Secret Ingredient: Polenta
Rating: NNNNNDating back to Roman times, polenta is one of the oldest northern Italian dishes there is. Because it's considered.
Dating back to Roman times, polenta is one of the oldest northern Italian dishes there is. Because it’s considered a people’s food, southern Italians disparage their neighbours to the north as polentoni. But ever since the 80s, this multi-purpose cornmeal mush — it can be served as a breakfast porridge or fried, grilled or baked as a lunch/dinner main course — has moved far from its peasant roots to become a staple in trendy restaurants. While it’s easy enough to make from scratch, polenta can be bought in most cheese shops as either a pre-measured mix or already cooked in a tube.
Here’s a recipe for a Mediterranean-style tapenade similar to the one served at Solo on Yonge that can be spread on firm polenta. In a food processor, combine 12 pitted kalamata olives, 9 drained sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 teaspoon each of balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Pulse the motor — on/off, on/off — until the tapenade is very roughly chopped. Slice pre-fab polenta into 12 half-inch rounds. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. In batches of three or four, sauté about two minutes per side until golden. Or you can quickly grill the polenta slices on a barbecue, turning once. If frying, drain the polenta on paper towels. Once they’re cooked, spread each round with a spoonful of tapenade. Arrange on a platter, garnish with flat-leaf parsley and serve at room temperature.