Friday, April 24, 2015

Book 119 | Great Chefs of the Caribbean | Parmesan Basket with Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

Edited by Julia M. Pitkin

This was fun to make, and it was tasty too!

I have seen a few recipes for making Parmesan baskets, and have been wanting to do this for some time. 

And it is super easy! All you do is, take some grated cheese, place it on a baking sheet in a circular shape and bake until the cheese has fused itself together. Then take the melted cheese and place it over a bowl or cup to shape it. Instead of transferring the melted cheese by way of spatula to the bowl, I just cut the parchment paper between the cheese rounds, and placed the bowl on top of the cheese and flipped it over. Much easier. Not to mention, these babies are greasy, and the parchment paper keeps your hands grease-free while shaping them around the bowl.

I wanted a bit more color to the bowls, but I was afraid if I let them cook longer, they might have disintegrated.

This is supposed to be tomato sauce, to be placed in a squeeze bottle to drizzle on the plate. I ended up transferring it to the food processor and adding some vegetable broth and water (and a bit of cayenne to spice things up) to thin it out. As for the pesto oil, that turned out quite thick as well, more like pesto, then oil - also to be used for drizzling. 

Is there anyone who doesn't like roasted vegetables? You really can't go wrong with roasted veggies. I did not roast the tomatoes, I added them after, and placed the vegetables back in the turned-off oven, just to warm them up.

I love polenta, and felt it should have a decent amount underneath all those vegetables. Apparently the amount I thought was perfect, was more than the recipe called for. I halved the recipe, which should serve two, and I used almost all of the polenta for this one bowl. Their round of polenta must have been pretty thin. Good thing I was dining solo this evening!

This made for a tasty light dinner; it would even be good sans the basket, if you don't want to go to the trouble of making them. Speaking of the basket, it was a bit on the chewy side - I was expecting it to be crisp. I did read that if too much cheese is used, the baskets can turn out chewy - so there you go.

I'm confused as to where the Caribbean influence is in this dish. Must be the polenta. When I think Caribbean food, I think of rum, mango, coconut, rice, and foods with a spicy kick. Not that it really matters much, I enjoyed this just the same.

Parmesan Basket with Polenta and Roasted Vegetables
Serves 4

Parmesan Baskets

8 oz. Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Tomato Sauce

1 Tbl. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Pesto Oil

1/3 cup olive oil
10-12 basil leaves
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated


2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup cornmeal
1 Tbl. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Vegetables

1 lb. mixed roasted vegetables, cubed (eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, shallots)
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


8 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
4 sprigs fresh basil

For the baskets:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the Parmesan cheese into 4 circles on a Teflon baking sheet (or parchment paper), making sure the pieces within each circle overlap and the thickness is even. You will need to use 2 baking sheets, or bake in two batches. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has fused to itself; test by lifting one side with a plastic spatula. Remove and immediately place over n inverted glass, shaping the cheese into a basket. Allow to cool and harden. Remove from the glasses and store in an airtight container until needed.

For the tomato sauce:

In a small sauté pan heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion over medium heat until translucent. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 15 minutes until the tomatoes lose their shape and the mixture thickens slightly. Put in a squeeze bottle.

For the pesto oil:

Process the ingredients in a food processor or blender until liquefied. Put in a squeeze bottle.

For the polenta:

Grease a baking sheet. In a large saucepan bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, olive oil, and seasonings. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring continually. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and allow to set. Cut into 2½-inch circles.

For the vegetables:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.

To serve:

Reheat the polenta in the oven, or sauté for 2 minutes per side in olive oil. Place a Parmesan basket on each serving plate. Place a polenta circle into the bottom of each basket. Fill with vegetables. Drizzle the plate with tomato and pesto oils. Garnish each plate with chiffonade of basil leaves and a fresh basil sprig.

Great Chefs of the Caribbean/Julia M. Pitkin


  1. What a beautiful presentation! And it looks tasty, too!!

  2. I don't see the Caribbean influence, either - more Italian in my view. But it definitely looks worth making. Not that I am "Mr. Short Cuts" but for the drizzles, I might have just spiced and thickened some tomato sauce and simply infused some oil with basil till it was very green then pureed it. Do you think that would have worked okay? This actually made me hungry at 6:30am. Good sign!

    1. Great ideas, David! Yes, for sure it would work. I was even thinking maybe a spicy red bell pepper sauce may be good. For sure, the basil oil would have been a lot better.


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