There’s a thrill when you discover a new food, something you’ve never made before. It doesn’t even have to be exotic, just something that’s outside your repertoire. Say hello to polenta, the ingredient that couldn’t come at a better time. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of the summer staples and need some fresh back to school ingredients. Of course I’ve had polenta before, I just haven’t thought about its possibilities. Polenta is made from ground corn and is a staple in Northern Italy. I’ve enjoyed my share of polenta fries and had it creamed along with numerous fish dishes in restaurants. I’ve just never been so inspired by it that I needed to bring it home and start cooking it myself.
That is until yesterday, when my friend Emilie made a tasty grilled polenta appetizer that everyone, even the pickiest kids, went wild for. Sliced thinly, dipped in olive oil and grilled with fresh mozzarella cheese and a sliver of red pepper, it was a simple yet sensational combination of flavors. Two platters vanished in minutes, with the kids clamoring for more. For this winning dish, she credits her friends who served something similar to her family a few years ago and has been making it ever since. And as we food lovers know, culinary inspiration is contagious: when you taste something good, there’s no stopping you!
She used organic polenta in a tube by Food Merchants Brand. I’ve seen it countless times in the grocery store but never knew what to do with it. It’s pre-cooked, has zero fat, gluten free, has a neutral flavor and is rich in complex carbs. Sounds kind of like a super food, doesn’t it? In fact it gets more protein than eggs and has a good amount of Vitamin AC, Vitamin A and Potassium.
My mind is racing with ideas as I imagine all the ways I can use polenta. It’s going to be fantastic in one dish casseroles, superb in veggie only meals and gourmet as an appetizer. I have no problem using polenta in a tube again, but I am excited to try it from scratch too, playing with various consistencies. If you’re a polenta pro, please share your favorite uses. I’ll be sure to share my successes (hopefully few) failures.
Thank you, Emilie, for sharing your magnificent Grilled Polenta appetizer with my family and now my readers.
Grilled Polenta Bites
Makes two trays
2 tubes pre-cooked organic polenta, sliced in 1/8 inch rounds*
½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1 jar roasted red peppers, cut into small slices
Extra virgin olive oil (approximately 1/8 cup)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pre-heat a pre-oiled grill to a medium heat. Pour a generous amount of olive oil and salt in a baking dish. Lay the polenta rounds in on one side and then turn over to coat the other side in oil and salt. Place oiled and salted polenta directly on the grill and cook for about 5-10 minutes until nicely browned. Keep a close watch on the polenta, making sure not to turn them too early or too late. Undercooked polenta will break a part as you flip. Once flipped, place a slice of mozzarella and pepper on the top of each and grill for another 5 minutes until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and serve, watching as they get devoured by your guests!
NOTES: Emilie says to coat the knife in olive oil which will help in slicing the polenta.