Tag: salad

Polenta Tart with Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes have been in the stores now for a month or so.  But it’s when they start showing up at the farmer’s markets that you know they’re going to be amazing.  I found my first little baskets of these beauties this week. 

This is a fun dish to make and serve, it takes hardly any effort, but has a lot of presence.  It would be a great light alfresco lunch with a green salad and a glass of wine, or a beautiful centerpiece on a summer buffet table.

Polenta is such an easy dish to make, and I love how well it cooperates with whatever shape you want to make it in.  It pops right out of the springform pan and makes a perfect base for these tomatoes.

The tomato topping is basically just a form of the Italian ‘cecca’
sauce, which is an uncooked tomato sauce made with ripe tomatoes, a
little garlic, basil, and olive oil.  I add a little white wine vinegar
for a  pop of flavor.  It’s great over pasta or on toasted bread, too.

The keys to success with this dish are one, to season the polenta really well with butter and good quality cheese, and to use fresh ripe tomatoes.  The nice thing about this is that you can throw it together easily on a day when you happen to come across spectacular tomatoes.  You should always have a package of polenta in your cupboard and Parmesan cheese in the fridge anyway, so you should be good to go.

Polenta Tart with Fresh Tomatoes
serves 8

2 cups polenta (stone ground yellow corn meal)
4 cups water
2 cups milk (I used reduced fat)
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 generous pint multicolored cherry tomatoes
1 medium heirloom tomato (pick a pretty color!)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 tsp white wine vinegar 
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
salt and black pepper to taste
about 10 large basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
more Parmesan cheese for garnishing

  • 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.  (Note:  I did not use quite all of the polenta because 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.  You can remove it from the pan and then refrigerate it if you are not going to serve it shortly.
  • 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.  (Don’t do this earlier or the basil may turn dark)
  • Just before you are ready to serve it, put the polenta tart on a platter or large plate.  Spoon the tomatoes and their juices on top of the polenta.  Don’t worry if some fall off the side onto the plate, this is supposed to be a rustic dish.  Garnish with some more basil leaves and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. 
  • Slice with a sharp knife and serve with more cheese.

Notes:  This is meant to be served at room temperature, or slightly chilled.  Assemble your tomato topping about an hour before serving.   You can make the polenta base ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator, but tomatoes don’t do well in the fridge, and you want them to be as fresh as possible.

Aren’t tomatoes grand??

One year ago today—

Rosemary Pine Nut Shortbread Crackers

Chicken Tikka Masala

I made this for dinner and didn’t get too many shots of it, but it was good and I thought it was worth a share.  Chicken Tikka Masala is probably the most popular order in Indian restaurants, and I know it’s a lot of people’s favorite.  This dish is all about the sauce and the chicken; the name translates to chunks (tikka) of chicken in a mix of spices (masala).   It looks like a long list of ingredients, but the spices are listed twice, first for the chicken and again for the sauce.   And once you have the spices in your cabinet, it’s an easy recipe to put together.  It’s great the next day, too.

The chicken gets marinated in a luxuriously spiced yogurt and then blackened in the broiler to mimic the super hot tandoor ovens of India.  Like curry, garam masala is an Indian spice mix that varies quite a bit.  If you can’t find it you can buy it online.

Chicken Tikka Masala            ~~~adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 4
for the chicken:
1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

  • mix the yogurt with all the spices and coat the chicken on all sides.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to marinate.
  • Put the chicken on a foil covered baking sheet (leave the yogurt coating on) and put in the broiler for about 10 minutes until the surface starts to char.  The chicken will not be completely cooked, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Cut the chicken into large chunks and set aside.

for the sauce:
3 Tbsp light olive oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 can tomato paste
10 cardamom pods, crushed
4 small dried hot chilies, crushed, seeds and all
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala 
1 tsp salt
2 14 oz cans of good quality whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot and saute the onions, tomato paste, cardamom, chili, garlic, ginger and spices for about 10 minutes.  Stir often.
  • Add the tomatoes, crushing them through your fingers as you add them.  Cook the sauce for another 10 minutes, stirring often.  
  • Add the cream and 2 Tbsp of the fresh chopped cilantro.  Bring to a boil and let the sauce cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, and finish cooking for another 10 minutes. Add a little water if the sauce seems too thick.  Check the seasonings and add salt to taste.
  • Serve over basmati rice, garnished with more fresh cilantro.  Serve yogurt and chutney on the side.

 Notes:  To crush the cardamom pods, roll over them gently with a rolling pin, but don’t lose any of the precious little black seeds!   Be sure to chop your chicken in large chunks, it’s more authentic that way and it gives the dish a more appealing look.

You might want to try this with the Indian cheese paneer and maybe some big chunks of cauliflower in place of the chicken for a vegetarian version, and I think I’m going to try it with coconut milk in place of the cream, next time.

One year ago today—

Tomato and Beet Summer Salad

Humble Pasta Salad with Tuna

I was so excited to do something with Monday’s 30 second mayo, and this was the very first thing that popped into my mind.  I love this stuff, it’s my summer comfort food.  I make it in the morning and it just gets better as it sits all day in the fridge.  At the end of a hot day it’s waiting there for me like a cool breeze.

Ok, maybe that’s the open fridge door, but whatever.  Isn’t it
sometimes nice to celebrate the food we actually love to eat on a daily
basis.  It might be humble, but it’s so satisfying.  This is one of our favorite summer stand bys.  I look forward to it every year, right up there with fresh corn and ripe tomatoes.  Give me a cold glass of white wine and a plate of this and I’m in heaven.

The tuna and egg make this hearty enough for dinner, which is the key to the success of this salad for me.  The homemade mayo
makes it a little bit gourmet.  The fresh herbs, red onion and scallions
give it lots of flavor, the peppers give it crunch and the ripe tomato a
burst of summery juice.  For a humble pasta salad it really has a lot
going on.

Pasta Salad with Tuna
serves 4-5

2 cups pasta curls or elbows (measure out raw) cooked in salted water until just barely al dente
1 small can of your favorite tuna (I like solid white albacore in water)
1/2 medium red onion, minced
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 large bell pepper or several colorful minis, cut in small dice
1 tomato, cut in small dice
Several large spoonfuls of mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh dill, or you can use 1 tsp dried
1 tsp celery seed
fresh thyme leaves
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
a squeeze of lemon 
2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, cut in wedges

  • Mix the first 6 ingredients together with the mayo.  Measure in enough mayo to make the salad moist but not overwhelmed.  Add the herbs, celery seed, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the dash of lemon juice and then refrigerate the salad for at least a few hours.
  • When ready to serve, give the salad another toss, taste to see if you need more seasoning, or more mayo, (it will probably need something) and garnish with the sliced eggs

A great pasta salad is the birthright of every American family, what’s the secret to yours?
One year ago today—
Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

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