Baked Polenta with Za'atar Tomatoes

BAKED POLENTA WITH FETA, BECHAMEL, AND ZA'ATAR TOMATOES
from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things

This Baked Polenta with Za’atar Tomatoes from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things is a fan-favorite among our sales team. Fans of pizza and flatbreads will greatly enjoy this creative twist on the classic dish and love having the “extra” za’atar tomatoes for a future meal. Save this special topping to Ottolenghify and elevate your cooking—they’re the "secret sauce" to turning an ordinary piece of grilled chicken or bowl of quinoa into something truly memorable.   

Photo: Copyright © 2022 by Elena Heatherwick

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tbsp/80g unsalted butter

  • 6 tbsp/50g all-purpose flour

  • 3 1/4 cups/750ml whole milk

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 1 1/4 cups/300ml water

  • 1 1/4 cups/200g quick-cook polenta

  • 21/3 oz/65g pecorino romano, roughly grated (2/3 cup)

  • 61/3 oz/180g Greek feta, roughly crumbled

  • 1/4 oz/5g oregano sprigs (try to use the softer sprigs)

ZA’ATAR TOMATOES

  • 14 oz/400g datterini or cherry tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup/120ml olive oil

  • 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 2 tbsp za’atar

  • ½ tsp sugar

  • 1/4 cup/5g parsley, roughly chopped

  • 1/4 cup/5g oregano leaves, roughly chopped

  • salt and black pepper

 

Serves 4–6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Make the za'atar tomatoes. Put the tomatoes, oil, vinegar, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper into a medium baking dish, roughly 12 x 8 inches/30 x 20cm. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40–45 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until the tomatoes have just burst but aren’t completely falling apart. Remove the foil, gently stir in the za’atar and sugar, and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in the herbs (gently, so as not to break up the tomatoes).

3. Turn the heat up to 475°F. Line a large baking sheet roughly 16 x 12 inches/40 x 30cm in size with parchment paper.

4. Put half the butter into a medium saucepan over mediumhigh heat. Once melted, add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 30 seconds or until it smells like popcorn. Slowly pour in 11/2 cups/360ml of the milk, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps, then add the garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and plenty of pepper, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until quite thick and no longer flourytasting. Set aside and cover with a piece of parchment paper, to prevent a skin from forming.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the polenta by first putting the remaining 12/3 cups/400ml of milk, the water, 11/2 tablespoons of the butter, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of pepper into a medium sauté pan (or saucepan) over medium-high heat. Once it gently bubbles, turn the heat down to medium-low, slowly add the polenta, whisking continuously to incorporate, and cook for 2 minutes, to thicken. Add the pecorino and the remaining 11/2 tablespoons of butter and stir with a spatula until incorporated. Quickly transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread out in a large oblong shape about 1/2 inch/1cm thick and 15 inches/38cm in length. Spoon the béchamel over the top and spread it so it covers the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch/1½cm rim exposed around the edges. Top evenly with the feta and the oregano sprigs and bake for 22 minutes, or until golden and bubbling on top and starting to brown around the edges. Let cool for 5–10 minutes.

6. Spoon about half the za’atar tomatoes on top of the baked polenta, serving the rest in a bowl alongside. Use a pizza cutter to easily cut the polenta into slabs and serve warm.

 

Za’atar tomatoes

– Keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

– Try spooning these onto bruschetta, using them as a sauce for pasta, or serving them alongside the caramelized fennel with orzo and saffron water (p. 200).

Get Your Copy Now

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things by Noor Murad, Yotam Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things

Noor Murad, Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi, Noor Murad, and the test kitchen superteam behind the New York Times bestseller Shelf Love deliver maximum-flavor recipes with make-ahead condiments, sauces, and more toppings that transform any dish into an Ottolenghi favorite.

Extra Good Things is all about the secret culinary weapons—condiments, sauces, dressings, and more—that can make a good meal spectacular. The abundant, vegetable-forward recipes in this collection give you a delicious dish plus that special takeaway—a sauce, a sprinkle, a pickle!—that you can repurpose time and time again in other recipes throughout the week, with limitless opportunity. These extras help you stock your fridges and pantries the Ottolenghi way, so you can effortlessly accessorize your plates with pops of texture and color, acidity and heat, and all the magical flavor bombs that keep you coming back for more.

And this is where the fun really begins, with extras like marinated feta, featured in a dish of oven-braised chickpeas, that can then be spooned onto your favorite salad or swirled into soup. Slow-cooked za’atar tomatoes top a polenta pizza for dinner but will also make the best-ever bruschetta or pasta sauce. Or a crispy, crunchy panko topping full of ginger, shallots, and sesame that you first meet on soba noodles but you'll want to put on . . . well, just about everything.

Whether it’s a spicy kick of pickled chile or an herbaceous salsa to lighten and brighten, Extra Good Things shows you how to fill your kitchen with adaptable, homemade ingredients that will make any dish undeniably “Ottolenghi.”

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