If you’ve got vegetarians to feed, this makes a satisfying main course that’s mostly grilled. Or you could serve it as a first course when meat is on the menu. The dish has a few grilled items and a few sautéed items. If you’re making it outdoors, it’s easiest to use a grill with a side burner. Keep a cutting board nearby as well. Or you can go back and forth a few times from your indoor stovetop to the grill.
Prep: 5 minutes (plus 30 minutes for roasted peppers)
Simmer: 30 to 40 minutes
Chill: 2 to 3 hours
Grill: About 25 minutes.
BBQ TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
– Long-handled tongs
– Long-handled spatula.
– To save time, replace the homemade polenta with prepared polenta. You can find it sold in cylinder shapes in the refrigerated produce section of most supermarkets. Slice it into 12 rounds and coat each round with oil before grilling.
– To julienne basil, stack 2 to 3 leaves, roll them up from the short side, and then cut the roll crosswise to create long, thin strips.
– To vary the flavor of the polenta, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, or other seasonings after the polenta is cooked and thickened.
– Use a cookie cutter to cut the polenta into circles, stars, or other shapes instead of squares.
Gas: Direct heat, medium (350°F)
Clean, oiled grate
Direct heat, medium ash
12-by-12-inch charcoal bed (about 3 dozen coals)
Clean, oiled grate on lowest setting
Direct heat, medium ash
12-by-12-inch bed, 3 inches deep
Clean, oiled grate set 4 inches above the fire.
INGREDIENTS (MAKES 3 TO 4 SERVINGS)
For the polenta:
¾ cup coarse yellow cornmeal
3 cups cold water
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
Oil for coating baking dish
For the vegetable compote:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup chopped Marinated Fire-Roasted Peppers or purchased roasted peppers
1 medium yellow tomato, finely chopped
Oil for coating grill grate
1 thick slice Vidalia or other sweet onion (about ½ inch thick)
¾ cup crisp white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
¼ cup cooked or canned chickpeas
3 tablespoons julienned basil (see Tips)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled feta or grated Parmesan cheese.
1. For the polenta: Put the cornmeal, cold water, and salt in a medium saucepan and whisk vigorously. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and regulate it so that the mixture simmers gently until it is very thick and pulls away from the sides, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring almost constantly. It takes patience, but stirring every couple of minutes prevents the polenta from becoming gummy or burning on the bottom.
2. Coat an 11-by-7-inch baking dish or other shallow 2-quart baking dish with a small amount of oil. Scrape the hot polenta into the dish and smooth the top. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until very firm, 2 to 3 hours or up to 1 day.
3. Heat the grill as directed.
4. For the compote: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat (preferably near your grill, as you’ll be going back and forth a bit). Add the garlic, cut-side down, and cook until the bottoms are golden, 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Discard the garlic and add the tomato and peppers to the pan. Simmer over medium heat until the tomato is very soft, about 15 minutes.
5. As the compote cooks, cut the polenta into 12 squares. Coat the tops with 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil. Brush the grill grate and coat it with oil. Put the polenta on the grill and cook until nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes per side.
6. Meanwhile, coat the onion slice with some of the remaining olive oil and grill near the polenta until softened and nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula to keep it from separating. Remove and chop finely.
7. When the tomatoes in the pan are soft, remove the compote with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the wine to the pan and boil over medium-high heat until reduced to just a few tablespoons, swirling or stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the butter, the reserved tomato mixture, the olives, and the chickpeas. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in half of the basil, the salt, and the pepper.
8. Arrange the polenta on a platter or plates. Spoon the compote across the slices. Sprinkle with the onions, feta, and remaining basil and serve.