ahhhh…we consumed the first local tomatoes of the season yesterday.
I know that our friends to the south have been enjoying tomatoes for several weeks, but the Maryland harvest has been delayed due to the mild summer we’ve been experiencing. I had just started to hear reports from friends that their backyard tomatoes were beginning to ripen , so I was hopeful that this would be the first week we would have them at the farm where I work as a packer.
Next to eating them straight up sliced on a plate with a bit of sea salt, this is the purest way I can think of to experience a homegrown tomato. The addition of store bought polenta (feel free to make your own if you’re feeling ambitious) makes it a heartier salad.
- one 18 ounce tube of polenta, sliced
- one medium ripe tomato, sliced
- 6-8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced
- basil leaves
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- pinch of crushed red pepper
Cook the polenta:
You can do this a number of ways.
Saute (my preferred way if I'm not grilling it. It gives the polenta a slightly crispy golden crust, while the inside stays creamy): Heat a large skillet and add approximately 1 Tbsp olive or grape seed oil. Add slices of polenta to the skillet and cook about 7-8 minutes. Turn polenta over carefully and continue to cook on the other side another 5-7 minutes or until slightly golden.
Bake it: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lay the polenta slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake approximately 10 minutes.
Grill it: Preheat a grill on low. Grill polenta slices on a grate oiled with olive oil approximately 10-12 minutes or until golden, flipping halfway through.
Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction:
Add the vinegar, honey, and crushed red pepper to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium low heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes.
Stack your layers:
Polenta - tomato - mozzarella - basil - polenta - tomato - mozzarella - basil - polenta
Top with balsamic sauce and more basil (if desired)