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Polenta with Eggplant Pesto

Make a double batch of eggplant pesto and serve on crostini—you will have two appetizers in one. To make the crostini, preheat an oven to 350°F. Arrange 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 1/4 lb., peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste, plus 1/2 tsp.
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 tubes (each about 17 oz.) precooked polenta, ends trimmed and tubes cut into 20 slices total

Directions:

Make the eggplant pesto
Preheat an oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss the eggplant with the 2 Tbs. olive oil and season generously with salt. Place the eggplant, skin side down, on a baking sheet and bake until soft and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, combine the roasted eggplant, garlic, pine nuts and the 1/2 tsp. salt. Pulse until smooth. Add the basil and the 1/3 cup olive oil and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides of the container. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.

Cook the polenta
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with paper towels. While the eggplant is baking, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the canola oil. Season the polenta slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Add 10 polenta slices to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining polenta slices.

Arrange the polenta slices on a platter, top each with a generous spoonful of the eggplant pesto, sprinkle with pepper and serve. Makes 20 rounds.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Small Plates, by Brigit L. Binns (Oxmoor House, 2007).