- Put the olive oil in a small saucepan with the lemon zest, thyme and rosemary. Gently heat for 2–3 minutes, lightly bruising the herbs with the back of a spoon to release their flavour, until the herbs begin to sizzle. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, cook the polenta for the croutons. Pour the stock or water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually add the polenta, stirring constantly. Cook for 5–10 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until thick. Stir in the parsley and season with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the polenta into a greased 18 x 28 cm (7 x 11 in) shallow tin and spread out evenly. Leave to cool for about 1 hour, then turn out onto a board and cut into 1 cm (1/2 in) cubes.
- Preheat the grill to moderately hot. Lightly score a criss-cross pattern on one side of each aubergine slice. Strain the flavoured oil through a sieve into a jug and whisk in the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.
- Lightly brush both sides of the aubergine slices with the oil mixture and arrange on the rack in the grill pan (it may be necessary to grill the aubergines in 2 batches). Grill for 10–15 minutes or until browned and tender, turning once. Meanwhile, mix the flour with a little pepper, and toss the cubes of cheese in the flour until coated on all sides.
- Remove the aubergine slices from the grill and keep warm. Spread the polenta croutons on one side of the grill pan rack and cook under a moderate heat for 5 minutes, turning them once. Add the cubes of cheese to the other side of the grill rack and cook for a further 5–6 minutes or until the cheese is golden and just beginning to melt at the edges, turning them as they colour.
- Pour any remaining flavoured oil mixture into a large salad bowl. Add the lettuce, tomatoes, olives, aubergine slices and cheese, and toss together. Scatter with one-third of the polenta croutons and a sprinkling of lemon zest. Serve immediately, with the remaining croutons in a separate bowl.
Instead of aubergines, use courgettes, cut diagonally into 1 cm (½ in) slices – they will take about 12 minutes to grill. Infuse the olive oil with a seeded and coarsely chopped fresh red chilli instead of the lemon and herb sprigs. If you like, add another seeded and finely chopped fresh red chilli to the polenta in place of the parsley.
The tomato, which is indigenous to the Andes, was first cultivated in Mexico and brought to Europe in 1523. Today it is one of our most popular fruiting vegetables. It is a good source of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene, and of several important phytochemicals. * Made from finely ground corn (maize) meal, polenta is a useful alternative to wheat for anyone on a wheat or gluten-free diet. Polenta is rich in starchy carbohydrate and low in fat.
Each serving provides
B1, B6, C, E, folate, niacin, calcium * A, zinc * iron, potassium