Balkan Polenta with Rapini
To me, this is comfort food. The warm, sweet flavor of the polenta combined with bitter rapini and salty, tangy feta and makes my mouth water. Balkan polenta is made with coarse cornmeal, which gives it a more defined texture. And while I love Greek feta, I like a softer and stronger Bulgarian feta for this and other baked dishes. I also only buy feta swimming in brine. The brine keeps the cheese moist and gives it has a longer shelf life. When first made the polenta will have a softer consistency like porridge. As it sits it will firm and cut nicely into squares. It’s also great as leftovers. One next-day idea shown in the photo below: cut it into squares; brush the squares with olive oil; and bake at 350 deg F until golden.
• 1 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
• 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• ½ cup olive oil
• 1 ¾ cups feta, freshly crumbled
• 1 cup yogurt
• ½ lb rapini, washed and coarsely chopped
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 tsp Allepo or Urfa Biber pepper (alternatively one pinch of crushed pepper flakes)
• ½ cup white wine or scant ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 Tsp fresh thyme, chopped
• Juice of lemon to taste (optional)
• Salt (optional)
Mix the cornmeal with 1 ½ cups cold water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
In meantime, bring stock to boil. Add rapini and cornmeal, stirring frequently for 10 to 12 minutes. Add olive oil and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Remove mixture from heat and fold in the feta and yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the topping, heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or until fragrant, and then add the pepper. Add the wine or stock and when sauce starts to bubble, simmer on low for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and add salt and lemon juice to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the polenta. (If sensitive to salt or lemon, I suggest adding after sauce is added to polenta.)