September is hours away, and the cicadas outside my window are in full chorus. They don’t seem to be done with summer, and frankly neither am I. The recent weeks have brought us some wonderful summer thunderstorms as of late. They’ve been rolling in with their big dramatic clouds around dusk and proceed to light up the sky until wee hours of the morning.
In the years I lived in the South and on the East Coast, these percussive light shows were sorely missed. Nothing beats a Midwestern thunderstorm.
Late summer’s other beauties are flooding our farmer’s market, and we have been taking full advantage. A couple weeks back I was craving a good hearty panzanella salad. It is rare that I keep gluten-free bread in the house on a regular basis, and when I do, it’s kept in the freezer for when only a sandwich or piece of toast will do.
Polenta croutons seemed like a fair swap and with juicy tomatoes, crunch of red onion, creamy mozzarella, and peppery arugula greens, my panzanella cravings were quickly satisfied. Polenta croutons can be made easily and can bake while you prep your salad fixings. And while it is possible to make the croutons from scratch, the method below uses store-bought ready-made polenta.
This method saves the day on weeknights, when reaching for a pizza feels infinitely easier than placing greens and veggies on the table, while also allowing you to take in summer’s finest in the process. If you want to omit the mozzarella, avocado works wonderfully as a creamy substitute.
- Polenta Croutons:
- 1 tube polenta*
- 3 teapoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups arugula
- 2-3 medium to large heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
- ½ cup vertically sliced red onion
- 6 oz. (3/4 cup) baby mozzarella, whole or torn
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the polenta out of the wrapping and slice each end off to square it up, then cut into 1-1½ inch cubes.
- Place the polenta cubes into a medium bowl. Add 3 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently to evenly coat and then spread cubes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges start to brown and outside looks crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you assemble salad.
- In a large bowl add arugula, tomatoes, red onion, and mozzarella. Toss gently to combine.Add polenta croutons and toss again. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Drizzle dressing in the amount desired to salad or plate salads and dress individually.