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Saturday, August 11, 2007


Recipe: Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta

Polenta is an amazing dish: it's just boiled cornmeal that's been allowed to cool and firm up in whatever shape container you've put it in. It is remarkably versatile. You can deep fry polenta slices, bake polenta with any of your favorite pasta sauces, mix herbs and spices into it, top it like a pizza... It's simple, tasty, healthy, and filling.

The basic recipe I use is for "polenta squares" from Vegetarian Times, which I see is posted on the web at LookSmart as Vegetarian menus that work when you do, Vegetarian Times, April, 1997 by Mary C. Rogers ( It's one of the simplest and fastest polenta recipes around, destroying the myth about having to spend hours over a molten pot of cornmeal. You can also buy premade polenta very inexpensively at health food stores. There's a brand I like that is moist and comes with sun-dried tomatoes in it - it is quite nice.

Using either homemade or purchased polenta, you can easily make this delicious dish.

-1 small pan of prepared polenta, about one half inch thick, or sliced into half inch thick slices (from the recipe link above or from a package)
-1 cup of marinara sauce
-2 - 3 cups of ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced
-4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled finely
-1/2 cup or so of fresh basil leaves, shredded.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a glass casserole dish or pie pan, spread the marinara sauce so it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Arrange the polenta slices densely over the sauce. Cover the polenta evenly with the remaining ingredients.

Bake for about an hour, uncovered. The sauce below and above the polenta will be boiling hot and the cheese will melt. The polenta itself is quite dense, and so the time in the oven is necessary for it to be heated completely through. If you become overwhelmed by the good smells coming from the oven before the hour is up, so long as the tomatoes have made a lovely sauce and cooked down a bit, you can try microwaving the dish to complete cooking (though that won't give the garlic as much time to mellow.)

Variation: replace some or all of the fresh basil with fresh, shredded oregano. Oregano and feta work very well together.

This is great with a small green salad and a simple wine.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:15 PM

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