Polenta Napoleon

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

I saw something close to this recently in a Santa Barbara deli. It looked so amazing I went home and immediately began creating the recipe below.

The original was three layers high and cut into three-inch squares. My version is round and not as tall which I think makes for better presentation. In addition, with polenta having originated in the Friuli–Venezia Giulia region of northern Italy, my recipe has the colors of the Italian flag: green layer (fresh pesto), white layer (fresh mozzarella), and red layer (roasted red pepper).

Be sure to buy a nicely-aged Modena balsamic vinegar. It will make all the difference when you serve this appetizer to friends and family!

Polenta Ingredients:
2 cups plus ½ cup boiling water
½ cup medium-ground polenta
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary (chopped fine)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Pesto Ingredients:
2½ cup packed fresh basil
½ cup packed fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic (chopped)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Roasted Pepper Ingredients:
2 red bell peppers

Additional Ingredients:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
16 ounces fresh Mozzarella

Polenta Directions:
Fill a pan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Bring a second saucepan with 1/2 cup water to a simmer, cover, and set aside (I use my stovetop tea kettle for this). Whisk polenta, salt, pepper, and herbs into the first pan of boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring continually until polenta thickens and begins to bubble. Stir in ¼ cup of the simmering water and cook while continuing to stir until absorbed. Repeat with remaining water until polenta is soft and creamy. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, for desired consistency. Stir in the Mozzarella cheese and turn out onto a cutting board dusted with polenta grain. Spread until you have a -inch slab. Be sure to spread polenta out evenly so you can get 8 evenly cut rounds for assembly.

Pesto Directions:
In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, Parmesan, olive oil, and garlic. Process until smooth. Season with the salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Roasted Pepper Directions:
Cut bell pepper into eight pieces as you might an apple. Remove any seeds and ribbing from the inside. Place pieces on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and place in the oven on the middle rack. Roast under broiler until skins just begin to blacken – about 4 – 5 minutes. Turn bell pepper pieces over and roast for another 4 minutes. Remove from oven, place in a bowl and cover with a towel to keep warm. Set aside.

Balsamic Glaze Directions:
Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half – about 3 – 4 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Assembly Directions:
Using a biscuit cutter (2½ to 3-inches in diameter), trim the mozzarella slices to create 8 rounds of cheese. Using the same biscuit cutter, cut 8 rounds from the polenta.

Place polenta rounds on the cookie sheet and place on the first rack directly under the broiler. Broil each side for about 1 minute. Remove from oven.

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

To make stacks, place a round of mozzarella on top of one of the polenta rounds. Spread a tablespoon of pesto on top of the moz. Top with a slice of red pepper. Repeat again so that you have two layers. Insert toothpick in top of stack to keep it together (if necessary). This will make 4 total stacks.

Drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic reduction in the middle of four separate plates. Carefully place one polenta stack on each plate. Spoon additional balsamic reduction on top and serve immediately.

About Valley Vegetarian

Providing consistently good vegetarian comfort food recipes. Real food for real people.
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