Sometimes the universe aligns itself and sends me a clear message about what to make for dinner. That happened in the last couple of days. This week when I popped up to Hilltop Hanover Farm to get my CSA I noticed they had a new batch of Wild Hive Farm polenta on the table. Their polenta is just about the tastiest I have come by, and I use it all the time. On the same day I happened to find myself at the market buying a few things for dinner and spotted a magazine on the newsstand. The title was “Tomato Recipes, Taste Summer!” I picked it up as I was waiting in line and the first image I saw was a polenta tart. Polenta can seem daunting, but honestly it is really easy to make. Usually it’s served under a super fancy stew or braised meat which gives it an elusive appeal. Fear not, all you need is a little patience and really good product.
The topping for this tart is entirely up to you. I used what I had from the farm share. The only bit of direction I will give is to make sure all your cuts are about the same size, and keep them small.
I used a 9″ removable bottom tart pan. If your pan is smaller or larger just adjust the polenta. The ratio is 1 part polenta to 3 parts liquid. My 9″ took 3/4 cup perfectly. If your pan is 10″ adjust up to 1 cup. Conversely, if the pan is 8″ dial it back to 1/2 cup.
Couple of notes:
I used an aged gouda for the cheese. Really because that is what I had in the ‘fridge. Generally fontina is the cheese of choice for polenta. Friends, there are no hard and fast rules here. Just use a cheese you like and something that will not overpower the polenta. Manchego would be very nice as well.
I also did a little pre-cook and after-rest. Cook the polenta first for about five minutes, then add the vegetables on top. That will give the polenta a head start on coming together and the vegetables won’t sink down. The vegetables finished roasting before you even get the polenta in the pan, so that will give them a chance to cool and be easy to handle. Be a little mindful of your arranging. Spread things around and make them look pretty. This little tart is a show-stopper!
Last note, once it comes out of the oven let it sit on the stove for at least 45 minutes. The goal is to have the polenta easy to slice and serve. Think quiche, soft yet dense. I served this with a slice of crusty bread, a nice salad and homemade balsamic-basil vinaigrette. It’s perfect for either lunch, a light supper or even as part of a buffet.
Roasted Summer Vegetable and Polenta Tart
Serves 6 – 8
4-5 cups of various summer vegetables, see note
½ onion, ½ “ slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
¾ cup fine grind polenta
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz. aged gouda cubed, see cook’s note
1 – 2 teaspoons of freshly stripped thyme leaves
1 – 2 teaspoons of freshly stripped oregano leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. Cut the vegetables in ¾” pieces. Leave the tomatoes whole if they are small. Toss them all, along with the onions with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes. The vegetables will be done a little before the polenta. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
3. While the vegetables roast make your polenta. Lightly fry the garlic in a small heavy bottom pot, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the garlic turns opaque and sizzles add 2 ¼ cups of warm water to the pot and bring it to a light boil. Sprinkle in the polenta stirring vigorously with the whisk. Keep stirring as it comes back to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the bottom does not burn. Add ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. After 10 minutes add the cheese and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to melt the cheese and keep the bottom from sticking.
4. Spray a 9” removable bottom tart pan with vegetable spray. Place it on a foil lined, rimmed sheet. Scrape the polenta into the pan, smoothing the top and bake for 5 minutes. This will help set it up a little. Remove from the oven and spread the vegetables evenly over the polenta. Top with the fresh thyme and oregano. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 45 minutes. This will allow the polenta to set up completely.
5. Remove the tart ring and serve topped with fresh basil and a nice salad.
I used a combination of fairy tale eggplant, sungold tomatoes and zephyr summer squash. Use what you have, just keep them generally all the same size. Depending on the size of the various vegetables you may end up with a little more, or less. Don’t worry. If you have a bit more that will just mean a slightly higher mound over the the polenta. I would suggest no more than 5 cups.