Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Polenta Cakes with Dried-Tomato and Olive Relish

Side dishes typically take a backseat to the main course, but what you serve next to the star of dinner enhances the entire meal. When you have time to do something a little special with the side, try polenta with a rich, caramelized tomato and salty olive relish. Add some shredded provolone to the cornmeal as it cooks for creamy, cheesy texture and taste.

Quick-cooking polenta is easy to work with and you can bake it ahead of time, then re-warm before serving. NoteI lined the baking dish with parchment paper simply to keep the polenta from sticking to the dish. The paper may prevent a perfectly square-shaped result, but that “rustic” look is more appealing anyway!

The tomatoes can be made the day before. Refrigerate them overnight drizzled with a little olive oil in a sealable container. They’ll be ready to warm with the olives just before dinner.

Serves 4


For the Dried-Tomato and Olive Relish
  • 3 large roma tomatoes, cut into 1/10-inch-thick slices
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green and black olives
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For the Polenta Cakes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 2/3 cup shredded provolone

For the Dried-Tomato and Olive Relish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a large, shallow baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Lay the tomato slices in a single layer on the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Place the tomatoes in the oven and dry until very soft and beginning to wrinkle, about 1 hour. 
  4. When cool enough to handle, remove the tomatoes to a cutting board and coarsely chop. (If you’re making them a day ahead, place the chopped tomatoes in a sealable container and drizzle with olive oil.)
Tomatoes Ready to Dry 
Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Chopped Dried Tomatoes 
  1. Heat a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (Reduce the amount of oil if the tomatoes were stored in oil overnight.) Add the dried tomatoes and olives and season lightly with salt. Cook until hot throughout, 3-4 minutes.
Warmed Dried Tomatoes and Olives
For the Polenta Cakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium pot. Stir in the oil and season with salt. Slowly stir in the polenta.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir constantly 1 minute. Stir in the provolone and continue stirring until the cheese has melted and the polenta is creamy, 3-4 minutes.
Polenta Poured into Broth 
Cheese Stirred In
Creamy Polenta
  1. Pour the polenta mixture into the baking dish and bake until firm, 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool 10 minutes.
Polenta Ready to Bake
Baked Polenta 
Sliced Polenta
Cut the polenta into squares and serve with relish spooned on top.

Polenta Cakes with Dried-Tomato and Olive Relish

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