Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Polenta panzanella

My love of panzanella and it's many variations has been documented a few times on the blog... here, here and here, at least. Any kind of chopped salad with fresh seasonal ingredients gets me pretty excited...

When I had a few girlfriends over for lunch recently, I concocted a variation I hadn't seen around before, but it seemed like it should exist: panzanella with polenta cubes standing in for the stale bread. I did a google search (my first line of research, naturally) and found it listed on a few restaurant menus, but no recipes themselves appeared in a cursory search. But, I figured it couldn't be too hard to figure out... I had the polenta left over from a weekend breakfast and was bound and determined to find a use for it!

Polenta panzanella
Serves 4 as a side dish
2 cups cooked and cooled polenta that's been spread to about a 1/2 inch thickness, then cubed
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 can (16 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Toss the polenta in bread crumbs and parmesan to coat, and then fry lightly and quickly in a hot saute pan so they brown and crisp up.

Drain the polenta cubes on a platter lined with paper towels to soak up any excess grease, and set aside.

Combine the next six ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, and then drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar lightly over the mixture. Stir again. Let sit for a half hour at room temperature to allow flavors to mingle.

Arrange polenta cubes on a serving platter and top with the tomato mixture and parmesan-bread crumb crumbles, if you're lucky enough to have a few of those fall off the polenta.

Serve immediately.

The frying step was the most challenging for me, but the fried crumbles of bread crumbs and parmesan that were left behind in the saute pan were one of the highlights of the dish. Truly yummy. I sprinkled them over the dish as I tossed the other, non-polenta, ingredients. Another google search found others with similar issues/concerns... I think next time I will have the pan hotter, and maybe coat the polenta in an egg wash before tossing in the bread crumbs and parmesan...

In all, this was a lovely surprise of a dish. I can imagine having it as a warm dish in the winter as well, making a kind of ratatouille stew over the top of the polenta cubes...


  1. Oh yum!! The kalamata olives make it even more so. I love polenta- we don't eat enough of it. I need to get some and throw it into some recipes. Nom nom nom- this looks delicious!

  2. That Chilli/Cheese Polenta that I make would work well here, right?

    What a great inspiration...this is the season of salads so here goes!

  3. You are just one creative genius! I would love to sit around your table.


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