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Plentiful Polenta Poppers

I was lucky to grow up in a home that celebrated Italian cooking – real Italian cooking. I can remember polenta being served on at least a weekly basis. However after moving around and losing touch with Italian relatives, polenta seemed to have dropped from our meal planning. We recently entertained at home with a huge crowd and declared that the food would be “Italian” style. Everyone claimed what they wanted to bring and it seemed like all the usual recipes were chosen.

I was pondering what kind of appetizers to make while wandering the grocery store aisles. I stumbled across polenta, and remembered my grandmother making a polenta-based appetizer. When I searched the website, this cool recipe for Polenta Bruschetta popped onto my phone screen! Awesome!

Ok, many of you might even be asking “what actually is polenta?” It’s basically a blend of cooked corn meal and water that you can use in many recipes. If you are trying to find it, check the specialty or Italian foods section in the grocery store. You’ll see it in the grocery stores looking like this:

In making polenta bruschetta, think about a small fried polenta hash brown covered in mozzarella cheese and topped with bruschetta – it’s amazing and really simple to make.

You can make the bruschetta topping quickly and easily by chopping 5 plum tomatoes and combining them with 4-5 finely-chopped basil leaves, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If short on time, pick up about a pint of pre-made bruschetta. My local grocery store has a great salad/olive bar section where they make it fresh daily. Since I was hosting the party and preparing the house for guests, I found this option to be extremely helpful.

Another time saver around our kitchen is Sauté Express® squares. If you don’t keep a box of Sauté Express® squares in the fridge, pick some up. The Italian Herb variety is great to have on hand because you can use it in pasta, chicken and with tons of other go-to recipes for quick and easy dinners.

Time to prepare the polenta! Slice the polenta into 1/2-inch rounds.

After slicing the polenta rounds, melt 1 Italian Herb flavor Sauté Express® square in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. For this recipe, plan to use 2 to 3 Sauté Express® squares. As the square begins to melt you can see all the Italian spices in it and wow – it smells awesome!

Coat the cooking surface of the pan.

Place 1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 2 beaten eggs into 3 separate shallow bowls. Dip both sides of each polenta slice into each bowl in this order: 1 – flour, 2 – egg and 3 – bread crumbs. This is a time-tested, easy way to bread and pan fry many things.

Lightly coat the polenta with the flour first, making sure you get the entire slice covered – top, bottom and sides.

Then dip the floured slice into the beaten egg. Yes, you’re going to get your hands pretty sticky in this process, but it’s worth it! This is also precisely the moment someone in your house will need your help to fix something, a delivery comes to the door, or your phone rings. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

It may help to use a fork to get the polenta dipped completely and to help lift it back out of the egg mixture.

Get ready for the bread crumbs! Completely coat the polenta slice with the bread crumbs. There is no way to do this gracefully. Have a wet dish towel next to you so you can wipe your fingers off after you place the polenta into the pan.

Place the polenta slices into the skillet and cook 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. The recipe suggested cooking 6 at a time, but I found it was easier to work in my skillet with only 4 in the pan. I’m a novice at pan frying. I wanted to be able to see when they were ready to turn over and I liked having a little more room to work with.

Flip slices and cook the other side.

Once the polenta rounds are done, remove them to an ungreased baking sheet and keep them warm in an oven that has been preheated to 200°F.

For each batch that you made, you will want to wipe out the skillet with a dry paper towel and start over. Repeat the process with the remaining 1 or 2 Sauté Express® squares and polenta slices until they are all cooked.

Place the warm polenta rounds on a serving plate. Time to top them with mozzarella cheese and bruschetta.

The basil and tomato look so good on top of mozzarella. You’re going to have to resist the urge to pop it right in your mouth to taste test. Well...I guess I really should have at least one just to make sure I approve!

If you’ve never tried polenta before, this is an easy-to-make, tasty appetizer that is a crowd pleaser!

Try different ways to prepare and eat it. We served Bruschetta Polenta at our party and it was a huge hit. Many of my friends commented that they had seen it in the store before but had no idea how to prepare it. They all loved how easy this appetizer was once I told them how we made it.

Let me know how you like to prepare polenta and other toppings I could try.

Alexandra is paid to write for the Recipe Buzz® Blog.


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