When I arrived back in America after years of living in Spain, my choice of where to live was based on the availability of baby salad greens (prewashed and premixed --after years of nothing but romaine it was heaven!). Now these delicate greens are widely available and make the creation of delectable salads a much easier proposition. I wanted something tart to offset the richness of the polenta, and blood oranges were the perfect choice.
Serves 6 to 8
To Make the Croutons: In a large heavy saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the prosciutto, garlic, and sage and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is crisp and the garlic is softened, about 4 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Wipe the inside of the pan with a paper towel and return to the heat. Immediately add the chicken stock, water, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the liquid is simmering, gradually sprinkle the polenta over in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains have been incorporated and no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to low. Switch to a wooden paddle and stir every 1 or 2 minutes for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened. Add the prosciutto mixture and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan and butter, stirring to mix evenly. The mixture will be very thick.
Rinse an 8 x 12-inch pan with cold water and shake dry. Mound the polenta in the pan and, using a rubber spatula repeatedly dipped in very hot water, spread the polenta evenly in the pan until it is just under l/2 inch thick. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Cut the polenta into approximately 1-inch squares. Heat the canola oil in a heavy skillet. In two batches if necessary, fry the croutons, nudging occasionally with a spatula to keep them separate, for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until crispy and golden at the edges. with a skimmer, remove the croutons to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the rest and prepare the salad.
To Prepare the Salad: In a large bowl, mound the baby greens and distribute the blood orange segments over the top. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and toss gently until the leaves are well coated. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper to taste, and vinegar and toss again briefly to distribute the vinegar evenly. Mound an equal amount of salad on each of 6 or 8 side plates and distribute the warm croutons around the edges of the plates. Serve immediately.
By Brigit Legere Binns
Photography by Deborah Denker
Price: $14.95, paperback
Chronicle Books 1996
Reprinted by permission.
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