Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushroom Cicchetti – Venetian Tapas

Polenta Mushroom Crostini

Tapas!  I love these little bites!

On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, a group of friends and I went to an incredible and authentic tapas eatery where I first enjoyed Spanish tapas.  It was an amazing experience, both culinary and culturally!  I was thrilled to be able to experience these wonderful little plates in 1994 when few Americans had heard of these little dishes yet.  Tapas were not yet a mainstream food item!

Although tapas are beloved by many today, a lot of people don’t know that Venice, Italy also has a culinary tradition of tapas known as ‘Cicchetti’ — aka:  Italian tapas!

Cicchetti are simple, small ‘little bites’, and are often quite salty since Venetian cuisine was founded on salt because of it’s location on the Adriatic Sea (think:  salt-cured sardines, anchovies, cod, and more).  So for Italian tapas, or ‘chicchetti’, you need a strong salt element to excite the taste buds . . . freshly ground sea salt is my favorite to use in the kitchen.  The custom of Italian cicchetti is similar to Spanish tapas – appetizers eaten to offset drinking alcohol in the afternoon or early before the evening meal. There is a strong Mediterranean influence in all tapas:  olives, anchovies, sardines, and garlic served on little breads, such as Italian crostini.  It’s easy to understand why Venetian ‘cicchetti’ are often compared with the much-loved tapas from Spain.

For this week’s Sunday Supper theme “Tapas” I prepared some flavor-packed Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms.  I bet you can’t eat just one!  These are absolutely delightful!  Enjoy!

Polenta Crostini

 

Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Porcini Mushroom Cicchetti

What You Need:

    For the polenta:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. finely ground sea salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 - 2 cups freshly grated Italian Fontina cheese, plus more to pass around to guests
  • 1 - 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish and to pass around to guests
  • For the mushrooms:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound porcini mushrooms, diced
  • Finely ground sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 long, thin loaf of Italian or French bread, sliced thin, toasted, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with fresh garlic

Instructions

    Cook the polenta:
  • In a medium, heavy pot over high heat bring the cream, stock, and sea salt to a boil.
  • Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly.
  • When the mixture thickens, switch to a wooden spoon and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer.
  • Cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses.
  • Keep the polenta warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • If the polenta gets dry as it sits, stir in about 1/4 cup of cream at a time, until it reaches your preference of wetness/dryness.
  • Saute the mushrooms:
  • In a medium skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil.
  • When the oil is hot, place the mushrooms in a single layer, and do not stir!
  • Cook the mushrooms to a sizzling point until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 - 3 minutes.
  • When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them once and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes.
  • Season mushrooms with salt and pepper.
  • Add the butter and cook until it begins to brown.
  • Then add the garlic.
  • Continue to cook until the garlic begins to brown, do not burn the garlic.
  • Add the thyme and cook for about 10 seconds more.
  • Add the lemon juice and cook until it evaporates.
  • Add the wine, and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce.
  • Add the parsley.
  • Then stir and remove the pan from the heat.
  • Place about 1 tablespoon of warm polenta on each little slice of toasted bread (crostini).
  • Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the mushroom on top of the polenta.
  • Garnish with grated Parmesan and minced Italian parsley.
  • Serve immediately.
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Polenta Crostini Bites

When I was in Venice, I shot this photo of a typical ‘bacari’ where Venetians go to nibble on ‘cicchetti’ with a glass of wine or cocktail.

Here are the other delicious tapas for this week’s Sunday Supper Tapas theme:

Stuffed Green Queen Olives with Garlic Infused Olive Oil from MarocMama
Cheesy, Tortellini Tapas & Spicy Bacon Ranch Dip from Daily Dish Recipes
Black-Eyed Pea Cowboy Caviar from Shockingly Delicious
Goan Beef Croquettes from Masala Herb
Giardiniera Salad from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Bacon Wrapped Calamari from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Patatas Bravas from Supper for a Steal
Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Bites from The Foodie Army Wife
Agave Truffles from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Tomato Bread from girlichef
Clams in Green Sauce (Almejas en Salsa Verde) from The Little Ferraro Kitchen
Roasted Tomato-Basil Flatbread from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Herb and Citrus Marinated Olives from Magnolia Days
Smoky Paprika Peppers from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Balsamic Raspberries with Mascarpone Cream from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Gambas al Ajillo from Manu’s Menu
Squid in Garlic Chili Olive Oil from Food Lust People Love
Tortilla Española from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Croquetas de Pollo from Cookin’ Mimi
Low-Carb Salmon Croquettes from Yours And Mine Are Ours
Bruschetta Topping from What Smells So Good?
Herb Roasted Almonds from Curious Cuisiniere
Artichoke Heart and Manchego Spread on Fried Garlic Bread from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Tortillita de Camarones from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Patatas A La Riojana (Rioja-Style Potato & Chorizo Stew) from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Gambas al Ajillo y Clementina (Shrimp with Garlic and Clementines) from FoodieTots
Tortillas De Papa y Atun (Tuna and Potatoes Tortilla) from Basic N Delicious
Pocky Cake Pops from NinjaBaking.com
Chorizo Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon from I Run For Wine
Manchego-Stuffed Spanish Meatballs from The Weekend Gourmet
Roast Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts from Healthy. Delicious.
Shrimp and Chorizo Tapas from The Texan New Yorker
Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Quesada from In The Kitchen With KP
Chorizo with Spicy Sweet Potato Tapas from Soni’s Food
Chorizo and Manchego Toast Tapas from Family Foodie
Roasted Bone Marrow with Citrus Salad from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Mushroom Chevre Crostini from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquetas with Smoked Pimenton Aioli from My Other City By The Bay
Krab Filled Avocado Tapas from from Hot Momma’s Kitchen Chaos
Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms: Cicchetti – A Venetian Tapas Tradition from La Bella Vita Cucina

