Polenta, the Italian name for cornmeal mush, is not exactly a household word. But you are likely to be hearing more about this classic Northern Italian dish in the year to come.
Cornmeal that is readily available in supermarkets--the same type you may have on hand for corn bread--will create a wonderful hors d'oeuvre.
GOAT CHEESE-AND-POLENTA DIAMONDS
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, about
1 1/2 cups fine yellow cornmeal
1 medium green onion, trimmed, cut in 1-inch lengths
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cubed
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 pound fresh goat cheese, rind removed
1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 sweet red pepper, cored and seeded
Line inside of 15x10-inch jelly roll pan with plastic wrap. Brush plastic with oil and set pan aside.
Heat water with salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to boiling in 4-quart soup kettle. Gradually whisk in cornmeal, stirring until mixed. Adjust heat to low and whisk or stir cornmeal mixture vigorously and constantly until meal is thoroughly cooked and thickened, about 15 minutes longer. Take care mixture on bottom of pot does not become burned or scorched. Cornmeal mixture should be vigorously stirred to avoid lumps, but do not worry if lumps form.
Insert metal blade into processor container. Process hot cornmeal mixture in 3-cup batches until smooth, emptying processor container onto lined jelly roll pan. Use spatula to spread cornmeal into thin layer in pan. Set aside to cool.
For cheese topping, insert metal blade in clean, dry processor container. Mince green onion by adding to machine with motor running. Add cream cheese, whipping cream and goat cheese. Process until smooth. Pulse in 1/8 teaspoon pepper, parsley and chives, taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt if necessary (goat cheese should be sufficiently salty).
Line clean baking sheet with plastic wrap and turn cooled sheet of cornmeal over and onto plastic wrap. Blot off excess oil with paper towels. Spread cheese mixture into even layer over cornmeal. Refrigerate 30 minutes. (Can cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate overnight.)
With wet, sharp, thin knife guided by ruler, trim edges of polenta so rectangle measures 14 by 9 inches. With damp knife, cut polenta lengthwise into 9 (1-inch) wide strips. Then cut across vertically at 1 1/2-inch intervals to form diamonds.
Insert thin (2-millimeter) slicing disc into clean food processor container. Cut sweet red pepper into 1-inch wide strips. Insert strips upright in food chute and slice with gentle push. Place pepper strip skin-side up on top of each cheese diamond. Transfer diamonds to serving platter. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 70 pieces.