Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Peasant Uprising!

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.

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