the appetizer:

Mastering the Grill, The Owner's Manual for Outdoor Cooking, by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim, presents refined grilling recipes, including Grilled Polenta with Mediterranean Vegetable Compote, and Szechwan Shrimp with Grilled Mango Chutney and Sesame Szechwan Salt.

Cookbook Profile

Grilled Polenta
with Mediterranean Vegetable Compote

Makes 3 to 4 servings

If you've got vegetarians to feed, this makes a satisfying main course that's mostly grilled. Or you could serve it as a first course when meat is on the menu. The dish has a few grilled items and a few sautéed items. If you're making it outdoors, it's easiest to use a grill with a side burner. Keep a cutting board nearby as well. Or you can go back and forth a few times from your indoor stovetop to the grill.

The Grill

For the polenta
Put the cornmeal, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and whisk vigorously. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and regulate it so that the mixture simmers gently until it is very thick and pulls away from the sides, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring almost constantly. It takes patience, but stirring every couple of minutes prevents the polenta from becoming gummy or burning on the bottom.

Coat an 11-by-7-inch baking dish or other shallow 2-quart baking dish with a small amount of oil. Scrape the hot polenta into the dish and smooth the top. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until very firm, 2 to 3 hours or up to 1 day.

Heat the grill as directed above.

For the compote
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat (preferably near your grill, as you'll be going back and forth a bit). Add the garlic, cut side down, and cook until the bottoms are golden, 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Discard the garlic and add the tomato and peppers to the pan. Simmer over medium heat until the tomato is very soft, about 15 minutes.

As the compote cooks, cut the polenta into 12 squares. Coat the tops with about half of the remaining oil. Brush the grill grate and coat it with oil. Put the polenta on the grill and cook until nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, coat the onion slice with some of the remaining oil and grill near the polenta until softened and nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula to keep it from separating. Remove and chop finely.

When the tomatoes in the pan are soft, remove the compote with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the wine to the pan and boil over medium-high heat until reduced to just a few tablespoons, swirling or stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, reserved tomato mixture, olives, and chickpeas. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in half of the basil, the salt, and the pepper.

Arrange the polenta on a platter or plates. Spoon the compote across the slices. Sprinkle with the onions, feta, and remaining basil.

To save time, replace the homemade polenta with prepared polenta. You can find it sold in cylinder shapes in the refrigerated produce section of most supermarkets. Slice it into 12 rounds and coat each round with oil before grilling.

To julienne basil, stack 2 to 3 leaves, roll them up from the short side, and then cut the roll crosswise to create long, thin strips.

Getting Creative
To vary the flavor of the polenta, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, or other seasonings after the polenta is cooked and thickened.

Use a cookie cutter to cut the polenta into circles, stars, or other shapes instead of squares.


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Mastering the Grill



This page created June 2007