Basil Polenta Squares

Polenta is all the rage these days. It’s fun to see what chi-chi restaurants do with it, considering that Southern “grits” have been around forever and never achieved such a level of sophistication.

This is intended as a finger-food appetizer, but you could also cut the squares larger and serve them as a side dish, or put a square under a nice serving of chicken or fish stew.

4 C water
1 t salt
1 C coarse yellow cornmeal
2 C fresh basil, chopped
1 oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C parmesan cheese, grated

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan and add the salt. Add the cornmeal slowly (to avoid lumping) and stir it constantly. When it comes to a boil (watch out that you don’t get burned by the “blorps”!), turn the heat down and cook until very thick, about 30 minutes. That’s a long time to stand around stirring, so put on some good music or find a friend to hang out with you.

Stir in the basil and tomatoes. Grease a 10×15 jelly roll pan and pour the polenta into it, spreading evenly. Chill until firm. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Cool to room temperature and then cut into 1-1/2 inch squares.

Makes about 5 dozen appetizers.