Updating Your App Arsenal
rilled 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.
Please every palate
Diet restrictions can bring out the worst recipe ideas in all of us. We freeze up and lose our creativity, and suddenly there we are, offering up rabbit food and hummus.
But it turns out you can offer delectable, edible food that will please everyone. I served this appetizer at a vegan/gluten-free party recently and there were no complaints — even the meat-eaters came back for seconds. As long as you omit the sour cream for vegans, you really can feed a diverse crowd with this recipe. Polenta is a great gluten-free snack that still satisfies the carb craving that comes with imbibing wine.
Grilled Polenta Cakes with Diced Tomato Topping
- 1 can of Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and chilies
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño pepper, seeded
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 package of precooked polenta
- Preheat indoor grill to 450°F, the SEAR setting (232°C).
- Drain the can of tomatoes and chilies in a fine mesh strainer. Add cucumber and peppers and shake gently to allow as much liquid to drain out as possible.
- Transfer mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and lime juice. (At this stage you can choose to purée this mixture in a blender or food processor or leave as is.)
- Slice the precooked polenta into 20 cakes, each about ¼ inch thick, discarding the two end pieces.
- Gently brush both sides of each polenta cake with remaining olive oil and sprinkle one side with a pinch of salt.
- Lay all 20 cakes onto the hot grill, evenly spaced. They will immediately sizzle. Carefully close the grill top onto the cakes and set the timer for 10 minutes. Allow the polenta to grill the full time, untouched.
- Lift the grill top and look for golden brown grill marks. If necessary cook longer, minutes at a time to avoid burning.
- With a non-stick, heat-proof spatula, remove the polenta from the grill to a cutting board or platter.
- While still warm, top each cake with a full teaspoon of salsa and a small dollop of sour cream. Finish with a sprinkling of chives. Serve immediately.
- For a richer topping, swap out the cucumber for a whole, diced avocado.
- If time’s an issue, use store-bought salsa and sour cream dips.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own homemade polenta. Spread in a smooth layer in a baking sheet to cool and set, then cut into 3-inch squares for grilling.