Polenta Square with Sage Pesto

The perfect hors d'oeuvre for a cocktail party - squares of polenta mixed with chives and mascarpone, topped with a pungent sage pesto and a colorful, fresh cherry tomato half. These little beauties will go fast, so make a double batch if you need more than 30. They're perfect with my favorite cocktail - a Negroni (equal parts Aria gin, Campari and Red Vermouth over ice).


1 c. polenta
1 T. butter
2 T. mascarpone or sour cream
1/4 c. chives, chopped
cherry tomatoes, cut in half (half a tomato per polenta square)
3/4 c. fresh sage leaves, firmly packed
1/2 c. Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
juice of half a lemon

FOR THE POLENTA: Bring 3 c. water, 1 T. butter and 1 tsp. salt to a rolling boil. Slowly sprinkle in the polenta while whisking. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for 30 minutes. If it gets much too thick, add up to about another 1/4 c. water. Take off the heat, add the chives and 2 T. mascarpone or sour cream and stir well. Work quickly as it's quite thick. Pour into a 7"x11" sheet pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil to make it easier to remove the polenta later; smooth the top so it's level (an offset spatula works great). Let it cool for about 15 minutes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

FOR THE SAGE PESTO: Combine the pine nuts, sage, parsley, olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth.

TO ASSEMBLE: Cut the polenta into small squares, top with a dollop of pesto, and put half a cherry tomato on top. Serve.

*For your vegan guests, leave out the butter and use vegan sour cream.