Cooking with pickles part 1 – Fingerfood: Polenta cakes w. pickled Beaver Dam Peppers

Canning, pickling, jamming - all great ways to put up produce at the height of the season, when it is full of flavor and every bite is a pleasure. When did we start relying on all-year round deliveries of mediocre produce from around the world? The kind that gets put on a boat when it is still unripe, gassed in special containers so it will arrive in our supermarkets magically ripened? Personally, I am not a big fan of out-of-season, far away produce. I much rather munch on storage crops (root veggies and squashes offer a great variety all winter long) - and enjoy food that was put up when it was in season.

And that does not only refer to cans of tomato sauce. I love to cook with pickles. There is much more you can do with a pickled veggie than limit it to being a side to a sandwich. Good pickles have the perfect balance of acid and salt, which makes them a great ingredient in many dishes, as a refreshing palate cleanser component. For the next few weeks we will be sharing ideas for finger food with a pickled twist - just in time for holiday entertaining!

Today's recipe for polenta cakes w. Beaver Dam Peppers comes from a very talented chef and great supporter of eating local, seasonal and supporting heirloom varietals: Tom Leavitt of White Oak Gourmet.

For next week you can look forward to the recipe for tuna & bean puree bites w. Lemon Cucumbers!

Polenta cakes w. pickled Beaver Dam Peppers Serves 25 as an appetizer


2 1/2 c chicken stock
3 cups water
1/2 t minced garlic
1 1/2 c polenta
4 oz butter
2 T mascarpone
2 T minced chives
Salt & pepper
Beaver Dam Peppers
2 T minced shallots
1 T olive oil
2 T white wine
1 T minced parsley



(1) Boil stock, water & garlic in a four quart saucepan. (2) Whisk in polenta, cook 25 - 35 minutes, stir frequently and thin as needed with more water.Consistency should be fairly loose. (3) When cooked, stir in butter, chives, mascarpone and salt & pepper to taste. (4) Pour out onto two 13 x 18 jelly roll pans and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate four hours or overnight.

(5) Drain peppers and slice into thin strips 1”x1/4” (6) In a saute pan heat olive oil on medium, add shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. (6) Add peppers, turn heat up to medium high and add wine. (7) Cook until nearly dry and remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Hold in refrigerator until ready to serve.

(8) To assemble, using a 11/2” round cookie cutter, cut out rounds from the polenta in the sheet pans. Dredge with all purpose flour and fry in a griddle or frying pan on medium until browned on both sides. Polenta rounds may be served at room temperature. (9) Top rounds with about 1 teaspoon of Beaver Dam Peppers and serve.



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