Golden Polenta Cakes Puttanesca
The appropriation and reinvention "low culture" to suit the tastes of the social elite is apparent in many areas of society. The gentrification of run-down neighborhoods into boutique-ridden hipster haunts or the commodification of the deliberate youth revolt against materialism into "grunge fashion" come to mind . . . And so it goes with food. When I first encountered polenta, it was served rich and creamy under a braised beef shank. It was decadent and delicious, but my father was quick to dismiss the polenta as "Italian peasant food" and the use of it in a fine dining experience as somehow cheating the consumer of a more authentically highbrow meal. He is right. Polenta is "peasant food" - essentially a corn meal mush and, on its own, nothing to get terribly exited about. But in its elegant simplicity lies the potential for a fantastic meal. In an effort to embrace this concept of "peasant food," I put together the two most down-and-dirty ideas I could muster and came up with polenta with a puttanesca (translated literally from Italian as "whore"). This was a quick, easy meal that elevates this pair of Italian peasants something darn, near sophisticated.
- 1 8 oz. tube of polenta (I got it at Trader Joes) sliced into 1/4" disks
- 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. mixed cherry tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
- 3 Tbsp. capers, chopped
- 1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/4 c. kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
- fontina cheese, cut into 2" square slices
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, onion, vinegar, sugar, capers, olives, and parsley. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat broiler. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Working in batches, fry polenta slices (about 2-3 minutes per side) in hot oil until the edges start to crisp slightly. Drain on paper towels.
When polenta slices are are cooked, arrange evenly spaced on a large pie plate or other broiler-proof cookware. Top each polenta disk with a small piece of cheese. place under broiler and cook until the cheese begins to melt and turns brown a bubbly. Remove from heat. To plate, arrange several slices of polenta and top with puttanesca It's vegetarian and really yummy. . . check it out.