Category Archives: Appetizers

Loaded Polenta Cakes

Wondering what to do with the leftover prosciutto and parmesan you bought to make pasta panna e prosciutto? Prosciutto is so light that I always end up with more than I need (I can’t exactly walk up to the deli and ask for 1/16 pound of it, now can I?) So, for the past several days, I’ve been putting prosciutto on basically everything.

I’d been meaning for a while to try something with polenta. It’s gluten-free, and comes pre-cooked but without a bunch of preservatives, so it seems like something I ought to start using. One of the serving suggestions on the package I got was “baked potato style.” And that got the wheels turning… polenta is Italian; so are prosciutto and parmesan… a loaded baked potato has bacon; prosciutto is kind of like bacon. You get the idea.


I have a busy 10 days ahead of me getting things in order to make my trans-Atlantic trek, so I’ll stop there. Loaded baked not-potato, Italian style. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients: (makes approximately 8 cakes)

18 oz. sleeve of pre-cooked polenta

3 slices prosciutto

1/2 cup parmesan

1/2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


1. Slice the polenta (across the diameter) into 1/2 thick circles. Add olive oil to a large flat frying pan or skillet, heat to medium-high, and add the polenta cakes. Flip after 2-3 minutes, making sure that the cakes get crisp and golden on the outside, but don’t brown much. Lightly salt and pepper each side, but remember the prosciutto and parmesan will add saltiness to the dish.

2. Slice prosciutto into small pieces (1/2 squares work well), and pan fry in a separate pan.

3. When both sides of polenta are crisp, remove from pan and top with prosciutto and parmesan. Serve hot.


The consistency of polenta isn’t for everyone – it’s similar to grits. If you’re a fan of this traditional Italian cornmeal porridge, though, the addition of some crispy, salty meat and shaved cheese makes it a perfect appetizer or weeknight dinner.


Pear with Broiled Goat Cheese

Wow. October has been a busy month. A really, really busy month. A lot of it has been busy for no reason, but we also spent a weekend away camping (it snowed, but that’s a story for another day), and I made a crazy-quick trip to Princeton and New York for a conference. I’m hoping things will calm down for a while now, or at least settle into somewhat of a routine. I function best when I have a real, weekly routine… and it feels like I haven’t had one of those for months.

I imagine you know where I’m going with this. Cooking real food is hard when you’re busy. It’s also hard when you’re in a funk because you don’t have a routine that tells you “now it’s time to cook dinner.” The recipe I want to share today isn’t a complete dinner (although we made it that, one night), but it is super tasty and fancy enough to serve at a dinner party without taking too much effort. It is exactly what it sounds like: pears, topped with goat cheese that has been broiled. Sometimes simple is best. And there are practically an infinite number of variations you could create, if you mix-and-match your fruit and cheese. (But do so responsibly, I beg of you. Cheddar cheese and peaches don’t go together. They just don’t).

Ingredients (makes about 4 servings as an appetizer)

2 pears (I used red bartletts)

6 oz goat cheese (the cheese I used had cranberries in it)


In several ramekins, broil the goat cheese on high, about 6 inches from heat source.  Broil it until it begins to brown and bubble, 8-10 minutes. Don’t be scared to let it get a little dark around the top/edges. The caramelized, warm cheese really makes this dish!

Slice the pear. I quartered each pear, then cut 1/4 inch thick slices – you want them work like crackers for the cheese.

When the goat cheese is cooked, top each slice of pear (you should have about a teaspoon of cheese for each slice).

Serve while the cheese is warm!

What do you think? What other combinations of fruit and sweet cheese have you tried?