polenta

These adorable—and completely scrumptious—polenta bites were created for my very first backyard dinner party of the season. I whipped up this rosemary blue cheese polenta recipe as a means of using leftovers of some really good French blue cheese that I didn’t want to go to waste.

Here’s what we’ve got going in in this appetizer: Savory polenta cakes infused with blue cheese and rosemary (and a hint of caramelized onions and earthy garlic), which get chilled into firm cakes, then pan-fried until crisped. Finally, a quick and simple aioli sauce is whisked together to pour over the warm polenta.

I call it my Rosemary-Blue Cheese Polenta Recipe with Easy Lemon Aioli. If you’re planning a summer menu and want an appetizer that’s going to win over your guests (and also be vegetarian!), add this one to your queue.

Rosemary-Blue Cheese Polenta Recipe with Easy Lemon Aioli

Makes about 16 polenta pieces

Ingredients

Polenta bites:

2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup minced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ¼ cups milk of choice
¾ cup polenta (cornmeal)
1/3 cup high-quality blue cheese
Olive oil as needed, for frying

Aioli:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Make the polenta: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Add onion, garlic, rosemary, and basil; cook until onion is softened and just lightly browned, stirring, about 3 minutes. Season gently with salt and pepper.

Add milk to saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer and slowly add polenta, whisking constantly to break up clumps. Cook over a gentle simmer, stirring constantly, until polenta is very smooth and thick granules have broken down. The process will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so be patient! When ready, add blue cheese; stir in until smooth and well incorporated.

Taste for salt and pepper; add more seasoning as needed. Pour mixture into an oiled baking dish (either a small square or round dish—either will work). Place in refrigerator and chill until polenta is firm, about 30 minutes.

When ready to use, gently remove polenta from the pan by inverting over a clean kitchen table. Cut into desired shapes. (I used an oiled rim of a drinking glass to cut out circles for mine.)

Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Gently add polenta to skillet (careful, it will sizzle!) and cook until golden on each side, about 3 to 5 minutes total. Remove each cooked polenta to a paper towel-lined plate while you cook up the rest.

Meanwhile, whip up the aioli: Combine all ingredients in a small glass; whisk until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

To serve: Arrange polenta bites on a serving platter. Drizzle with lemon aioli and enjoy!

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Image by Kimberley Stakal