Thursday, December 25, 2008

Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Polenta is one of those really fun foods... you can do so many different things with it. A few weeks ago I had a polenta appetizer at a restaurant where the polenta was sliced and grilled and then topped with a mixture of chopped veggies. So when I saw this recipe for Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade in The Christmas Table cookbook I knew I wanted to try it out for my family.

It is actually pretty simple to make. Prepare polenta, pour into a bread pan and chill. Something so simple yields a really nice alternative to crackers when serving to guests.

The combination of figs and kalamata olives may be off-putting to some. In face many of my relatives wrinkled their nose when I told them what was in this, but they all tried it and everybody loved it.

Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade
Makes about 75

Polenta Crostini
Olive-oil cooking spray
3 cups water
1 cup instant polenta
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiano-reggiano
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Fig Tapenade

1 1/2 cup stemmed and finely chopped dried black mission figs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. small capers, rinsed and blotted dry
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

To make the polenta crostini, generously grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with olive-oil cooking spray. Set aside.

In a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the polenta, salt and pepper and continue to stir constantly until the polenta has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust the heat to low if the polenta is bubbling too vigorously. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Pour the polenta into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top so it is level. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the polenta to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside until cool, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the polenta to firm up. (The polenta can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

To make the fig tapenade, place the figs and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the figs have softened and the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Transfer the figs to a medium bowl. Add the olives, pine nuts, vinegar, olive oil, capers, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix gently to combine. Transfer a serving bowl, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. (The tapenade can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before topping the crostini.)

To finish the crostini, position an over rack 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler. Unmold the polenta onto a cutting board, and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into thirds to form rectangles. Arrange the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and brush the tops with the olive oil. Broil until lightly golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before topping. (The polenta crostini can be broiled up to 3 hours before serving. Set aside at room temperature.)

To assemble and serve, place the polenta crostini on a large platter. Spoon a small dollop of the fig tapenade in the center of each rectangle. Serve immediately, or cover and set aside at room temperature for up to 45 minutes.

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