Polenta Cakes with Prosciutto and Butternut Squash Puree
This recipe features the "Three P's" of Italy: polenta, Parmesan, and prosciutto. Polenta is simply corn grits; we like Bob's Red Mill Organic variety (bobsredmill.com). Parmigiano-Reggiano is the premier Parmesan; it is aged at least 2 years, giving the cheese a granular texture and nutty taste that melts in your mouth. Prosciutto is best purchased at an Italian or specialty market; look for a good marbling of fat and have it cut paper-thin.
• 6 cups water
• 2 cups medium-grind polenta
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 3 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
• 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
• 1/2 cup Butternut Squash Puree
• Fresh snipped sage (optional)
Line 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan with plastic wrap; set aside. In large saucepan bring 4 cups of water to boiling. In medium bowl combine remaining water, polenta, salt, and pepper. Slowly add polenta mixture to boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cook and stir with wooden spoon 10 to 15 minutes until mixture is very thick. Stir in cheese and cilantro.
Pour hot mixture into prepared baking pan; spread into even layer; cool. Cover; chill 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a large baking sheet; set aside. Carefully lift polenta from pan. Using 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut circles from polenta, transferring to prepared baking sheet. Bake polenta 25 to 30 minutes until edges are lightly brown and crisp.
Top polenta cakes with prosciutto and butternut squash puree. Sprinkle with sage. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 5 dozen.
Butternut Squash Puree:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut a small butternut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place halves on baking sheet; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Bake squash, cut sides down, 45 to 60 minutes or until flesh is tender. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh from shells; transfer flesh to bowl of food processor. Add 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Cover and process, scraping down sides of bowl to smooth puree, adding additional cream as necessary. Puree may be made one day ahead and chilled; serve at room temperature. Reserve remaining puree for another use.