Polenta Fries, Pizzettes, a Cat and a Conference

This week is spring break for students at Tufts, and my advisor asked me to cat sit for the week while she is away with her family. I gladly accepted, 1) because it’s a little extra money and being a grad student isn’t the most glamorous of titles, and 2) because I can stay in her giant and beautiful house in Brookline and get some work done in peace and quiet. I currently live with four other people, which is wonderful – I love living communally and think it’s better for myself and the world. BUT, this has been a great opportunity to be alone in a quiet space, something that is a bit of a luxury. I’ve been working on a conference paper that I need to submit on Friday that is based on one of the chapters of my dissertation on Mary Shelley and Emily Bronte. It’s been a nice break from writing my dissertation prospectus (an outline of sorts that serves as a proposal for your dissertation project). The house I’m staying in also has a gorgeous open kitchen with big windows, so I thought I would take advantage of the natural light and do a little cooking while I’m here. Last night I made mini pizzas with roasted garlic, pesto, and olives (I can’t believe I called them pizzettes in the title, but what-are-ya-gunna-do) and Parmesan Polenta fries, both of which I am particularly proud of. I am staying here a few nights, and needed to get a few ingredients that I could use for more than one meal, so I decided to use tortillas for the pizza crusts here (I will probably make some sort of taco tomorrow). You could use any sort of flat, bread-like item you have on hand; these tortillas are a mixture of corn and wheat, but gluten free corn tortillas, pita bread, or even naan I think could work equally well.

Ingredients: small corn and wheat tortillas, kalamata olives, pesto, provolone and mozzarella cheese, and roasted garlic
Ingredients: small corn and wheat tortillas, kalamata olives, pesto, provolone and mozzarella cheese, and roasted garlic

First, roast two bulbs of garlic (I saved one for later because I LOVE IT). Strip off the excess skin around the bulb, and then chop off the top so you can see the tops of the cloves. Then drizzle it in olive oil and wrap it in either foil or parchment paper. Roast at 400 degrees until soft, about 40 minutes.

I started the Polenta Fries right after I threw the garlic in the oven – they will be finished before your pizzas, but they make a great appetizer 🙂 Start with a tube of Polenta. You could make your own, but using a tube is much faster and its already as firm as you need it to be to make fries. Cut the polenta into fries – I cut mine in half down the middle, and then eye-balled how big I thought a normal fry was. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Place the fries on a baking sheet, and then give them a good drizzle of olive oil (or, as Rachel Ray calls it, EVOO). I then sprinkled them with salt and pepper and grated some fresh parmesan cheese over them. Put them in the oven with your garlic and bake until crispy, approximately 30 minutes.

Polenta fries coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, ready to go in the oven.
Polenta fries coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, ready to go in the oven.

While the fries are cooking and the garlic is roasting, prep your ingredients for the mini pizzas. You can really put anything you want on these, but if you want the tortilla to stay crispy, make sure you don’t overload it with toppings. I started by putting the tortillas on a baking sheet and baking them along with the fries and garlic. You can skip this step, but your crust won’t be as crispy on the bottom. After the tortillas crisp up a little (about ten minutes in the oven) put on your toppings! Here’s how I did mine:

Pesto
Pesto
Freshly grated cheese - You can use any kind, but I used a little provolone and mozzarella
Freshly grated cheese – You can use any kind, but I used a little provolone and mozzarella
Sliced kalamata olives
Sliced kalamata olives
Roasted garlic
Roasted garlic

After taking the garlic out of the oven, I let it cool a little bit while working with the other ingredients, and then just gave it a good squeeze over the pizzas until I was satisfied. The one pictured above has quite a bit of garlic on it, but as you know if you’ve roasted garlic before, the flavor mellows enough that you could eat an entire bulb of it (at least I can). Use your discretion 🙂 Then just pop them in the oven that is still hot from baking the fries, roasting the garlic, and crisping your tortillas, and bake until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

Final cheesy crispy salty garlicky product
Final cheesy crispy salty garlicky product

If you haven’t already eaten all of your polenta fries, they go quite well together.

Polenta Fries with Parmesan, salt, and pepper
Polenta Fries with Parmesan, salt, and pepper

The Polenta fries were definitely a winner. When I make the mini pizzas again, I might use less pesto or even leave the pesto off entirely, and make sure I get olives that are packed in brine and not olive oil, because they turned out a tid bit greasy. I still loved the flavors though!

Anyway, back to cuddling with this guy, and attempting to write something convincing about books!

Sebastian the cat
Sebastian the cat

– Bryn

Condensed recipe

Garlic, Olive, and Pesto Pizzettes with Parmesan Polenta Fries 

Polenta Fries:

– 1 prepackaged tube Polenta

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

– 1/4 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp pepper

1.Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tube of polenta into small fries and place on a large baking sheet.

2. Drizzle fries with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

3. Bake until crispy, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes about 30 fries 

Pizzettes:

– 4-6 corn and wheat tortillas

– 2 bulbs garlic

– drizzle olive oil

– 1/4 cup prepared pesto

– ~3/4 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of provolone and mozzarella)

– 1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove excess skin from garlic bulbs, chop off their tops so the cloves are exposed, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in either parchment or foil, and roast for about 40 minutes, or until soft (I tested mine with a small fork to make sure they were done). Let cool slightly before handling.

2. Crisp the tortillas. Place tortillas on a baking sheet and put in oven while the garlic is roasting. Bake for ten minutes or until the tortillas are crispy.

3. Top the pizzas. Distribute your toppings equally among the tortillas. I put the pesto sauce on first, then the grated cheese, olives, and finally the roasted garlic. Squeeze the bulb of garlic and the soft, roasted cloves should pop right out. Add the garlic to taste.

4. Place the pizzas, on the baking sheet, back in the 400 degree oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Makes 4-6 mini pizzas

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