Courtesy of Michael and Anna Olson

GRILLED STUFFED JALAPENOS with POLENTA & CHEESE

A creamy cooked polenta filling laden with cheese makes these a decadent grilled starter to a summer patio supper.

Makes 24-30 pieces, as appetizers
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 cup water
½ cup milk
½ garlic clove, minced
½ tsp chili powder
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 ½ cups loosely packed grated cheddar
salt, as needed
12-15 fresh jalapeno peppers

1. Bring the water, milk, garlic and chili powder up to a simmer in a medium pot. Whisk in the cornmeal and continuing whisking over medium-low heat, until the polenta is thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheddar cheese until it has melted. Pour the polenta into a bowl to cool, and chill completely before filling (the polenta can be made a day ahead.)

2. Cut the peppers in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds but leaves the stems intact. Spoon the now-firm polenta into each pepper and press gently into place (if the polenta sticks to your fingers, wet your fingers while pressing the filling in.) Chill until ready to grill.

3. Preheat the grill on high and place the peppers on a grill rack or in a cast-iron skillet and heat for about 5 minutes, until the peppers have softened and the stuffing has warmed. Let cool for a moment before serving.

Anna & Michael Olson’s “He Said, She Said”

Michael: “I also like to do a sausage stuffing in place of the polenta, for a meat-lover’s option. Mix ¾ lb of any raw sausage meat with 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs and 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan and fill the peppers, grilling until the meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes.”

Anna: “I like appetizers that can be made ahead of time, such as this one, so you can spend more time at the start of your dinner with other activities, including visiting with your guests. If you have a group that is averse to hot peppers, you can certainly use mini bell peppers in place of the jalapenos.”