Our family has a favourite neighbourhood restaurant where we always go for our birthday dinners. It's pretty much a guarantee that will order the same things each time we go. We've tried all kinds of things on the menu, but always seem to come back to certain dishes that we love. One thing that never changes is the polenta appetizer that the four of us share. It has a tangy tomato sauce with salty olives and capers offset by spinach and a creamy goat cheese that all sits on top of a bed of crusted polenta.
I've never quite managed the beautiful crust on the polenta. I expect it's because I always flip it too soon, not having the patience to leave it long enough for a really good crust to form. Sometimes I cook it in the pan to allow it to heat through and then put it under the broiler to brown the top. However you do it, the dish is delicious and makes for a great light dinner or lunch. You could also put the sauce over fresh soft polenta, rather than cooling it and making polenta cakes as I did here. I used kale from my garden rather than the spinach. I left out the goat cheese for a vegan recipe, but then I went and ruined that by adding Parmesan cheese at the end. This polenta recipe makes a lot, so you can half the recipe, or have enough polenta cakes for six people. I use my own canned tomatoes for this recipe which have a bit of salt in them for preserving. So along with the olives and capers, there is no need to add extra salt to this.
6 cups water
1 tbsp salt
2 cups corn meal
1. Heat the water to boiling in a large pot. Add the salt. Add the corn meal in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and keep stirring until the corn meal has cooked, and pulls away from the sides of the pot as you stir. Pour the polenta into a pan large enough so that the polenta is about 1 1/2 thick. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
Tomato Sauce with Kale, Olives and Capers
1 tbsp olive oil + oil for cooking polenta
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 or 5 kale leaves, washed carefully and roughly chopped
1 16oz can tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 tbsp capers
Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. In a small skillet heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add garlic and cook for a minute until it is golden. Add kale leaves and cook until kale is wilted and just starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes and cook until the sauce comes together, about 5 minutes. Add the olives and capers and heat through.
3. In a large skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cut polenta into serving size cakes and add. Over medium high heat, allow the polenta cakes to form a crust, then flip once, to form a crust on the other side. Remove polenta cakes to a serving plate and spoon sauce over half of the cake. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if using. Serve immediately.