Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021

© Sara Remington

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Seared polenta with tomato sauce

Pan-fried polenta cakes topped with heirloom tomato sauce will satisfy the pickiest eater

The polenta cooks quickly, but needs an hour or two to cool in the fridge, so make it ahead of time or let it cool while you cook the tomato sauce.

2 c. (500 ml) plain unsweetened soymilk
2 tbsp. (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. (5 ml) dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) garlic powder
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) red pepper flakes
1 c. (250 ml) corn grits/polenta
¼ c. (60 ml) whole-wheat pastry flour or corn flour
canola oil for frying
spicy heirloom tomato sauce (recipe online at or good-quality
jarred marinara sauce, heated
1 c. (250 ml) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ c. (125 ml) pine nuts, toasted

Grease a 9-x-9-inch (23-x-23-cm) baking pan with olive oil. Set aside.

Combine the soymilk, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, pepper flakes and 2 cups (500 ml) water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. At the same time, bring a second pot of water to a boil.

Slowly whisk the polenta into the soymilk-olive oil mixture in the medium saucepan. Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth, reducing the heat to low to avoid spattering. Cook until the polenta grains are tender, about 15 minutes, whisking regularly (it should have the consistency of cream of wheat). If it gets thick before fully cooked, add more boiling water, ¼ cup (60 ml) at a time. Immediately pour the polenta into the prepared baking pan. Cool for about 20 minutes, then refrigerate until cold, 1 to 2 hours.

To cut the cold polenta into eight equal triangles, first cut a vertical line down the middle, followed by a horizontal line that divides the polenta into four equal squares. Then make two diagonal cuts from corner to corner to create eight triangles.

Sprinkle the flour on a flat plate and dredge each polenta triangle in flour. Ready a plate lined with several layers of paper towels.

Place a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat and film it with a thin layer of canola oil. Sear the triangles on each side until they are crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add more oil as needed between batches. Transfer the seared polenta to the paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

To assemble the dish, place two polenta triangles on each plate. Top with hot tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts, and serve immediately. Serves 4 as an appetizer or 8 as a side dish.

Heirloom tomato sauce

This is the classic Goodman sauce with a little extra kick from red pepper flakes. If you plan on doubling or tripling this recipe, peel the tomatoes first (see note). Otherwise, use tongs to pick the skins out of the sauce as it simmers — or just leave them in. The choice is yours.

3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2½ tbsp. (37.5 ml) chopped garlic
¾ tsp. (3.75 ml) red pepper flakes
6 lb. (2.7 kg) ripe heirloom tomatoes (quartered if you are not peeling them)
¼ c. (60 ml) plus 2 tbsp. (30 ml) tomato paste
freshly ground black pepper
¾ c. (180 ml) packed chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large, non-reactive pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it softens but does not brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cover the pot, and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes to break up the chunks. Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt, and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency, 30 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the basil and simmer for 2 minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat. The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week, and frozen for up to 1 year. Serves 4.

Note To peel the tomatoes, cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add four or five tomatoes to the pot and cook until the skins begin to wrinkle and split, 30 to 90 seconds. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Let the water in the pot return to a boil, and continue blanching the remaining tomatoes. If the water in the bowl gets warm, add more ice. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, pull off the skins with your fingers; they should come off easily.

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