Friday, July 29, 2011

Fried Polenta with Goat Cheese and Gooseberry-Chili Relish

I have a problem. Every time I find a lovely, sophisticated place to buy exotic, briny olives and flavorful cheeses, I develop a crush on the cheese monger. 

I know. I'm not single. I'm getting too old to have crushes. But like good cheese, 20-something Brooklyn men who have seemingly infinite knowledge about olives, wine and cheese are, well, pretty tasty.

The first cheese monger I developed a crush on worked at Bedford Cheese Shop, a short walk from my old apartment. I wondered in one day looking for a cheese to bring to a wine and cheese party that friends of mine were throwing. They had sent all the party guests a list of wines, which I forgot at home and another friend then text messaged to me. The scruffy-faced, fauxhawked hipster cheese boy scrolled through the wine list on my phone and began to talk at length about the character and flavor of each wine and the types of cheeses that pair well with said wines. He then proceeded to look directly into my eyes and practically feed me translucent slices of cheese. I was completely smitten. And bought some very expensive cheese. 

Now I have a new cheese monger crush at Green Grape Provisions. I actually didn't like him at first--he didn't put the top on my olives correctly and they ended up all over the floor of the store. But then he introduced me to the wonderful world goat's milk cheddar. I had only ever had  drunken goat  and logs of chevre before. I've always been intrigued by other types of goat cheese--goat mozzarella keeps showing up at the corner market and I spent a good ten minutes in front of the goat cheese stall at the Greenmarket trying to decide if I should by chevre or goat's milk ricotta to make the pizza on Monday. But I always go back to what I know. 

In stepped my friendly local cheese monger. I explained the recipe to him and that I was unsure of what kind of cheese to buy. He complemented my adventurous cooking style. And then he looked into my eyes and began to discuss all of the wonderful goat cheese possibilities that were out there for me. He let me sample different varieties. I left with less than two ounces of chevre noir. Chevre noir is a goat's milk cheddar from Canada. It's creamy, but firm with a distinct goat's milk tang. It melts perfectly. Maybe I'm not falling for the Green Grape cheese guy, maybe I'm actually falling for chevre noir.

You most likely, however, didn't come to hear me gush about my crushes on various Brooklyn cheese mongers. You probably came for a recipe. This is another gem from Yotam Ottolenghi. Savory gooseberries. Brilliant. The spicy gooseberry relish is a perfect pairing with the goat cheese and the polenta base adds texture and substance to the meal. The best part though is that the polenta and relish can be made the night before, brought to room temperature and then you can continue the recipe from there. That makes this perfect for entertaining. You can even cut the polenta into smaller triangles and serve this as a appetizer. It seems involved, but it's actually a very simple recipe. The hardest part of the whole thing is deciphering a British recipe (I don't have a kitchen scale and I'm not good at converting from metric), but I've done it for you. It's simple yet impressive. Perfect. Your friends (or your local cheese monger) will be amazed at your culinary skill and adventurous cooking style.

Fried Polenta with Goat Cheese and Gooseberry-Chili Relish
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi featured in The Guardian

2 ¼ c water
1 c medium or course cornmeal
½ t salt
Zest of ½ a lemon

2 T olive oil
8 thin slices of Chevre Noir

½ pint gooseberries, topped and tailed
3 T sugar
2 T red wine vinegar
1" piece of ginger, grated
½ red jalepeno (or other red chili), sliced very thinly
pinch of salt

6 basil leaves, shredded

Make the relish: Combine half the gooseberries, sugar, vinegar, ginger, chili and pinch of salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, crushing the berries with a spoon. Add the remaining berries and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. 

Make the polenta: Combine water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Begin stirring. Add the cornmeal a bit at a time, stirring the entire time to avoid clumping. Reduce heat to medium. Add the zest. Continue stirring until the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. Pour into an oiled 8 x 8 baking dish. Set aside to cool completely.

When both components have cooled, cut the polenta into 8 triangles. Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the polenta. Cook on one side until golden brown. Flip the polenta slices. Cook for a little bit on the other side, top each triangle with a thin slice of goat cheese. Cover. Cook until cheese melts and the bottom is golden brown. Plate and top with gooseberry relish and shredded basil.

Serve with a green salad.

Serves 4


  1. I love your savory use of the gooseberries! And I've been craving fried polenta lately - and this is just making me want it more =)

  2. I have never tried gooseberries prepared this way...very delicious.

  3. haha - i love that you develop crushes on cheese mongers! me too! we have an italian specialty store here on Vancouver Island and every time i go in, this adorable tall, dark, handsome man feeds me cheese and offers me samples of olives. how can you NOT have a crush?? Cute with cheese??


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