If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Top Chef, it’s that the worst thing you can do in life is cook something that’s already been cooked before.
OK, that’s totally a lie and half the excitement of cooking is replicating traditions. But still, it’s always fun to find new ways to consume things. Case in point – appetizers. Back in the land before time, when people served appetizers – cheeses, prosciutto, tapenades and hummus – you only had two options for serving vehicles: slices of bread and crackers. But in today’s food’ed out culture, bread and crackers are the last thing you’d want to serve cheese on. You can do endive leaves, phyllo cups, apple wedges, potato pancake patties, bilinis or homemade pita chips. But the point is, it better not be the same thing the last dinner party used.
Going back to Top Chef for a reference, my favorite moment of last season was when Hung served smoked salmon mousse on cucumber slices, and Padma called it “painfully 80’s.” I had never even seen this serving method before, yet it is apparently a good twenty years passe already. Obviously, there is no reason to be quite so snobby about things, but it does give me reason enough to write about my new favorite food base: polenta fritters.
I started eating these last summer when I was working across the street from Bryant Park, and there was this fancy salad bar place that had them every day (can’t remember the name – anyone?). Anyway, I realized they would be really easy to make at home. You just slice up a roll of polenta (no, I am not making my own polenta yet – but that is next on the agenda). Fry them up in some extra virgin for about five minutes per side, and then pat the oil off with a paper towel. I top ’em with feta cheese (pictured), prosciutto, or tomato slices. It makes for a hearty meal, when cheese and crackers wouldn’t be enough.