Grab a sweater because fall is here – it’s almost official. Polenta Cakes with Goat Cheese and Kale Pesto is the perfect appetizer to kick off the fall season. Polenta is a hearty dish that fits right into fall and takes you through to winter. This appetizer is super easy to make and enjoy in just a few bites.
Always a treat
Polenta is ground cornmeal that you boil and sometimes bake, grill or fry. It was a popular dish in my house growing up, but only during the cold months of the year. I remember my dad always looked forward to eating it, like it was a special treat. My parents didn’t really do much to challenge its simplicity, aside from adding some garlic, salt, pepper and maybe a bit of butter. We’d eat it served right from the pan to our bowls, warm and filling. My dad called it peasant food, referred to it as mush, and ate it growing up in Italy. It was (and still is) inexpensive to make and filling for a family of limited means.
My husband and I both love polenta, and we eat it often during the chilly months, too. We serve it a few different ways (my husband makes a great dish, topping the boiled polenta with sautéed peppers, onions, tomato sauce and sometimes sausage) and we’re always on the lookout for a new preparation whenever we’re out.
Life is good at the beach
This recipe was roughly inspired by a breakfast I had at The Cottage in La Jolla, Calif., one of my favorite beachside restaurants. When we were there this summer I had eggs Benedict, but instead of English muffins, they used polenta cakes and topped them with a goat-cheese Hollandaise sauce and kale pesto. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten. I know everything’s better when you’re at the beach, but I don’t think my proclamation is an exaggeration. The Cottage always provides me with platefuls of favorites. I want to go back!
This is how we do it
I took the easy way with this recipe, using prepared polenta that I only had to slice, and bake for 20 minutes. If you’re short on time and can find the prepared polenta in your grocery store (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s), go that route because making polenta on the stovetop takes 35+ minutes. It usually comes in a round tube, sort of like slice-and-bake cookie dough.
For the garnish, I used a terrific sun dried tomato product provided to me by Bella Sun Luci. They carry sun dried tomatoes that come in resealable bags, and the type that are packed in jars with olive oil. I used the Olive Oil and Italian Herbs option, and can’t wait to use them in other dishes — they’re convenient, good for you, and delightful!
Now that fall is (basically) here, I look forward to finding new ways to serve polenta.
Recipe for Polenta Cakes with Goat Cheese and Kale Pesto:
- 1, 18-ounce package precooked polenta
- 3 ounces goat cheese
- 3-4 cups kale leaves, stems removed
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, more to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil (more or less to taste)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 ounces Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomatoes, diced, as garnish
- Combine the kale leaves, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to push down the mixture and continue to blend, as needed. Taste and season with the salt and pepper.
- Adjust the pesto to taste and consistency by adding more olive oil, lemon juice or Parmesan cheese.
- Preheat your oven according to the polenta package directions.
- Lightly spray two baking sheets with the nonstick cooking spray.
- Slice the polenta into 1/4-inch thick rounds and place them on the baking sheets.
- Bake according to package directions, flipping once at the midpoint of cooking.
- When the cakes have baked, turn off the oven, remove the baking sheets from the oven, and top each polenta slice with about 1/2 teaspoon of the goat cheese. Place back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese softens (be careful not to let the cheese get too runny).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool just slightly.
- Top each slice with 1 teaspoon (or slightly less) of the pesto.
- Garnish each with a dollop of the sun dried tomatoes.