Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parmesan-Polenta Crostini with Thyme

Parmesan-Polenta Crostini with Thyme
As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate
Makes about 24 pieces (recipe can easily be doubled)

2 cups water
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup fine grain polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground coarse black pepper
1 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves

Special equipment, very helpful for this recipe:
2 large, shallow rimmed baking sheets of about the same size.


In a heavy saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add salt, the nutmeg and reduce the heat to the medium. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes as the mixture bubbles. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins pull away from the sides of the pan (this should take about 10 minutes.) Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine thoroughly.

This step is the easiest way to make an even layer of the polenta, (the idea is to sandwich the polenta between 2 flat surfaces.) Here's how:

Invert one rimmed baking sheet on a countertop (so it is bottom side up) and place a sheet of parchment paper on the pan (adding a couple of drops of water between the paper and the pan will prevent it from slipping so much. Next spread the polenta out with a spatula into a smooth, even layer. Cover the polenta with another sheet of parchment paper, then place another baking sheet (right side up this time) on top of the parchment. With 2 hands, press down evenly on the top baking sheet until the polenta is about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

When ready to bake:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F) Invert the baking sheets together and remove the top baking sheet and the top layer of parchment paper. (This will assure that the smoother side of the polenta will be facing up.)

With a knife cut the polenta into triangle about 2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. Transfer the triangles to 1 or more baking sheets, spacing them 1/2-inch apart. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining thyme on top of triangles.

Bake until hot throughout and starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and broil the crostini about 8 inches from the heat source until crispy and golden brown on top, about 3 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Delicious, and I hope you enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green Bean and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad

Green Bean and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad

As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a PlateServes 4

Note: You can roast the cherry tomatoes ahead of time; roast then allow to cool and place in a glass container with cover and refrigerate until time to assemble the dish. Allow the tomatoes to come to room temperature before serving for optimum flavor.

Cherry tomatoes, as many as you like
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for dressing, see below)
1/4 cup nuts, toasted (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews.)
1 pound fresh green beans, trim stem end, and cut crosswise into 2 1/2 inch segments
Few springs of fresh basil leaves (If not in season, omit)

Dressing ingredients:
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon agave syrup, OR honey
1/4 or a little more cup good olive oil

Position oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 225* (F) Line a shallow sheet pan with parchment paper, set aside.

To roast the cherry tomatoes:Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and arrange them, cut sides up on the parchment- lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil. Place tomatoes in oven until slightly dried, wrinkled a bit, but still moist. This will take approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours or so.

While tomatoes are roasting, prepare the nuts and the dressing:

Toast the nuts either in a small (dry, no oil) pan over medium-low heat, gently tossing the nuts in the pan frequently, until they just begin to turn light brown (or you can toast in oven.)

To make the dressing:
Combine the red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, agave syrup (or honey), and olive oil in a bowl or jar with tight fitting lid. Either whisk or shake vigorously until mixture is homogonized. Taste, then adjust for seasonings, add salt and pepper if desired.

To cook the beans:Prepare a large bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. Steam or boil the green beans until they just crisp-tender, and have not lost their bright color; only 3 to 4 minutes if boiled. Drain and place immediately into the ice water bowl. Swish the beans around and as soon as they are cooled remove to a collander to drain thoroughly.
To assemble:On a large platter or plate, arrange the green beans, sprinkle with the tomatoes (including any residual oil from roasting, drizzle with dressing, shower with the toasted nuts, then finally the fresh basil (if using.)
The flavors are brightest if this salad/side dish is served at room temperature.

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