We just finished the last of the Jewish year's major holidays, Shavuot, or as I like to call it "The Cheesecake Holiday". It's customary to eat dairy dishes, which are usually very rich and caloric. Now we face down a long, hot summer, and like many it's time to start a pre-bathing suit season diet. For many diet can mean deprivation, but instead replacing highly caloric meals with vegetable based ones is a good option. They can be colorful and interesting.
A salad with the addition of protein and a bit of texture, like croutons, is a nice contrast to having protein be the star of the meal. The other day at Trader Joe's, I spotted pea shoot sprouts, they seemed like an interesting new addition to a salad. My family uses Trader Joe's polenta a lot as it's gluten free and a very quick starch to prepare. It comes in a tube and I usually slice it and put it on a baking sheet with olive oil and herbs. It is also good for oven fries and a tomato-basil appetizer I love.
I decided to apply my oven-fried polenta technique to croutons. They are a nice and easy gluten-free alternative to bread croutons. If you want ot be extra decadent you can add grated Parmesan cheese to the recipe below---especially nice for a Caesar salad (but arent' we dieting?!).
Most of the ingredients for this recipe are in the spirit of Rachel Ray, "eyeballed". If you aren't good at that just think of giving everything a light coating with the spices as opposed to a "breaded" look. I use olive oil in my Misto sprayer for this, but you can also use store bought non-stick cooking spray, or drizzle oil over croutons.
1 tube, plain store bought polenta*
Italian seasoning blend (or separately dried basil, oregano, sage)
fresh ground black pepper
Preheat an oven to 450° and spray a large, non-stick baking pan with olive oil or non-stick baking spray.
Cut the polenta into approximately half-inch cubes and place in a baking sheet (you can also toss them with seasonings in a bowl), drizzle or spray with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with spices and toss to evenly coat. Spread polenta cubes into a single layer.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. These are crunchy on the outside and tender inside!
*If you prefer to use homemade polenta, spread warm polenta in a greased sheet pan; allow to harden and cut in cubes. Proceed as above.
Note: Not all of the recipes below in the Kosher Link-Up are gluten or allergen free.