Polenta Caprese Stack

 

 

Polenta Caprese Stack

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.

Polenta Caprese Stack

Ingredients

  • 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)

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Polenta Caprese Stack

 

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

I know it sounds cliché, but this summer is passing at ridiculous speed.

I want to have time to blog, but I don’t. In fact, I barely even find the time to cook lately.  I’m blaming the kids (partly because it’s the easy thing to do. Ha!).  Even though they sleep late, giving the illusion that the days are unfolding at a lazy pace, once they are up…BOOM!  Between the endless stream of snacking, dirty dishes, teenage hangs, and driving (oh…and one is practicing for her driving test), the time for planning, blogging, and setting up photo shots is reduced to just about nothing.

Once I spied the four over-ripening bananas in the basket, I had this bread in the back of my brain.  I somehow managed to throw it together on a day when I worked an unscheduled day on the farm (even though I wasn’t feeling all too well), immediately followed by filling an emergency babysitting need for my daughter.

Summer, you are my favorite time of year.  Please slow down so we can cuddle a bit.

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread (adapted from Pastry Affair)

Ingredients

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sucanat sugar (or packed light brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, mash 3 of the bananas until chunky smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl (such as a stand mixer), cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.

Beat in the vanilla extract and mashed bananas until incorporated.

Add the flour mixture while mixing, alternating with the milk, until the flour and milk are completely mixed in.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana lengthwise and press into the top of the batter (such as in the photo).

Sprinkle top with cocoa nibs.

Bake in preheated oven 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

 

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