Sunday, September 19, 2010

Polenta Triangles

I had an Event to go to last Friday that involved hanging around a bunch of people I barely knew and Making Nice. I don't do either of these things well, especially recently, when I've been most comfortable hiding as far away from Other People as humanly possible. When confronted with an Event of this nature, I tend to go into hyper-cook mode ("Hey! I may be socially awkward and visibly uncomfortable, but at least I cooked something tasty for you!"), and last Friday was no exception. I made: hummus, red quinoa salad, meringues (which turned out to be cookies. Oops.), sandwiches, crudités, and these polenta triangles. There are lots of takes on these flavorful bites out there; this one was adapted from a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe on The Guardian, but I left out the gooseberry relish nonsense in favor of a schmear of zahatar spread and a dusting of grated parmesan. I think you should use whatever gooey yumminess strikes your fancy - cheese, some sort of tapenade or relish or chutney or syrup, etc. Whatever you think would complement your other appetizer selections the best.


750ml water

3 t. salt, divided into 1 t. and 2 t.

170g quick-cook polenta

Grated zest of 1 lemon

About 3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 - 1 t. each of paprika, freshly ground pepper, cumin

Schmear, cheese, or chutney of your choice


  • In a small pan, bring the water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil and, stirring with a wooden spoon while you pour, slowly add in the polenta.

  • Reduce the heat and keep stirring until the polenta forms a ball and comes away from the edge of the pan – three to five minutes.

  • Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, the rest of the salt, other seasoning, and a tablespoon of the oil, and tip into an oiled, heatproof dish or roasting pan (I used wax paper on one of those cookie sheets with a 1/2 inch edge, but use whatever you can find that works). Level with a spatula so you get an even, 1cm-thick layer. Leave to cool completely.

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Tip the set polenta on to a board and cut into six triangles (or 12 half-size ones, if you prefer). Or just cut it in the pan, taking care not to scratch the surface, because those things are expensive to replace.

  • Heat a frying pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil until it starts to smoke, then fry the polenta in batches for two minutes a side, until golden brown, then transfer to a tray lined with baking paper.

  • Crumble or grate cheese over the polenta if you wish, then bake until the cheese begins to melt – two to three minutes. Transfer to plates, spoon a tablespoon of chutney, relish, or schmear of something or other on each wedge and sprinkle with an herb, perhaps. Like chopped parsley or basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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