Sometimes circumstances come together in a way that make a certain dish a necessity. This particular dish was motivated most of all by my flourishing pot of Thai basil. This being the first year I’ve grown Thai basil, I was anxious to try it out. I also want to make the most of it before I move out of the country in two weeks, leaving my pots of herbs behind. The impending move is also motivating The Great Cupboard and Freezer Clean Out of ‘11. In this case, an underused bag of cornmeal screamed out at me.
I also gave into the siren call of Monforte Dairy’s “Spadina” cheese at the Waterloo market. Spadina is a soft goat cheese mixed with burnt honey. The goat cheese is slightly sweet, but a plain variety also works for this recipe.
And, so given these contingencies: flourishing basil, screaming cornmeal, and alluring goat cheese, I concocted a dish suitable for Keira.
These polenta bites work as part of meal, as a snack, or even as an appetizer for dinner guests. You can top them in ways other than what I’ve done. A tomato or onion jam would be nice. You could cut them into fingers and dip them in a thick tomato sauce. You could change up the herbs completely – replace the basil with a smaller amount of rosemary. Think of this recipe as a template for what is in season, what you have on hand, and what is screaming to be used up.
Herbed Polenta Bites
500ml homemade vegetable broth
80g quick-cooking cornmeal/polenta (you can use the traditional kind, but it takes longer to cook)
10g unsalted butter
1/8tsp sea salt
a few grinds of pepper
about 10g basil, minced (I used Thai, but other varieties are fine)
80g soft goat cheese
40g plain yogurt
small basil leaves for garnish (I used purple to contrast with the green in the polenta)
Lightly grease a 20cm pan.
In a medium pot, bring the broth to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, turn the heat down to a simmer, and use a spoon to constantly stir the mixture. The polenta is cooked when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, but is still runny. This will take only a few minutes.
Take the pot off the heat, stir in the butter, salt, pepper, and basil. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Once the polenta has cooled a bit, cover it and refrigerate until completely cold (a few hours or overnight).
Once the polenta is cold and solid, cut it into 16 pieces. In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese and yogurt together to make a mixture that can be dolloped, but won’t run off. Adjust the amount of cheese and/or yogurt as necessary.
Arrange the squares of polenta on a platter. Dollop about a teaspoon of the goat/yogurt mixture on top of each square, and then garnish each with a small basil leaf. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as an appetizer