It’s summertime and the living’s easy—our philosophy is that the cooking should match. But just because we’re feeling lazy leisurely doesn’t mean we’re about to resort to cereal for dinner. Enter this pan-fried polenta with blistered tomatoes and burrata, from Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer’s new cookbook, The Modern Proper: Simple Dinners for Every Day. It’s elegant without being fussy, and works as an appetizer or a main course.
“When the tomatoes are about ready to jump off the vine and fresh basil is abundant and so fragrant—isn’t it nice how those things always happen at the same time?—you have to make this sun-soaked recipe,” they write. “It’s finger food-y enough to work as an appetizer, but the milky, cream-filled burrata and pan-fried polenta offer plenty of heft, so don’t overlook its strength as a summertime main dish. It’s best served with a chilled glass of wine and a soft August breeze.”
Say no more.
Excerpted from The Modern Proper: Simple Dinners for Every Day. Copyright © 2022 by Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer. Photography copyright © 2022 by Eva Kolenko. Reproduced by permission of Simon Element, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.
Creamy Oven Polenta
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
1 cup polenta
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pint cherry tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
8 ounces burrata, drained
6 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan (9 inches by 13 inches, or a similarly sized baking dish) with parchment paper, leaving a bit of overhang on either short side.
2. Fill a medium pot with 4 cups of water and add 1 teaspoon of the fine salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking often, until the polenta is softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the butter to melt, then remove the pot from the heat. Spread the polenta onto the prepared sheet pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth out the top. Cool completely, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the cherry tomatoes. Cook, undisturbed, until the tomatoes start to blister, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and the remaining ½ teaspoon fine salt and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl.
4. Carefully remove the polenta from the pan, lifting it by the parchment overhang, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the polenta into 9 even pieces, each about 3 by 4 inches.
5. Wipe out the skillet from the tomatoes and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, working in batches, add the polenta and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter.
6. Spoon the tomato mixture over each piece of fried polenta. Tear the burrata over the top, dividing evenly. Spoon over any excess oil from the tomatoes. Top with fresh basil, pepper and flaky salt and serve.