Deconstructed Caprese with Pesto Polenta

I realized something about myself the other day; I am perpetually thinking about people, places, and things in terms of food.

When I met my boyfriend, I had no words to describe what I thought about him; all that I could manage to repeat over and over again was, “he’s a total onion.”  My girl friend looked at me like I was nuts.

“Cory, what?”

“He’s an onion. He has all these different layers you can peel off before you reach the core. I like that.”

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I will typically think of someone less-than-warm-and-friendly as an unripe cherry.

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Or perhaps a problem has been haunting me like lingering garlic breath.

Regardless, this makes for an interesting dialogue in my head and spurs a lot of creativity in my life.

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I was jonesing for some Italian the other day…something not too rich and heavy but something with a bold flavor that would still satisfy.  I had basil on my hands and fresh summer tomatoes on my mind…

So I turned my pipe dreams into pesto polenta.

Pesto made with phenolic antioxidant rich olive oil and fresh basil bursting with vitamin K is combined with creamy iron laden cornmeal.  This mixture is baked to perfection in a fresh red tomato, topped with protein and calcium high mozzarella cheese and drizzled with a delicious thick balsamic glaze.  This dish makes for a great entree or appetizer! And because it’s just so aesthetically pleasing, it’s perfect to serve up to friends (that is, if you feel like sharing.)

Deconstructed Caprese with Pesto Polenta

  • 4 large semi-ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4 oz basil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil + 1 T for garlic drizzle
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups corn meal
  • 4 thin sliced rounds of mozzarella cheese
  • balsamic glaze for drizzling
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (for da garlic…)
  2. Start by making the polenta!  Bring the 3 1/2 cups of water to a brisk boil over medium high heat.  Add in 1 tsp of the salt.
  3. Carefully pour the cornmeal into the water, whisking ever sooo gently.
  4. Keep whiskin’ until the cornmeal starts to get thicker than Colin Farrell’s eyebrows. No offense, Colin. Turn the heat down to low.
  5. Cook the polenta on low for about 35 minutes, stoping to whisk and scrape down the sides of the pot every 10 minutes.  Set aside.
  6. While the polenta is cooking, roast the garlic. I roasted the whole head…to do this, simply shop the top off the head of garlic, drizzle in a little olive oil (about 1 T), wrap in tin foil, and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, checking after 30.  The cloves are done when they are pierced with a fork and feel tender.  They should be a creamy consistency. To roast just the amount necessary, simply wrap several clove sin foil and roast in the same method above, but this may take less time so check on them frequently.
  7. Toast the pine nuts.  Reduce oven heat to 350 after garlic is done roasting.  Spread nuts out evenly on a piece of tin foil on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  Every oven is different, be careful not to burn them!  Stir and check them every couple minutes.  They’re done when they turn a light brown color.
  8. In a food processor, add in the olive oil, toasted pine nuts, basil, black pepper, and 2 tsp salt.  Process until relatively smooth.  Taste test and see if it needs more salt or pepper, or even more oil. It’s tempting to eat straight from the bowl with a spoon. Do not do this. Patience is a virtue…or some shiz.
  9. Gently stir the pesto into the polenta mixture.
  10. Next, carve out the inside of the each tomato with a small knife, first cutting the top stem off and then scooping out any gooey flesh.
  11. Fill each tomato with some pesto polenta (you will probably have leftover polenta)
  12. Place tomatoes in a baking dish and broil at 350 for about 7 minutes.  After 7 minutes, top each tomato with a mozzarella round and broil for another 1-2 minutes.
  13. Take out tomatoes, let cool, and drizzle a thick (or thin, whateva you got on hand) balsamic vinegar over each one.

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