Polenta – a dish made of yellow or white cornmeal boiled in water or stock into a thick, solidified porridge – is a popular cooking staple throughout central Europe, particularly northern Italy, France, and Switzerland. While I’d eaten it on a handful of occasions in the United States – usually at an Italian restaurant – I’d never before cooked with polenta until giving this recipe a try. I was pleasantly surprised – its remarkably easy to prepare and can be formed and set into virtually any shape. It doesn’t have a great deal of flavor on its own, but with the addition of a flavorful stock or cheese, polenta is a wonderful base for meat stews, seafood, or vegetables.
This colorful wee tart – recipe courtesy of The View from Great Island – was a huge hit in our household! The tomatoes were delicious – a bit reminiscent of a chunky bruschetta topping – and looked absolutely beautiful arranged atop the bright yellow polenta base. My husband – who usually grumbles his way through anything vegetarian – ate 3/4 of the tart on his own. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is!
PARMESAN POLENTA TART WITH HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
Yields | 8 servings
Inspiration | The View from Great Island
- 2 cups polenta (stone ground yellow corn meal)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups reduced fat (2%) milk
- 1 tsp salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnishing
- 1 generous pint multicolored cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium heirloom tomato
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 or 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 10 large basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
- Bring the water, milk and salt to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot. Slowly add in the polenta, stirring to avoid lumps. Lower the heat and let it cook gently for about 15 minutes. You will have to stir it most of the time. I like to use a silicone spatula. Be careful because the polenta with splatter as it bubbles, and it’s hot.
- Take it off the heat and add the butter and the cheese. Mix well. Add some fresh cracked black pepper, and then taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
- Pour the polenta into a greased 9″ springform pan or tart dish. (Note: I ended up using only 3/4 of the polenta, as I didn’t want my tart to be too thick.) Smooth it out quickly so the top is level. The polenta will begin to set up immediately. Let the polenta cool.
- Meanwhile, make the tomato topping. Do this no more than one hour before you want to serve the tart. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half. You can cut the larger ones in wedges, and leave the very tiniest ones whole. Chop the regular sized tomato in small chunks. Put them in a bowl with all the juices and add the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature to allow the juices to flow and mingle for up to an hour. Just before you are ready to put the tart together, chop the basil and add it to the tomatoes. (Note: don’t do this earlier, as the basil may turn dark)
- Just before you are ready to serve it, spoon the tomatoes and their juices on top of the polenta. Garnish with any remaining basil leaves and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.
- Slice with a sharp knife and serve with more cheese.