Sun dried Tomato Polenta Cakes and Green Garlic Pesto

16 May

Oh. Hey.

Remember me? I brought you here to enjoy my food and writing and the left you in the cold for a few weeks? Forgive me. Life gets in the way . Oh who am I kidding…. it’s baseball season. If there is something that I am more obsessed with than food, it’s baseball. During baseball season, one of my favorite things to do is read news stories and crunch numbers/stats of my favorite team: THE San Francisco Giants.

It’s like that movie with Russell Crowe where he’s some kind of genius that scrawls numbers everywhere. OK, not that bad, but close. Real close.

So, pardon me if I seem a little distant for the next 6 months. I really am going to figure out a way to balance it all, promise.

Let’s get to it. This recipe is something I whipped together for a potluck that I attended a few sundays ago. (Hi guys!) It’s the perfect dish for mixed company. These little polenta cakes can be dressed up in a simple pesto, a hearty red sauce, or maybe a meat bolognese. Serve with big salad or steamed veggies and you’ve got quite a meal on your hands.  It would be a tragedy if I didn’t add that these polenta cakes are amazing the next morning with a fried egg on top.

Like this.

The recipe is a pretty standard polenta, added bonus of pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes really up the deliciousness.  The pesto here is really the star attraction. I used the first of the season, green garlic and basil from the Farmer’s market. If you make this in the future and cannot find green garlic because it has a short season, go with regular garlic. Works and is still fantastic.

The idea of them as a cake came due to my fixation with a whoopie pie pan that someone gave me. Whoopie pies are not really my thing. Maybe in another lifetime or just for you guys here, I might get the urge to make those cake pie sandwiches, but for the now, this pan will be turning out savory items like this. Probably a plethora of patties… burgers, sausages and such. If you don’t have a pan like this, you can use a cupcake pan. Fill them about halfway up. They will be taller with less surface area, but will still be a great vessel for any sauce. You can also use well greased ramekins. Or you can just eat this polenta as it is, flavor doesn’t change, still delicious.

Why should you eat this?

Basil is full of essential nutrients that promote heart health. Basil is a very good source of vitamin A and beta- carotenes. Which help prevent free radical damage in the arteries, that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Free radical damage is a contributing factor in many other conditions as well, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The beta-carotene found in basil may help to lessen the progression of these conditions while protecting cells from further damage.

Basil is a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel.

BUT LADIES, basil does not protect your heart from jerky boys. For that you’ll need a good head about ya or a baseball bat, whatever works for you.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Pine Nut Polenta

(Servings: 6-8)


  • ⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped coarse
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 ½ cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups coarse-ground cornmeal
  • 2 ounces (1 cup) good-quality parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Bring water to boil in heavy-bottomed 4quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and baking soda.

Slowly pour cornmeal into water in steady stream, while stirring back and forth with wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Cover and reduce heat to lowest possible setting.

Cook for 5 minutes, then whisk polenta to smooth out any lumps, about 15 seconds. (Make sure to scrape down sides and bottom of pan.) Cover and continue to cook, without stirring, until polenta is tender but slightly al dente, about 25 minutes longer. (Polenta should be loose and barely hold its shape but will continue to thicken as it cools.)

Meanwhile use paper towels to squeeze out as much of the oil in the sun dried tomatoes as you can. Then chop them into small pieces.  Set aside.

Carefully toast the pine nuts until they have just a small amount of browning. Remove from pan, to stop cooking. Set aside.


Off heat, stir in parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Using an ice cream scoop for consistency, scoop polenta into pan. Like so.

This pan in no stick, but if you have any concerns about your polenta sticking, go ahead and rub some olive oil on the pan. Pop the pan in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool polenta and let cakes set.

I had to do this in 2 quick batches. I only have ONE whoopee pie pan that I don’t use very often…

Remove from pans and serve with pesto.  This one.

Green Garlic and Basil Pesto (Servings: 6-8)


  • ¼ cup raw pine nuts
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 10 medium spinach leaves, thick stems removed*
  • 2 stalks garlic greens, roughly chopped (use all except the very thin top parts)
  • ** If you do not have Green Garlic – use 4 cloves of regular garlic
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • A few good grinds of pepper
  • 6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


Lightly toast the pine nuts in a small, dry pan over very low heat, until just starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Thoroughly wash and dry the basil, spinach and garlic greens – this is not the best time for extra moisture. Combine the pine nuts, basil, spinach, garlic greens, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 10 times, until the greens are roughly chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the motor running, pour the olive oil slowly through the feed tube. Remove the pesto to a large bowl and toss with the grated cheese.

Adjust seasoning with extra salt and pepper to taste, and serve with extra grated cheese on the side.


Trust me, this is so good.





One Response to “Sun dried Tomato Polenta Cakes and Green Garlic Pesto”

  1. JBF May 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    This sounds like the most delicious thing ever. Will you come down to San Diego and make it for me? Pretty please? Thanksbye.

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