Polenta Toasts with Balsamic Onions, Roasted Peppers, Feta, and Thyme
Serves 16 (serving size: 2 triangles)
Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee; Styling: Kaitlyn Du Ross
3 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup dry polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 thyme sprig
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
How to Make It
Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Spoon polenta into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Press plastic wrap onto surface of polenta; chill 2 hours or until firm.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; swirl to coat. Add garlic; sauté 15 seconds. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, onion, and thyme sprig; sauté 3 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Reduce heat to low; cook 30 minutes or until onion is very tender, stirring frequently. Add vinegar; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Discard thyme sprig.
Invert polenta onto a cutting board; cut into 16 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat polenta triangles with cooking spray. Add 16 triangles to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining triangles.
Divide onion mixture, bell pepper, and feta evenly among triangles. Garnish with thyme leaves.
I had dried polenta so made from scratch night before in 7x11pan (perfect). Sauteed onions/garlic, and chopped the peppers in morning so thought it would be smooth sailing. Packed up for to my family's house for Mother's day. Polenta flips out easily but browning took more than 5m/side. Having to turn and then remove 32 triangles was very time-consuming, so I had to enlist my niece to add toppings to the 1st batch so it didn't cool down, and guests were ready to eat apps. Luckily they had some small tongs but needed to also use fingers. The toppings were flavorful - but even my mom asked if there was any salt in the recipe, so would add more to the polenta (in addition to the pinch of pepper I added). The triangles are pretty and different - but unless I could find a way to brown the whole block (or maybe the squares) and then cut, it takes too long to make and I couldn't tend to my other dishes. Tastes better warm, you can't make much in advance unless it can stay in a warmer.
I'm a seasoned cook, but would never spend 3 hours preparing just one hors d'oeuvre recipe. I used premade polenta in a pouch. Can be purchased in the health food section of most grocery stores and often available in different flavors. I sauteed the polenta the day before and refrigerated them after cooling. I did the same with the onion and chopped the peppers. The next day, just heat in the microwave and assemble.
Made this for a party where we served an assortment of appetizers. It was okay, but not outstanding. Only about half gotten eaten. (Granted, we probably made too much food!) It took more work and time than anything else we made, so I don't think it was worth the trouble. I rated it 2 stars, because with some doctoring (as the other reviewer suggested) it might be improved, but frankly, I'm not going to make it again. Notes on the recipe: 1/4 c feta is way too much (try half that amount) and the polenta came out much thicker than in the photo -- even though I used the 8" square pan the recipe specifies. Also, medium heat on my range did not even begin to brown the polenta after 10 minutes -- twice the time specified. I had to crank the heat up to medium high and do another10 minutes per side. Rather frustrating when guests are arriving any minute. Threw my timetable way off. I did prepare the polenta and onions the day before, and that worked fine.