I was tempted to name this post "Gluten Free Croutons" because gluten free is such a big deal and I'd probably get more hits or visits or whatever, but come on, we all know that has nothing to do with why I used polenta for croutons. I was simply trying to think of an alternative to bread which I probably eat too much of. I first saw these on Giada's De Laurentiis cooking show and while I wish she wouldn't pronounce parmeGGIANO that way and wear glossy pink nail polish while she cooks which I fear will infiltrate the food, her ideas and recipes are pretty good.
The croutons are great—soft and crispy and satisfy your fiercest carb craving. Try and use them while they're a bit warm. I put them in this composed salad. Salad as a composition...an arrangement of harmonious ingredients put together in an appealing way. Just like Gershwin. Rhapsody in cornmeal, salami and fennel.
I did a quick pickle on a fennel bulb and added goat cheese, salami, julienned orange pepper and a bit of basil. They're all sort of Italian and gather together as a happy family on the plate. I put it on a bed of baby kale but I think it would be good with any slightly bitter lettuce. I cheated and used prepared polenta (shelf-stable rolls near the pasta). I'm sure it would be even better with homemade.
Salad with Pickled Fennel and Polenta Croutons
1 orange pepper, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup pickled fennel (see below)
4 ounces good dry salami, sliced into rounds
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
3 cups baby kale
Polenta croutons (see below)
1. Assemble salad and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, tough core discarded
Few tablespoons basil, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Slice fennel thinly and place in heatproof jar along with basil, if using.
2. Heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt until sugar dissolves. Let cool a bit then pour over fennel. Refrigerate until cool (about an hour).
16 ounce roll polenta
1. Slice polenta into 3/4" rounds and then into whatever crouton shape you like.
2. Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil and fry croutons until lightly browned (5-10 minutes), flip and brown other side then remove to plate and sprinkle with a bit of salt.