I hope that everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season and that the New Year finds all of you well and happy. Appetizers know no season.
As we continue with the appetizer theme, I will offer some that are all are gluten-free and can be made vegan. [By the way, did you know that Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies are vegan?]
Today our base is polenta:
Pictured below are:
Cooled stiff polenta with sautéed peppers , onions and parsley, made into patties and lightly fried. They are topped with hummus,(see previous post),
Herbed mashed potatoes,
Herbed sour cream or cream cheese, (silken tofu or vegan sour cream can be substituted),or
Baby corn marinated ,and broccoli dipped, in Italian salad dressing
Pepperoni and provolone
I also show stiff polenta wrapped in turkey bacon,( you can use vegan bacon) and
Wrapped in cheese.
I also show the marinated baby corn and dipped , cooked broccoli wrapped in cheese, as well.
Polenta is basically cornmeal, not to be confused with grits, which are…grittier. Grits use a courser-grind of cornmeal.
Polenta can and has been confused, however, with ” mush“. which is cornmeal cooked in water and salt alone,(basic polenta). In the southern parts of the U.S., it is usually cooked to full stiffness, cooled, then sliced and pan-fried; it is often served with syrup.
(Shortly after I moved to Kentucky, I left polenta and a pan of sausage sauce at a dinner at church.Before I could get back down to the kitchen, the women there had taken my sauce and added it to someone else’s barbequed cocktail wieners.They misunderstood me as I had rushed out …they thought that I was bringing caramel sauce back for the “mush”. What I made was eaten very quickly by the Locals, who were glad to see ‘mush’ offered, but I was advised that I should have fried it before serving! My sons wondered who cooked like me when they ate the wieners.)
Polenta often has cheese or herbs added to it while cooking.One can even add well-cooked vegetables to the mix; common ones are onions, peppers, broccoli.
You can , in some areas, buy polenta mixes or pre-made polenta in tubes, which are often in the freezer case of your supermarket.
Making it from scratch is easy:
1 part corn meal (not self-rising!)
4 parts water
which means use one-half cup of water to two cups of water; one cup of cornmeal to four cups,(one quart), of water; two cups of cornmeal to eight cups,( two quarts), of water, etc.
Add at least 2 tsp. salt per cup of cornmeal
Bring the water to a boil and slowly add the cornmeal to keep it from lumping. (I advise using a wire whisk.)
You can add parsley, grated cheese,(I always add a little grated Parmesan), plus onion or garlic powder, saffron , turmeric or any savory herb that you would like at this point; add any well-cooked vegetables at the end.
Stir continually over a medium high heat until your polenta is at a desired consistency…you want it very stiff to make appetizers.
You can leave the polenta for a few minutes if the heat is on low and you get right back and whisk it thoroughly. (Many Italian cooks would consider that last statement heresy, but it works.)
It’s a little more work but they should be made ahead of time and chilled. They could be made days ahead of time.
I have a few more samples to show you.I hope they inspire your own tatses.