Sunday Supper Movement

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Comments

  1. I am going to want an entire bowl of that, not just one spoon!
    Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious recently posted..Black-Eyed Pea Cowboy Caviar for #SundaySupperMy Profile

  2. What a great recipe! I simply love it! The photos are beautiful!
    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers recently posted..Giardiniera Salad #SundaySupperMy Profile

  3. I have been looking forward to this recipe! I love polenta and have a wheat allergy. Now I want to turn all of my ideas for crostini into polenta bites!
    Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips recently posted..Patatas a La Riojana (Rioja-Style Potato & Chorizo Stew) for a #SundaySupper Tapas PartyMy Profile

  4. What a simply STUNNING recipe! Thank you for sharing it for the theme today!
    Constance Smith (@FoodieArmyWife) recently posted..Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Bites | #SundaySupperMy Profile

  5. Great recipe!!! I could eat this allll dayyyy!
    Samantha @FerraroKitchen recently posted..Clams in Green Sauce (Almejas en Salsa Verde) for Tapas #SundaySupperMy Profile

  6. Ooooh, this one is definintely goin’ into the to-make pile!
    Mindy recently posted..24-Hour Bedroom Makeover: The Kid’s New RoomMy Profile

  7. Roz these are so FABULOUS !! Great for entertaining any gathering!! We love tapas, and so many Tapas restaurants are opening up all over the country! I very first time I went into a Tapas place was in Austin, Texas in 2006 when my daughter Annalisa worked there as the 5 pm. News Anchor for CBS in Austin. The second time, I really became familiar with tapas was when my husband and I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain in 2008. Nowadays, we find these wonderful little tapas places opening everywhere. It’s funny, going to Italy and visiting Venice, so many times, I never really looked at the Italian bars as little tapas places ( as Italian tapas style! )…But they are!! LOl…. Grazie per la ricetta!
    2 Sisters Recipes recently posted..Peppermint Mocha LatteMy Profile

  8. Now I have to go to Venice so I can compare the two! I’m also adding polenta to my meal plan for next week!
    Amanda @ MarocMama recently posted..Stuffed Green Queen Olives with Garlic Infused Olive Oil for #SundaySupperMy Profile

  9. Love that you used fontina cheese, it is so yummy!
    Shaina recently posted..Roasted Tomato Basil Flatbread for #SundaySupperMy Profile

  10. WOW, these crostinis look incredible! You nailed it :)
    Megan @ I Run For Wine recently posted..Chorizo Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon for #SundaySupper Tapas Party!My Profile

  11. wow this looks amazing
    rebecca recently posted..Orange and Chocolate Chip MuffinsMy Profile

  12. Wow what beautiful photos and this recipe looks delicious!
    Tammy Northrup recently posted..Low-Carb Salmon Croquettes #SundaySupperMy Profile

  13. These tapas are stunning! Love, love them.
    Velva recently posted..Savoring the Season: Lemon Chicken Orzo SoupMy Profile

  14. Such beautiful photos! I wonder if the term cicchetti comes from cicchetto, which in colloquial Italian means “drink/shot”? Maybe they are called cicchetti as they would be eaten with a drink as aperitivo? In any case, I wish I could reach one of those crostini through the screen and eat it right now! :-)

  15. Oh, what fabulous food! It looks so tasty, and with the texture of the polenta and the depth of flavor of the mushrooms, they must be great. I say yes, please! Complimenti!

  16. Polenta is my childhood comfort food. =)
    But I can’t get my husband to like it. I ought to try your recipe and maybe I ll finally get him to switch to the polenta side of life =)

  17. I hadn’t heard of cicchetti before, though I’m not surprised because Europeans have a different way of eating. And your dish looks and sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I’ve not yet had anything called cicchetti but after looking at these beautiful photographs and reading through your recipe, I know it’s what I must have!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..You CAN Grow Corn in a Small PatchMy Profile

  19. Oh, my, Roz! Your crostini bites sound incredible! I could pop a whole lot of these babies in my mouth :) So happy to have you join the SS group this week!!!

