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SSB - Week 4 - Whipped Avocado in Spicy Polenta Cups

This is a long post, because I really want it to be not only my SlowTalk Small Bites challenge for this week, but much more importantly, I want it to highlight this contest:

O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

* 1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;

* 2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);

* 3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).


TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

* One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.


From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

* Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
* The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
* There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
* In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
* When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at Michelle's page through FirstGiving!
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.
Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

*************NOW TO THE RECIPE ITSELF************

It's week four of our SlowTrav Sunday Small Bites challenge, and I'm still managing to avoid the cookbooks as I try to dream up my own recipes. This week's special ingredient, AVOCADO, was chosen by Annie.

I wanted to feature the avocado, but not just use it in its natural state. Avocado is so strongly tied to southwestern flavors in my mind, that I decided to intentionally avoid them. So before I go any further, I want to give a nod to my new favorite cooking inspiration resource. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. I love, love, love this book! It gave me the information that avocado paired well with bacon and with corn. So I took that information and thought...bacon=pancetta and corn=polenta. Ergo, Italian.


There are only five main ingredients, so this recipe is quick to pull together.


For Polenta Cups:
1—Roll Pre-cooked Polenta, grated (because I’m lazy)
2—Tablespoons Italian herbs mix (I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
1/2—Teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less based on your love of heat)
2— Eggs, (small) beaten

For Whipped Avocado:
2 — Ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2—lemon
1/2—Shallot, very finely minced
Salt and white pepper to taste

For Garnish:
2—1/4” thick pancetta slices

Using the fine side of hand grater, grate polenta into a bowl.
Add beaten eggs, Italian herbs, & cayenne pepper
Mix completely


Spray two 12 cup mini-muffin tins with olive oil spray
Scoop about a rounded teaspoon of polenta mix into each cup and press into bottom and sides. Don’t worry about perfection. These look better if they are a bit rustic.


Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Turn pans at 10 minute mark for even browning. You want your cups to be crispy brown, just short of crumbly.
(I set my oven on 400 degrees convection and put my muffin trays on-top of pre-heated pizza stones.)

While polenta cups are baking:

Remove as much fat from pancetta slices as possible. Then dice into 1/4” pieces and brown in hot skillet. Drain on paper towel or parchment.

Dice avocado into mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, minced shallot, and salt & pepper. Whip with a stick blender.

Take polenta cups from oven, remove them from muffin trays and let them rest on some paper towel or parchment.


When they are slightly cooled, fill each cup with a generous dollop of whipped avocado and top with a few pieces of pancetta.


Comments (5)

Deborah, this looks really good. You said ... should be easy to put together... that just may entice me to try it soon... because I really like how these looks and I love avocados. Thank you for sharing.

Deborah responds:
Yes, Eden, they are easy to put together. And you can make the whipped avocado and the pancetta bits ahead of time to make them even faster. The polenta, however needs to be freshly baked to keep it from getting soggy on the bottom.

This looks amazing. Those little cups are genius! I admire you for creating all these cool recipes.

Brad'll Do It:

Lookin' scrumptious, and the food's not bad, either.

Barb Cabot:

This looks wonderful and thanks so much for the step by step photos. I do want to try this. Love Polenta and the combo sounds so interesting.

This looks and sounds so delicious! I love the look of the polenta cups. I bet they'll be great also with other stuffing, like cheese or some ragu.

Deborah responds: I bet they would, too, Maria. Hmmm. Is is cheating to make them again for this week's goat cheese?

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