Found at Natural Grocers: gorgeous leeks; our favorite broth
Found at Whole Foods: local, ripe tomatoes
Found outside: beautiful weather for a lunchtime picnic on the balcony
The result? An easy, simple, delicious dish that pairs perfectly with a chilled glass of Torrontés (from World Market).
2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (polenta)
2 inches of a medium leek (white and/or light green part), chopped
2 medium-large, local, fragrant tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks and sprinkled with salt (to bring out the flavor as they sit)
12-20* leaves fresh sweet basil, cut crosswise into halves or thirds
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, reduced (simmer gently in a small pot until volume reduces by half)
A little Manchego or Parmesan cheese, for grating over the top
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the broth and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small pot. Meanwhile, set a nonstick pan over medium-low heat and add a glug of olive oil. Saute the leeks for 3 minutes, or until they soften, then add the tomatoes and stir gently to combine. Turn off the heat (the tomatoes will warm through as you cook the polenta).
Adjust the heat under the small pot to medium, uncover, and slowly add the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir, adjusting the heat if necessary to keep the polenta at a gentle simmer, for 3-5 minutes, until desired consistency (I like it when it just starts to pull away from the side of the pan as you stir). Cover and remove from heat.
Turn the heat back on under the pan of tomatoes for a minute if they're not yet as warm as you'd like them. (If they weren't super fragrant to begin with, you may want to cook them a minute more.) Add the basil and adjust salt to taste.
Serve in layers: polenta, then a little grated cheese, then the tomatoes. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle with balsamic reduction before serving.
*Go with fewer if store-bought, more if home-grown...the supermarket
variety is usually older and therefore sharper, whereas home-grown basil rarely overwhelms the dish.