The quince is like an ugly dog. Not the most beautiful of fruit, and sometimes you’re just not sure what to make of them. But, in the end, after a little warmth and love, they inevitably win your heart over.
Another ancient fruit, the quince has been cultivated since the time of Aphrodite. Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Cotan all painted their ode to the distorted beauty of the quince. Gentle still life’s that capture the stoicism of the sitting green pome.
Inedible until cooked, quince has a tartness that is best served mingled with other flavors. I simmered chunks of quince in port wine laced with honey, rosemary, and freshly squeezed lemon. Served on top of lightly fried polenta, drizzled with a port reduction and Parmigiano Reggiano, a quick broil and a dash of coarse sea salt make these an intriguing and tasty appetizer.
The recipe took a little longer to put together than expected (I have a habit of not reading recipes all the way through before embarking), as the port and quince needs to simmer for 45 minutes. But Sunday morning smelled wonderfully porty in our house and, well, no one complained.
I adapted this recipe from one found on the Cooking Light website. I was looking for an interesting use of quince that was more savory than sweet and found their Polenta with Port-Poached Quince & Blue Cheese inspiring. Next time I think I’ll add chopped prosciutto or pancetta to add a little protein and depth.
What you’ll need:
3-4 lemons, freshly squeezed to about 3/4-1 cup
1+ cup tawny port
1/4 raw honey
1 or 2 rosemary sprigs
1-2 cups cubed quince. Cored and peeled. About 2 quinces.
1 16 oz tube of polenta cut in 1/2-inch slices
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan bring lemon juice, port, honey and rosemary sprigs to a boil. Add quince and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, or until quince is tender.
Remove pan from heat and let cool. Strain and reserve quince, discarding rosemary. Return liquid to the pan, bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until sauce is reduced to about 1/2 a cup.
Preheat your broiler.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium. Place polenta slices in a single layer, sprinkle with fresh black pepper and cook for 8 minutes on each side. Place rounds on baking sheet and spoon about a tablespoon of cooked quince on polenta. I found it easier to use my hands instead of a spoon to place quince on polenta rounds. Shave desired amount of parmesan on quince and broil for about 2 minutes. You want your cheese to be golden and bubbly. Place bruschetta on a plate or platter, drizzle with reduced port, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve warm.