Sometimes I get the overwhelming urge to try something completely new and unheard of, or at least in my kitchen.
This week was one of those times, when I was getting bored of the same old recycled recipes that get passed over from one cookbook to another. In a quick random browse through Maru Botana’s monthly food magazine, I found the perfect, ideal recipe to be tested.
It looked foolproof, colourful, simple, and delicious. (But I had to test that out to be sure).
Her recipe actually called for a mushroom and broccoli topping on top of baked polenta bruschetta, but I wasn’t in a mood for broccoli. Since I love bruschetta the classic way – piled high with a mix of tomatoes and onions, drizzled in olive oil and complete with a hint of oregano – I decided I was going to make mine the way I liked it.
Maru’s recipe also called for grilling the polenta bruschetta, but I was determined on baking mine in the oven, in my quest to (finally) start a healthier eating lifestyle. Polenta in one hand and onions and tomatoes in the other, I set out to experiment and was desperately crossing my fingers (and toes – yes every one of them), hoping and praying that this amended recipe would work out.
Ladies & gentlemen, may I tell you, I am very pleased that it did.
While I’ll warn you that you may be used to eating polenta the more common way (with a texture similar to that of mashed potatoes), this way is fun and fresh, a nice touch to a typical bruschetta, and a happy colour to brighten up your table.
What on earth is polenta?
If you’re wondering what polenta is, Wikipedia tells us that polenta is coarsely or finely ground yellow or white maize (cornmeal) used as a foodstuff. It is cooked by boiling to a paste in water or a liquid such as soup stock, and may be eaten with other ingredients. After boiling, it may be baked, fried or grilled; leftover polenta is often used this way. Polenta has a smooth, creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain, though it may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or a particularly hard grain such as flint corn is used..
Polenta takes a long time to cook, typically simmering in four to five times its volume of watery liquid for about 45 minutes with almost constant stirring, necessary for even gelatinization of the starch. Some alternative cooking techniques are meant to speed up the process, or not to require supervision. Quick-cooking (cooked, instant) polenta is widely used and can be prepared in a few minutes; it is considered inferior to cooking polenta from unprocessed cornmeal and not ideal for eating unless baked or fried after simmering.
Polenta is usually eaten as a boiled paste, topped with some variant of tomato sauce:
It was the first time I was making polenta, and I decided on using the instant kind, which could be made in 10 minutes instead of an hour (you’ve probably figured out how much I like quick and easy methods by now). I ran with the flow, betting it would turn out well even if it was instant polenta, and thankfully it didn’t fail!
A nice alternative to toasted bread, this polenta bruschetta can be accompanied with any type of topping imaginable, is quick to make, easy to keep, and a great way to start a meal.
POLENTA BRUSCHETTA & TOMATO-ONION TOPPING (Makes 18 portions)
1) 2 cups of instant polenta mix
2) 6 cups of water
3) 2 large tomatos
4) 1 large onion
5) A handful of dried Oregano
6) Salt and olive oil to taste
1) Boil water in a pot until it reaches boiling point, then remove pot from fire
2) Pour instant polenta mix in the form of rainfall, and stir mixture continuously for next 2 minutes or until it reaches desired consistency
3) Pour cooked polenta in tray and flatten evenly till it reaches about 1 – 1.5cm thickness and refrigerate for 1 hour
4) Once the polenta has hardened a little, cut out circles using cookie mould or a cup, and place in a greased baking tray
5) Bake for 40 minutes approximately (or until polenta bruschetta is crusty on outside)
6) Meanwhile chop tomatoes and onions in dice-sized pieces and mix together with salt and olive oil
7) Serve a spoonful of tomato-onion topping on the polenta bruschetta and sprinkle dried oregano over
Instant polenta mix:
Boil water until it reaches boiling point, then remove from fire:
Pour instant polenta mix in the form of rainfall:
Stir mixture continuously for next 2 minutes:
Until it reaches desired consistency:
Pour cooked polenta in tray and flatten evenly till it reaches about 1 – 1.5cm thickness and refrigerate for 1 hour:
Greased baking tray:
Once the polenta has hardened a little, cut out circles and place in baking tray:
Mix onions and tomatoes together, with salt & olive oil to taste:
Freshly-baked polenta bruschetta:
Serve a spoonful of tomato-onion topping on the polenta bruschetta and sprinkle dried oregano over: