19 August 2013

Grilled Polenta Watermelon Squares with Goat Cheese & Salsa Verde

Have you seen the melon at the market lately?!  I mean woah.  It's enough to make a foodie loose her melon mind.  We've been plowing through our share of this year's crop  with frothy lassis, cold soups and wedges cut as wide as a six year-old's smile.  But when we have a tapas night, I always go to for these little bites.  A little quirky, super tasty and darn cute on a plate, these Grilled Polenta Watermelon squares are a wonderfully refreshing amuse-bouche for a summer evening.

I have a huge weakness for finger foods.  Dips, ribs, sushi, nachos, onion rings, mixed nuts, dried fruit....these things excite me to a practically socially inappropriate extent.  If you want to know who ate the last filo cup or cheese cube, look no further than this girl.  Chances are I've either eaten it myself or have pushed it on someone else to avoid spoiling a perfectly good picnic with spontaneous human combustion.  Needless to say, tapas nights are a frequent dinner event in our home.  Who doesn't love grilled bread with cheese, meatballs or veggie rolls miniaturized and stuck on a toothpick?

This dish is absolutely great for summer.  No oven, just assembly and a bit of prep work.  Easy peasy.  Any dish that can be started the night before is a winner.  As is the case with any hard polenta dish, it's always a time saver to make it the night before.  The polenta can be poured into a baking dish, chill overnight and is to cut whenever you are the next day.  After a few minutes on a grilling pan, you have a deliciously warm, creamy and gluten-free base to top with anything you choose.  And if you cook the polenta with vegetable broth, it will have an amazing flavor as well.

Grilled polenta is wonderfully warm with a smooth yet grainy texture that is so unique.  Since it is made from corn, it also has a subtle sweetness that is absolutely amazing with fresh and juicy watermelon.  The textural contrast between the meaty melon and lightly grilled polenta is absolutely wonderful, only made better by a dollop of creamy goat cheese.  Ohhhhh goat cheese....you and polenta always have a way of working yourself together in my kitchen.  Its tangy flavor is absolutely wonderful with this dish.  A quick drizzle of fresh salsa verde is all that you need to add a bit of spice and a whole lot of loveliness.  The colors of this dish are absolutely gorgeous.  I know I'd wear that color combo.

Now you can use a store bought salsa verde, but if you enjoy making dips from scratch I cannot strongly enough recommend trying out my homemade roasted salsa verde.  The extra depth from the roasted jalapeno and tomatillos is an excellent counterpoint to the sweet polenta and watermelon, and adds a whole extra dimension to the flavor.  But if you don't have the time, there are fabulous options in specialty food markets that have the same lovely roasted flavor.

Happy melon season, everyone!

Grilled Polenta Watermelon Squares with Goat Cheese & Salsa Verde (serves 3-4 as a side, more as an appetizer)
  • 3 c vegetable broth
  • 1 c polenta
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 watermelon
  • 3-4 oz goat cheese
  • 1/3 c Roasted Tomatillo & Jalapeno Salsa Verde (or store bought...boo!)
Line an 8x8 baking dish with plastic wrap.  Place the broth in a small pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add the polenta and cook, stirring constantly, until polenta is thick and no longer gritty (about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes).  Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the lined baking dish.  Spread the polenta evenly across the baking dish into a flat sheet, leaving the top as smooth as possible.  Fold the edges of the plastic wrap over the top of the polenta and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour.  

When the polenta has chilled, cut into two inch squares, then set aside.  Cut the watermelon into squares just slightly smaller than the polenta and about the same thickness.  Set these aside, too. 

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush the grilling surface lightly with olive oil.  When the pan is hot, add the polenta.  Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, until grill marks appear and the polenta is warmed through.  Remove grilled slices to a serving plate.  Lay a slice of watermelon on each polenta square, then top with a small piece of goat cheese (about a half teaspoon each).  Drizzle with the salsa verde and serve.  Great dish to serve at a tapas party.  

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