Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pan-Seared Polenta with Spicy Tomato Basil Sauce

Polenta is an ancient cornmeal dish that was eaten by peasants in Europe and by the native people in the Americas. It is very similar to the cornmeal dishes found in Africa. Although it is frequently referred to as a Traditional Italian dish, it was eaten only in Northern Italy and can honestly be claimed as a traditional dish in many countries.

Despite its humble origins, polenta was "discovered" by the in crowd and is frequently found at the most la-de-da soirees. Isn't it great when something is healthy and stylish at the same time? How often does that happen?

Polenta is essentially corn meal mush. A bit like grits, really. It makes a wonderful foundation for flavorful sauces and toppings. You can make it at home, and I will do that next time. It is a time consuming process, so for this experiment, I purchased an Italian polenta that comes in a giant tube like the cookie dough comes in. It had been a long week, and I wanted something good, but reasonably quick.

This was our first experience with polenta, and we both knew immediately it would not be our last.
Pan Seared Polenta with Spicy Tomato Basil Sauce

Spicy Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced (any onion can be used)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely crushed
  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped and divided
  • 1/4 cup wine (dry white or red both work well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
Place 1 cup crushed tomatoes in blender. Add pine nuts. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

Heat oil in large skillet or heavy pot. Add onion, garlic, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper. Saute about 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add the remaining crushed tomatoes, half the basil, the oregano and the wine. Add the tomatoes and pine nuts from the blender. Cook 5 to 6 minutes so that the flavors blend. Stir in remaining basil. Serve over pan seared polenta. Garnish with basil leaves and good Paremsan cheese.

Pan Seared Polenta
  • 6 - 8 polenta rounds, sliced about 3/8" thick
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil
Dip the polenta slices in egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Saute in olive oil, about 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Adapted from bon appetit January 2010

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