May 24

Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa & Polenta Tapas


Acorn Squash Polenta 4

I went and ate froyo last weekend and the place wasn’t self-serve.  I didn’t even know that non-self-serve froyo places still existed.  I thought they were kinda like VCR’s and landlines in houses.  You know, outdated and replaced by technological innovation and whatnot.  But lo and behold, there it was.  And I’ve drawn the conclusion that non-self-serve froyo isn’t nearly as fun as getting to sample approximately 17 flavors and then filling your cup with cake batter flavor and covering it in mochi and peanut butter cups. 

Speaking of peanut butter cups.  I’m worried I’m getting boring.  Mainly because I looked at my “things I must make for serious” pinterest board and everything was brown.  Not even kidding.  My oat flour and peanut butter usage is out of control but more concerning-ly, it is far too mono-chromatic.  And it’s like the worst color to be mono-chromatic in…brown.  Eww.

 Acorn Squash Polenta 1

So I decided to be that change I want to see in the word (less brown) and did something dramatic and uncharacteristic for me and made something without oat flour.  I know.  It’s like I’m a new person.  But then I’m not because my indecisiveness is still oh-so-very present because I have (yet again) changed our honeymoon location.

Now we’re going to Cabo San Lucas.  Which is appropriate because of my love for all things Laguna Beach.  Yes, the painful show with Kristen and LC and Jessica and Steven.  My love for the show is actually because my grandparents honeymooned in Laguna way back when and they loved it so much that my family has been going to Laguna every year since (like 50 years).  

But anyways, if you watched the show you should know that the cast would always go to Cabo and make questionable decisions.  And since I had this whole stuck-up-I’m-not-gonna-party-in-college-because-I’d-rather-pretend-I’m somehow-better-than-you approach (…seriously, took me awhile to get over myself and the whole save-face and never let anyone see you sweat thing), I think Cabo is the perfect place to start making questionable decisions…or at least that’s what they did on the show.  So that sounds just fun and perfect (just kidding, Mom).

 Acorn Squash Polenta 5

But truthfully, a huge part of the honeymoon location determination (HLD?) was based around my desire to eat plateful upon plateful of Mexican Food.  And even though we can’t afford this place, this place or this place…I think I have found a place that we’ll be happy with.  Now we (read: I) just need to commit and make the reservations.

Geez, planning a honeymoon is hard work.  I feel like I’ve already been to San Francisco and Belize with the amount of time I’ve spent researching those places.  I for serious had lists with restaurants in San Fran and Belize that we would of HAD to go to.  But now I get to look up must-go-to restaurants in Cabo.  Actually, I already have.

 Acorn Squash Polenta 3

In the mean time, I’ve already found like a hundred billion more restaurants I still need to go to in Houston.  I crossed Sweet Paris off my list this week and it was fabulous.  So fabulous that this happened and I am already planning on going back for my birthday…but probably won’t be able to resist until then.  And, it should be noted that they cater.  Hmm crepes as wedding party favors?  Now that is something to ponder.  But I’m still so beyond in love with this idea for wedding favors though.  Ugh, so torn.

 Acorn Squash Polenta 2

Okay, back on track…this recipe is actually for a recipe contest.  Can I get an “awwyeah” for a little competition?  I feel like I’m on Chopped…minus the 15 minutes of fame and being on TV part.

This competition is hosted by Tastespotting and Dole.  The competition involved creating a Spanish-inspired dish using DOLE Salad blends.  I choose to use a 5-oz bag of arugula to make a Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa which I used to top a Crispy Acorn Squash Infused Polenta Cake.  Oh and there was goat cheese and roasted, caramelized tomatoes involved too.

 Acorn Squash Polenta

I love polenta.  I have been meaning to make polenta pancakes ever since I learned about polenta…which was like 2 years ago.  So I’ve spent two years building up unrealistic expectations about how polenta pancakes are going to be the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted.

All this talk about pancakes brings me to this…I’m off to Colorado this weekend for a wedding.  Other than enjoying the wedding, my goal is to somehow end up here.  I don’t think they have polenta pancakes, but normal ones will work just fine.  Fingers crossed I can convince someone into taking me.  I have every intention of bribing my fiance.


Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa & Polenta Tapas

makes 18 polenta squares (or 36 polenta triangles)

Acorn Squash Infused Polenta

3 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cup cornmeal

1 3/4 cup acorn squash, roasted and mashed (~1 medium sized squash)

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Line 2-8×8 inch glass dishes with parchment paper.  In a saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rolling boil.  Stream in cornmeal slowly and whisk constantly to avoid clumps from forming.  Reduce heat to medium.  Once all of the cornmeal is added, the mixture will quickly begin to thicken.  Continue to whisk for 1 minute until completely smooth.  Whisk in mashed acorn squash.  Finally whisk in rosemary, salt and pepper.  Divide polenta between two parchment paper-lined dishes.  Using a spatula, smooth the polenta out so the top is as flat and even as possible.  Allow to cool to room temperature (30-45 minutes).  Cover dishes with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours until completely set.

While the polenta is setting, make your creamy salsa.

Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa

1 cup walnuts

3 Tbsp pine nuts

5 oz Dole Salad Blends Arugula

3/4 cup light coconut milk (from a can)

1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 scant tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

First, toast your nuts by placing the walnuts and pine nuts into a dry skillet and heating over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring CONSTANTLY.

In the bowl of a food processor/vitamix/high-powered blender, place toasted walnuts and pinenuts, arugula, coconut milk, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Blend until completely smooth.

Assemble Tapas

2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced into ~1/2 inch slices

~1/4 cup olive oil, divided


1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 batch cooled and set Acorn Squash Infused Polenta (recipe above)

1 batch Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa (recipe above)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Place tomato slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle tomatoes with 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper.  Roast tomatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy/brown/caramelized on top.

While tomatoes are roasting, remove the cold polenta from the 8×8-inch dish and place on a cutting board.  Cut large polenta square into 9-12 squares or 18 triangles (cut into 9 squares and then cut each square diagonally).

Heat 2-3 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Once hot, swirl the olive oil around to coat the skillet.  Add polenta cakes and allow polenta to cook undisturbed for ~3 minutes, or until a nice, brown, crispy crust has formed.  Flip polenta cake to the other side and allow it to crisp up too.

Top crispy polenta cake with a spoonful of Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa.  Top salsa with a roasted tomato and sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles.  Serve immediately.

8 comments on “Creamy Arugula Walnut Salsa & Polenta Tapas”

  1. Thank you for the nice recipe. Have a good weekend!

  2. This looks amazing!

    • I LOVE polenta!! And would gladly eat it for every meal haha. Polenta-blueberry pancakes for breakfast, salad with crispy polenta rounds for lunch, and creamy polenta with eggs and salsa for dinner…sounds like a delicious day:))

  3. Tapas are right up there with my favorite things in life!! Brilliant!

    • I agree:) Tapas are so fun…little bites and tastes of everything. If you ever come to Houston, there’s a restaurant called Mi Luna in Rice Village that you would love!!

  4. Sounds amazing. But I’m confused about where the polenta comes from in the recipe? Is Polenta also known as cornmeal? I have only ever seen the dried bag of ‘polenta’. Thanks :)

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