  20. I would definitely be eating a few of these bites.. then come back for more!

  21. Roz these look amazing! Polenta instead of bread sounds delicious!
    Cindys Recipes and Writings recently posted..Tortillita de Camarones (Shrimp Cakes) Tapas #SundaySupperMy Profile

  22. What a great idea of putting polenta on crostini to make little cicchetti. They sound absolutely delicious.
    Karen (Back Road Journal) recently posted..Caldo Verde, A Portuguese Kale SoupMy Profile

  23. Oh Roz – this is my favorite way to eat – small bites. Unfortunately, husband likes complete meals. I’d rather graze on these polenta bites all days. Love polenta with mushrooms – what a grand pairing. Happy New Year to you and congratulations on the new addition to the family A baby does change everything – in the best possible way.
    Claudia recently posted..Rosemary BreadMy Profile

  24. I never understood the purpose of utensils. All good food can be made as fingerfood. :) If these were on the menu, I would order at least two plates. I love the way you used the polenta on the toasts and the way you cooked the mushrooms is perfect!
    mjskit recently posted..Chorizo, Mushroom and Posole (Hominy) SoupMy Profile

  25. I had no idea about Italian tapas! Big shame on me. These polenta bites look lovely. Such a fun handheld appetizer.
    Joanne recently posted..Wednesday Coffee TalkMy Profile

  26. A great appetizer! Those polenta bites must taste wonderful. I love the idea.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  27. I love using fried polenta instead of bread for bruschetta, Roz, as then the gluten free members of my family can also enjoy eating it. This would be a wonderful appetizer for Superbowl Sunday!
    Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti recently posted..A Trip “Home” to BrooklynMy Profile

  28. Babe! I adore your blog soo much!! I’m your newest follower on Bloglovin’ :-) .. Hope you can follow back!

    Love,

    Noor
    http://queenofjetlags.com

  29. Hi dear, very nice recipes!! :-) I’m your newest follower on Bloglovin’ :-) .. Hope you can follow back!

    Love,

    Noor
    http://queenofjetlags.com
    Queen of Jet Lags recently posted..On Thursday we wear whiteMy Profile

  30. What a mouthwatering post! I love tapas too, and these crostini bites sound divine.
    Beth recently posted..Thursday’s Child: Kafka in PragueMy Profile

  31. Hi dear, you have nice blog and great post, can we follow each other? if you decided to follow me on BLOGLOVIN please let me know so I can follow you back, thank you

    http://www.love-joice.com

  32. I’m sure I couldn’t eat just one! They look and sound fantastic!
    Susan recently posted..Crispy Stuffed Baked Potato SkinsMy Profile

  33. What a beautiful recipe Roz. I’d really like to learn a lot more about authentic tapas. I wish I could have participated in this #SS event. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks.
    Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) recently posted..Stuffed Avocado Appetizer, Football FoodMy Profile

  34. i often slice up polenta thin and bake them for crispy bites but never thought to add a topping to them. It makes them more hearty and even more delicious! You always have the best ideas
    Kitchen Belleicious recently posted..SuperBowl Inspired Cajun Shrimp DipMy Profile

  35. Oh my! This looks amazing!! You had me at caramelized. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I am pinning it and hope to make it soon. I’ve never tried making polenta before so that will be a fun new experience. I have been thinking about you today as we have been hearing about all the snow there. I hope all is well with you and your family.
    Shari Kelley recently posted..Pasta PuttanescaMy Profile

  36. This is wonderful, I may have a problem with self control around this yumminess. xo
    Katherines Corner recently posted..Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop 123My Profile

  37. I’m just catching up on my blog reading and found this winner of a recipe Roz. Question – did you use dried or fresh porcini? The fresh ones are impossible to find here, and when you do find them, they cost a fortune.
    Ciao Chow Linda recently posted..Butternut squash and greensMy Profile

  38. Can’t wait to try these! I have been trying to give up my obsession with pasta and polenta has helped me with that! I recently topped mine with broiled tomatoes, capers, and asparagus! Great blog!

  39. A friend made these last night for a dinner party. They were delicious but the recipe makes too much polenta for the amount of crostini and mushrooms. I would make one forth of the polenta, at most. Thanks for the recipe :)
    Dragana recently posted..Shubhra Ramineni’s “Palak” PaneerMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Dragna! I always make extra polenta for the next day to “fry” and ladle bolognese sauce over it for dinner . . . it has to be a day old. But I’ll make note of that in the post and thank you again. I’m glad that the dinner party guests enjoyed the crostini!

      Roz
      Roz recently posted..St. Patrick’s Day “Green” Recipes My Profile

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