Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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Caprese Style Polenta Cakes

2015-05-07 09.50.18

I grew up eating a lot of Polenta. Polenta can be compared to what we know as grits. It’s an Italian dish made with boiled corn meal which then becomes a thick solidified porridge. The good news is that it’s a blank canvas allowing you to add all types of flavorings to it and serve it in a number of different ways. I thought I would add  flavors like, tomato, mozzarella, and basil, then turn them into cakes. Crunchy on the outside, yet soft and creamy on the inside. I served it simply with a mixed green salad, with a lemon vinaigrette.

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I like for my Polenta to be bit looser in consistency than for it to be too thick. Let me explain. Typically, it’s 1 cup of corn meal per 2 cups of water. I make mine using 1 cup of corn meal per 3 cups of water. For this recipe I’m using 2-1/2 cups of Polenta to 7 cups of water. This will yield 2 -1/4 sheet pans of Polenta around 1-1/2 in thickness once it has set. So here I have the water that I’m going to bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a hard boil, I’m slowly going to whisk in the Polenta, but first I want to get all the ingredients prepped that are going to go into the Polenta.

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I have 2- 1/4 sheet pans that I’ve sprayed with non- stick cooking spray, then I’ve laid parchment paper over the pans, so that the paper will stay secure. I also cut them a little larger than the size of the pans, allowing a little extra to hang over the edges. This will let me remove the chilled Polenta later.

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For the flavorings for this recipe, I chose to do a play on the ingredients of a Tomato Caprese. I’ve seeded and chopped some plum tomatoes. I also have some basil from my herb garden that I have chopped fairly fine. Along with these, I have some freshly shredded Mozzarella cheese.

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Now, going back to the boiling water. I add in Kosher salt then, slowly whisk in the Polenta. You will see how fast the water gets absorbed and the Polenta starts to thicken. This is why I like to start out with a little more water than the packaged instructions require. At this point I turn the heat off and add in a few tablespoons of unsalted butter. I whisk that through util the butter has melted completely. Next I add in some heavy cream, still continuously whisking. The Polenta thickens even more. Now here’s when I switch to a wooden spoon. I add in the tomatoes and cheese first, then finally the chopped basil.

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Using a spatula, I dump the Polenta, dividing it evenly into the two sheet pans. Spread the mixture out evenly so the Polenta is equally distributed throughout the pan. Place in the refrigerator until it has chilled and set.

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Once the Polenta has firmed up completely. I score the Polenta into thirds, both length wise and cross wise. Then I cut each square a cross into triangles. In a large bowl I have equal parts flour and corn meal that I whisked together with some Kosher salt and black pepper. In another bowl, I have some beaten eggs that I’ve seasoned with salt and pepper. In a non-stick saute pan, I’ve melted some unsalted butter with a little olive oil. I let that come up to temperature over med heat. Next, I carefully dip the triangle of Polenta into the beaten egg mixture, then into the corn meal and flour mixture, then into the hot pan with the oil and butter. I let that cook for about 2-3 minutes per side. You just want to get an nice golden crust on the outside of the Polenta cakes. After about 2 minutes of frying the cakes off on one side, take a peek using a spatula and see if they need another minute before flipping to the other side. Set the cooked of Polenta cakes on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven to stay warm while making the rest. The great thing about this dish is everything can be done in advance, and you don’t have to make them all at one time. The chilled Polenta will keep in the frig for a few days. Make sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap and you can enjoy these with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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In a bowl, I’ve just made a quick vinaigrette, with some fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, black pepper, and some E.V.O.O, and whisked that together to pour over the mixed greens of baby spinach, baby kale, and baby Swiss chard that I had. There you have it, my Caprese Style Polenta Cakes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours
Yields: 18 triangles per sheet pan
Equipment: 2-1/4 sheet pans
2 sheets of parchment paper
non-stick spray
Cooking Time: 2-3 minutes per side
2-1/2 cups of quick cooking Polenta
7 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter ( 2 reserved for frying Polenta)
1 tablespoon of olive oil (for frying Polenta)
1/2 a cup of heavy cream
2 cups of seeded plum tomatoes
2 cups of  freshly shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup of finely chopped basil
3 beaten eggs
1 cup of corn meal for breading
1 cup of all- purpose flour for breading
1 tablespoon of kosher salt for breading
1 teaspoon of black pepper for breading
Directions: Have all the ingredients prepped that are going into the Polenta cakes. Have the salted water at a hard boil. Whisk in the Polenta until all the water is absorbed. Turn the heat off, then add in the butter whisking that thought until combined. Next add in the ingredients. Have the sheet pans prepared with non-stick spray and parchment paper. Divide the Polenta evenly between the two pans. Spread the Polenta out evenly into the pans. Next refrigerate for 2 hours. Score and then cut out the triangles for the Polenta cakes. Then bread each triangle dipping into the the egg mixture and breading mixture. Finally fry them off in butter and olive oil for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while preparing the rest of the cakes.

Ingredients for my Lemon Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, (3 juicy lemons)
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of Agave nectar
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of E.V.O.O
Directions: An easy method is to place all the above ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid ( like a jelly jar). Shake everything together really well until all is combined.

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