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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

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 by boiling cornmeal which then becomes a thick solidified porridge. The good news is polenta is a blank canvas allowing you to add all types of flavorings and served in a number of different ways.

Today I thought I’d add flavors like, diced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil, then turn them into polenta cakes. Crunchy on the outside, yet soft and creamy on the inside.

I serve my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes it with a simple mixed green salad dressed with my quick and easy Lemon Vinaigrette.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 2 to 3 minutes per side
Yields: 36 triangles (18 triangles per sheet pan)
Equipment: 2-1/4 rimmed baking sheet pans, 6-quart saucepot, 2 medium-size mixing bowls, rubber spatula, parchment paper, non-stick cooking spray

Ingredients:
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 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups of  freshly shredded low-moisture Mozzarella cheese
1 cup of finely chopped basil, chiffonade-style

Breading:
3 beaten eggs
1 cup of cornmeal
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200-degrees F.
I like for my Polenta to be bit looser in consistency than to be too thick. Let me explain. Typically, it’s 1 cup of cornmeal per 2 cups of water. I prefer using 1 cup of cornmeal 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 inches thickness once it has set.

Spray 2-1/4 sheet pans with non-stick cooking spray. Lay parchment paper over the pans so that the paper will stay secure. Cut them a little larger than the size of the pans, allowing a little extra to hang over the edges. This will allow for easy removal, later, of the chilled Polenta.

First, dice the tomatoes, grate the mozzarella, and chop the basil leaves. Set aside.

Start by bringing water to a boil saucepot. Once the water comes to a hard boil add Kosher salt then slowly whisk in the Polenta. You’ll start to see how fast the water gets absorbed and the Polenta starts to thicken.

At this point, turn the heat off and add in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Switch to a wooden spoon, stir until the butter is completely combined and melted into the polenta.

Next, add the heavy cream, continuously stirring until the cream is completely combined. At this point, the Polenta thickens even more. Add the diced tomatoes and grated mozzarella, stir to combine. Finally, add the chiffonade basil, again stir to combine.

Using a rubber spatula, dump the polenta equally dividing it between the two sheet pans. Spread the mixture out so the polenta is evenly distributed throughout the pan. Transfer the sheet pans to the refrigerator allowing the polenta to chill and set.

After chilling for 2 hours, score the polenta into thirds, both lengthwise and crosswise. Then cut each square diagonally into triangles.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, add equal parts flour and cornmeal, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, whisk to combine. together with some Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. In another bowl, add 3 eggs, using a fork, beat the eggs.

Preheat oven to 200-degrees F.
In a non-stick sauté pan, over medium heat melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully dip the triangle of Polenta into the beaten eggs, then into the cornmeal/flour mixture, then into the hot sauté pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. You just want to get a nice golden crust on the outside of the Polenta cakes. Do this in batches of (4) four.

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 finished polenta cakes on a sheet pan and transfer to the oven to stay warm while frying the remaining polenta cakes

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 up to 3 days. Make sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap. You can enjoy these for breakfast, brunch/lunch, or dinner.

To serve. Arrange two of my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes onto a serving plate. Serve with a mixed greens salad. For my Lemon Vinaigrette recipe click on the link below.  There you have it, my Caprese-Style Polenta Cakes.

*E.V.O.O. is short for Extra Virgin olive oil.

 

Balsamic, Cilantro-Lime, And Lemon Vinaigrette

 

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Chunky Style Guacamole

 

Guacamole (1)

Guacamole (7)

Tex-Mex wouldn’t be the same without some great Guacamole. My recipe has a secret ingredient that will make your Guacamole pop! I tell you about that in a minute.

I’m a fan of a Chunky Style Guacamole with rather than one that looks like it been purèed. I like it to have lots of texture. As the Guacamole sits, the lime juice starts to break down the chunks of avocado giving my Chunky Style Guacamole a mixture of textures, but it’s never completely smooth.

I have a some diced red onion, a minced Fresno chili, diced and seeded plum tomatoes, the juice of a lime, and a container of store-bought fresh salsa. Yep, that’s my secret ingredient. You can find this salsa in the refrigerated section of the produce department, at your local grocery store. I like the medium, it’s not too hot but still has a slight kick.

Salsa is really close to being a Pico de Gallo in the sense that it has small diced tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, except that it also contains lime juice. I love to use fresh salsa as an ingredient, especially in guacamole. I also prefer my guacamole to be on the chunky side rather than completely smooth.

I prefer Haas avocados. They are super buttery in flavor. When I’m buying avocados, I hold them in the palm of my and squeeze gently. A ripe avocado should yield to, a firm, gentle pressure, but shouldn’t be overly soft or mushy. I look for ones where the skins have just turned brown in color, still pretty firm, yet have a slight give when you press on them.

Guacamole (6)

Guacamole (1)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 ripe Haas avocados, halved and pit removed (large dice)
1 seeded and minced Fresno chili (substitute jalapeno)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup of fresh salsa, mild, medium, or hot, (substitute 1/3 cup seeded plum tomatoes, fine dice)
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper

Directions:
Using a paring knife make slits in the flesh making sure not to go the way through the skin. I make a crisscross pattern and then scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Toss the chunks of avocado into a large mixing bowl. Add Kosher salt and black pepper. Next, add the diced onion, minced Fresno chili, cilantro, and lime juice. Using a hand-held sieve, drain the juice, as much as possible, from the salsa. Add the salsa to the rest of the ingredients. Mix gently to combine.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole. This will prevent air from getting to the avocados and causing the guacamole to turn brown.

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