuckle or a rounded dowel (I used the back end of a wooden honey dipper).

Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Cut into large chunks to serve focaccia style.

Notes, hints, tips:

  1. The combination of EVOO, rosemary and black pepper lends that Italian-umami (yes, even without the Reggiano) to the dish. Keep these at the core of your recipe, and, you could play around with the other addendum.
  2. I adapt the Southern (US) cornbread-like treatment while using flour and eggs. And, I borrow a page from Gujarati (India) cuisine while using besan. Do not forget to use the silicone base or parchment; else you will have a hell of a cleaning job to do (like I did!).
  3. You can skip the sugar if you choose, but the effect here is to balance the flavors and the overall effect is not sweet as you may fear — but surprisingly umami-savory.
  4. You can replace mushrooms with any other ingredient of your choice like cooked cube of beets or meat, or morsels of cooked artichokes.
  5. In my trip, the chunks of focaccia, tortilla española and polenta were served together and even looked indistinguishable in the serving basket, suggesting increasing the eggs in this recipe and/or addition of cubed cooked potatoes are all fair game.

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