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.