Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette with Thyme Polenta Squares

Polenta with sun-dried tomato basil vinaigretteIt’s getting more and more difficult to wow Cheryl with my cooking, but this simple little side dish I prepared for some grilled chicken from earlier in the week really impressed her with intense, bright, crisp, flavors. I could have sworn I’ve made this sun-dried tomato and basil sauce before (in fact I know I have) but it seemed to take her by surprise. I believe her reaction was very close to ‘Holy crap this is so good! Where’d you get the idea for this?’ Hang on, I’ll tell you.

A loooong time ago when I was first learning how to cook for myself I used to always read the Wednesday NY Times Food section. This was before the Food Network turned everyone into ‘foodies’ (I don’t like that term but that’s a rant for a different day) so the Wednesday Times food section was a great source for seasonal cooking tips and recipes. In fact, I’ve still got a folder in a cupboard with yellowing newspaper clippings and photocopies of NY Times food articles I thought looked really good at the time.

One article which has stuck with me all these years was about making ‘power packs’ for grilled foods, and one of the recipes in the article was for chicken with a sun-dried tomato power pack. I made it once, found it to be really delicious, and have kept the ingredients and flavor profile in my head ever since. The NY Times power pack called for the addition of pine nuts but I never have any of those in the pantry so they never make it into my version. The original also wasn’t a vinaigrette but it’s an easy ratio to remember (3 parts oil: 1 part vinegar) so I use it. Based on Cheryl’s reaction this week I don’t think the lack of pine nuts or turning the power pack into a vinaigrette detracts from the flavor.

I pretty much never actually follow the recipe anymore because it’s a very simple condiment you can throw together really quickly by adding dashes, pinches, and drizzles of the ingredients. Usually, I just chop up some basil, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes, add some vinegar, then drizzle in olive oil mixing it all together until I get the balance I like. The concentrated sweetness of the dried tomatoes and the acid from the vinegar make a tangy topping for pretty much anything which will come off your grill this summer. Try it once and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree!

Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette with Thyme Polenta Squares

  • 1 ½ Tbs Sun-Dried Tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbs basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Polenta squares

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and vinegar in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil into the mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste. Spoon over polenta squares.

Using ‘instant’ polenta follow the directions and make enough to fill a square 9×9 baking dish. The instructions on my emergency container of instant polenta were for 3 cups water and 1 cup polenta. Add 2-3 pinches of dried thyme, season with salt, cook, and pour into the baking dish. Set aside and allow to cool and firm up. Cut squares, spoon vinaigrette over top. Go ahead and grill your polenta!

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