polenta with pear, gorgonzola, and pine nuts

When I first started cooking, I followed recipes as though they were mandates. My scientific brain liked — and still does — precise measurements followed by detailed instructions. Preparing a recipe was very much like following a chemistry experiment. And you do NOT deviate from chemistry instructions. Not unless you like explosions, that is.

That method of cooking has it’s advantages, but the rigidness of that approach was often frustrating and stressful. If a recipe called for 2 cups of chicken broth and I only had 1 and 3/4 cup of chicken broth, well then I couldn’t make that dish, now could I? And I certainly couldn’t replace that extra 1/4 cup of liquid with, say, water or vegetable broth. Nope. If it wasn’t in the instructions, I didn’t do it.

Over time, I’ve forced myself to play with recipes and not follow them word for word, line by line. I started with baby steps – changing the amounts of measured spices, or swapping one spice or herb for another. It was a slow start, but making myself play with ingredients and becoming more creative with my cooking has completely paid off. It’s liberating, and even more importantly, it’s fun!

A book that has become an increasingly valued resource in my kitchen is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. For someone like me, someone who struggles with creativity in the kitchen, this book is a must have. The pages are filled with listings of ingredients, and below those ingredients are recommendations for other ingredients that complement or work well with that flavor profile.

An example? Look up Gorgonzola cheese and you’ll find that honey and pears match quite well. Look up pine nuts, and you’ll see pears and honey listed as complementary flavors. Look up polenta, and you’ll notice that Gorgonzola cheese and honey are listed as ingredient pairings that work.

Put them all together and what do you have? A very nice little appetizer. Voilà!

Looking for a gift for a someone who loves to cook? Buy The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. They’ll love it.

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Polenta with Pear, Gorgonzola, & Pine Nuts

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in polenta and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook for 4 minutes or until thick, stirring often. Stir in butter. Pour polenta into a 9 inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of polenta. Chill polenta for 1 hour or until polenta is very firm. Cut into 2-inch squares or use a small cookie cutter to make shape of your choice.
  2. Combine diced pear, Gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, and honey in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add 1/2 inch olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, fry polenta pieces until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer fried polenta to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Transfer polenta to a serving platter. Top each polenta square with a rounded spoonful of the pear and Gorgonzola mixture and serve.
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13 Responses to “heirloom tomato bruschetta”

  1. Jennie — July 29, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    I have a tomato-hating husband too, though I can sometimes entice him with a lovely platter of freshmade bruschetta. Can I just say I’m reading this as I eat a late dinner of marinara sauce and penne. This post reminded me I have a few tomatoes on the counter and some homemade olive bread in the freezer. Now imagine that bread as a base for this bruschetta. Yeah, I’m trying to resist the urge to go make it right now…

  2. I think cereal is a great meal! And this bruschetta looks delicious too 🙂

  3. Kate @ maître de moda — July 29, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    Thank you for this! I will be making it ASAP.
    In the first picture, is that a cutting board that the tomatoes are sitting on? I love it!

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — July 29th, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

      Kate – Yes, a cutting board that I picked up a couple of years ago at Bed Bath & Beyond. I love it. 🙂

  4. Monet — July 30, 2010 @ 2:18 am

    I am so loving your blog! I found you through Brian’s A Thought for Food, and I feel like one lucky girl. I adore the Splendid Table and I listened to that same segment earlier this week (I listen via podcast). Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and a wonderful recipe!

  5. Heather @ The Single Dish — July 30, 2010 @ 9:42 am

    So pretty and looks so delicious! I love this app, great to bring or make for a party.

  6. foodies at home — July 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    Beautiful! I love the mix of yellow and red tomatoes! Great photos!

  7. Brian @ A Thought For Food — July 30, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    The Splendid Table is such a wonderful program… though I always seem to miss it. Huge fan of that and This American Life.

    Bruscetta is a perfect summer treat. It has so many wonderful, bright and crisp flavors! Perfect with a glass of white wine. I’m going to have to make this with the tomatoes that are growing in our garden. Great recipe!

  8. Ivy @ My Simple Food — August 3, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the recipe, I am book marking this. Simple and yummy!

  9. Jason Phelps — August 3, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

    Simple and enjoyable. Couldn’t be better than that!


  10. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 19, 2010 @ 7:38 am

    Gorgeous and flavourful to boot. I love this time of year with the heirloom tomatoes – they really add something to a dish! Bruschetta is actually on my list of things to try very soon actually!

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  12. I use a lot of tomatoes in cooking at my house (mostly thanks to my wife, who is a great cook). Thanks for sharing…keep writing!!!

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