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Friday, April 27, 2007

Pan-fried Polenta Cakes with Tomato Sauce

Polenta loaf or log is a convenient prepare-ahead item and it keeps in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. To serve, simply cut some 2 cm slices from the loaf or log and pan fry in olive oil till both sides are crispy and the inside is warm. Garnish with sauteed onions and serve with favorite sauce.

To make polenta log or loaf: Cook the polenta in a rice cooker. 1 cup fine cornmeal with 1.5 to 2 cups water or stock. Some olive oil, Italian herbs, salt as needed. Combine it all in the rice cooker and cook in the regular cycle. When done in the rice cooker, allow to cool a bit. Stir in some more olive oil and pack it into a loaf pan or make a log using aluminum foil. Store in the fridge till it hardens and is ready to be cooked.

Sometimes I like to prepare this tomato sauce when tomatoes are in season and home-can them and store in the pantry so it is handy.

For the tomato sauce:
8-10 sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), soaked in hot water
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 12oz home-canned stewed tomatoes (store-bought is good too)
1 celery stalk, diced finely
8-10 cloves of garlic minced
½ sweet onion, diced
4 Tbsp cayenne pepper powder (adjust to taste)
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (adjust to taste)
4 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
4 Tbsp dried marjoram leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup red wine
salt to taste
water as needed
2 Tbsp olive oil


heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, onion, celery, basil, parsley, dry herbs/spices and a pinch of salt; sauté till aromatic

transfer the above into a blender or food processor, add all the tomatoes - sun dried, stewed and the paste, blend into a thick sauce adding some water as needed

heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the blended sauce, brown sugar, adjust salt to taste, add water as needed, and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat; then add the wine and simmer some more till flavors meld and the sauce feels rich and thick

Serve warm with baked polenta, or pan-fried polenta cakes, spaghetti or any favorite pasta.

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