Polenta Cake with Spring Vegetables

April 17, 2014 Published by Dina

Spring is still resisting but I decided to ignore it and pretend it’s here. Wherever spring vegetables come from this time of year, they are beginning to show up in the produce section of our local stores and I am all over them (if they look good). I am also in the middle of a difficult photography course, two, really, challenging myself to learn more. Sitting next to young (twenty somethin’) group of students is kind of a humbling experience. They are so fast and keep up with the going on. I am still a little behind wondering what’s going on over there and which key did she say to click, but manage to eventually get there with a little help from my (younger) friends.

So here is an early spring recipe, a nice vegetarian dish featuring beautiful spring vegetables, quickly sautéed in olive oil and served with a fried polenta round. A drizzle of basil and tomato oils finishes the flavour palate nicely. This dish isn’t new, polenta cakes were in vogue a while back, but food is food and if it’s good then why not do it again (and again)? They have been making this in Italy since eternity and it’s still good.

The basil oil and tomato oil are easy to make, see directions below. These are items I like to have on hand to spice things up in the kitchen and they look pretty drizzled around the plate.

Polenta and vegetables


1 recipe polenta

2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 baby zucchini
6 baby yellow squash
1 cup sugar peas or snow peas, cut in half diagonally
6 thin asparagus spears, cut in pieces diagonally
1/2 cup corn kernels
2 cups fresh spinach.

1/2 cup water or stock

Salt and pepper

Roasted tomato oil

Basil oil



Prepare basic polenta recipe using this recipe here. When cooked through spread in a pan to about 1/2 inch thickness and refrigerate until set.

When set, cut the polenta into large rounds, one per serving.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet.

When hot add the polenta rounds, one or two at a time, and cook until each side is golden and crisp, turning once. You may need to press on the polenta with a spatula to make sure the whole surface is in contact with the skillet. When all are crisp and golden on both sides remove and set aside.

In a clean skillet heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the vegetables except the spinach and cook until softened but still retain some bite. Add a bit of water or stock if the skillet seems dry, a tablespoon at a time. The hot steam will help the vegetables cook quicker.

When vegetables are soft add the spinach and toss with tongs until spinach wilts and combines with the rest of the vegetables.

Season with salt and pepper and drizzle some basil oil over.

To serve arrange a polenta cake on a plate, pile vegetables alongside and drizzle tomato oil and basil oil over and around.

Serve immediately with grated parmesan on the side.


Basil oil:

Place a handful of  basil leaves in a food processor with 1/2 cup oil.

Process until smooth.

Remove and add as much oil as you need to make a pouring consistency. Don’t blend it all in the processor.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can add some hot pepper flakes and lemon zest


Tomato oil:

1 basket cherry tomatoes.

1-2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup oil

Toss the cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil and roast on a foil lined sheet in 400F oven until partially dried (not completely, they should shrink by half)

Place the tomatoes and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop them up.

Add the oil and pulse a few more times. The tomatoes don’t need to be completely mixed with the oil.

Remove to a glass container and add just enough oil to make a pouring consistency.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can add s few hot pepper flakes to spice it up.

Note: you can make a sun dried tomato oil by using about 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil instead of the fresh cherry tomatoes. See image below.


Polenta cake with spring vegetables

Polenta cake with spring vegetables

Sun dried tomato oil

Sun dried tomato oil



  • bellini says:

    I love polenta. Laura took a cooking class at Miradoro and they made the popcorn polenta I had when we had dinner there. Quite an unusual process.

    • Dina says:

      Polenta popcorn? Haven’t tried it. Are we having dinner there next week? the long table dinner? Thanks for dropping by Val.