Polenta is a nice side dish to many meals, and with additional ingredients added it can be a delicious vegetarian main dish too. It is made by boiling cornmeal until it is thick like porridge. You can eat it directly after cooking it with a little olive oil or butter and seasoning, or you can bake, fry or grill it. To make these polenta cakes you simply boil the cornmeal first and then spread it with a spatula into an oiled pan (about 1/2″ thick). Set it into the fridge to set for a few hours.
2 1/2″ of water
1/2″ of milk
1 cup of polenta (cornmeal)
1 teaspoon of salt
Slowly pour the cup of cornmeal (and salt) into the simmering water/ milk and stir until thickened. (this only takes a few minutes)
You can spread it evenly into the pan and then cut it into squares once it sets, or you can use a circle cookie cutter and cut it into perfect circles. Or….you can do what I did and I spoon it onto the oiled pan and press it into “free form circles”. (do not press with your fingers..I learned the hard way it is very hot! – so use a spoon)
While it is setting cut up some vegetables and saute them in a little olive oil. I used a mix of mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and red peppers. Set these aside.
Put a spoonful of a good marinara sauce on each polenta cake. Slice the bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls) and place a few pieces over the marinara sauce on each cake.
Bake these at 425 until the cakes are warmed through and the cheese is melted. To serve, arrange the still warm sauteed vegetables over each polenta cake along with some fresh basil leaves.
Serve & enjoy!
*Just as a note – if you have extra polenta cakes, wrap them up in saran wrap and save them for another time. (or freeze them)
Here is an example of what to do with any leftover polenta cakes. They make a great base to warm up and top with a poached egg and sauteed red cabbage & kale. A dollop of Harissa adds just the right touch of spice!