Grilled Polenta Cakes with Diced Tomato Topping are a posh version of chips and salsa. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor combination is a keeper — but the ’90s are over. This updated appetizer puts a new spin on a classic taste.
When polenta is grilled, the outer edges crisp up and the ground corn toasts into a hearty cake. These polenta cakes don’t make delicate snacks — they’re sturdy enough to stand up to full-flavored toppings. Tangy tomatoes, zippy chilies, lime juice, and sour cream round out these party starters.

Spice things up

Ro*Tel is not new. The company was started back in the ’40s in Texas by a family who believed that canned fresh vegetables could enhance people’s recipes. The original mix contained tomatoes, spices, and chilies. Today, the product comes in a variety of flavors and is best known as the main ingredient in its famous queso dip.

What is polenta, anyway?

I was hoping you’d ask. Polenta is prepared by cooking coarsely ground cornmeal in liquid until it reaches a smooth consistency. It’s commonly served as a creamy side dish with rich and robust short ribs.

Polenta can also be spread thinly in a pan to set, then cut into pieces and baked or grilled as an accompaniment to barbecued meats and coleslaw.

I love polenta! And grilling it really brings out the corn flavor. The white wine is easy to pair; you just need something with body and oak. The red is a little trickier. It needs something with body but a little fat, so the avocado version does better with red wine than the cucumber version. Too much acid will dry the food out.