Grilled Polenta Bites with Roasted Red Pepper, Feta, and Thyme Spread
Let’s talk bite-sized appetizers. Who else is a fan? I’m pretty sure I could live on them.
They are quite possibly one of my favorite things in the entire world! Quite honestly, I’m more than happy to ignore main courses on any menu in lieu of a few appetizers or tapas.
One of the biggest highlights of wedding planning was tasting and choosing our passed hors d’oeuvres. It took a lot of willpower to narrow down our choices to just five–and that was one extra than originally planned. Sadly, I didn’t get to eat a lot of said hors d’oeuvres during the actual wedding (I was prepared for this reality, but it still made me sad). These grilled polenta bites somewhat make up for that!
These grilled polenta bites came about in a very strange way. A couple months ago, Connor and I went out for an impromptu dinner in DC. We originally planned on trying to use a gift certificate at one of our favorite restaurants, Roses Luxury, but left after hearing that the wait could be more than three hours (YES, I’m not even joking, this is normal).
Since we’re crazy, we decided to then try our hand at yet another ridiculously popular restaurant (which we also happened to have a gift certificate for) called Little Serow. Long story short, we still had to wait more than two hours to be seated. While we were waiting for our table, we went across the street to a cute little Greek restaurant, where we passed the time with a few tapas and a glass of wine.
One of the tapas involved a delicious roasted red pepper and feta spread, which I could have happily gobbled up all night long. I knew that I wanted to recreate it in some way for a blog recipe, and somehow along the way of brainstorming, came up with the idea of putting it on top of grilled polenta, so there you go!
The actual roasted red pepper spread is very simple, and involves only a handful of ingredients: fresh red bell peppers (charred under the broiler), good-quality feta cheese, fresh thyme, and my favorite addition, garlic confit (or roasted garlic cloves!).
Ok, so I realize this is the third recipe that I’ve shared in the past month or so that calls or talks about garlic confit. First, I shared these Don’t hate me. I can’t help myself. I told you that stuff was versatile (and I happened to have quite a lot of it in my fridge at one point), so I thought I might as well share a few recipes that use it. One of the side effects of making garlic confit is that you will want to add it to everything.
Once the bell peppers have been roasted, they are chopped roughly in a small food processor, or this can be done by hand as well.
Side note: Several of you have been asking in the comment section whether you can make garlic confit in a slow cooker. At this point, I don’t know the answer, as I’ve never owned a slow cooker before. Truthfully, I don’t think it will save time or energy, so my current answer is “I don’t recommend it.”
However, one of our wedding gifts was indeed a slow cooker, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to test this out at some point, and I’ll be sure to share the results!
The grilled polenta discs are easily prepared by buying several of those pre-cooked polenta logs, and brushing them with olive oil before grilling. I have to admit, the logs look like weird sausage things (and I shied away from them for quite a long time), but they are one of the best cooking shortcuts out there.
Not only do they save an enormous amount of time, but they are perfect for grilled applications (they hold their shape extremely well), and even better for preparing little bite-sized appetizers like these or mini polenta pizzas. Yes, those are quite delicious too.
Since the polenta rounds are quite small (two bites max!), I recommend grilling them on a grill pan, as opposed to an outdoor grill, where they might have a tendency to fall through the grates.
The best part about these is that they taste just as good warm, or at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about preparing them a little bit in advance! You could easily add all sorts of little touches to them like fresh basil or a little handful of arugula!
How fun would these be at a spring or summer cookout?! Do it.
Roasted Red Pepper, Feta, and Thyme Spread:
- 3 large red bell peppers
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6-8 cloves of garlic confit or roasted garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 ounces feta cheese, broken into large crumbles
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for garnishing
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (18 ounce) tube of prepared (pre-cooked) polenta
- extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
- kosher salt
- Prepare spread: Preheat the oven broiler. Place the bell peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and slide under the broiler. Allow peppers to char completely on all sides (this will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, roughly), rotating them with tongs every couple minutes.
- Transfer the peppers to a bowl and allow to cool until comfortable to touch–de-stem, de-seed, and peel. Slice the peppers into thick slices, and place in a large bowl with the olive oil, garlic confit pieces (or roasted garlic), and thyme sprigs. Allow to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the polenta rounds.
- Prepare polenta: Trim the ends of each tube of polenta, then slice the logs into 1/2″ inch discs (you should get roughly 10 discs per tube). Brush (or spray) both sides of the polenta discs with olive oil. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the polenta discs for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, flipping them carefully with a heatproof spatula. Remove the polenta discs and place on a platter, sprinkle them lightly with sea sealt, and allow them to cool slightly while you finish preparing the pepper spread.
- Remove the strips of roasted red pepper from the oil (allowing most of the oil to drip off), and place in a small food processor. Pulse the peppers until they are roughly chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the roughly chopped garlic cloves, and stir in the crumbled feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Top each piece of grilled polenta with a large spoonful of pepper spread. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 98 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 8mg Sodium: 200mg Carbohydrates: 4g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 2g Protein: 2g