Paramount Polenta

Hey there, pilgrims! Alas, the sacred vows I made have been broken. My evil twin reared her ugly head and pulled me down beyond the depths of procrastination into Goshdarn Plumb Lazyville. I had to hitchhike my way back, whilst balancing the chaos that is my life precariously upon my back. What’s that you whisper? “Excuses, excuses”? Fair enough. Behold, my life is made of coffee spoons and mason jars.       IMG_1059So. What is cooking in my kitchen? This week I experimented with polenta, which I have only tasted fried. I thought there must be something else. I thought I would try a roasted vegetable polenta lasagna. What is polenta? It is salty cornmeal in a tube. It can be sliced like tofu and has the consistency of cream of wheat. It is a great alternative base, especially for those who are gluten-free. Here are the ingredients I used:

1/2 an eggplant
1 red pepper
1/2 large white onion
8-10 asparagus spears
1 zucchini
1/2 tube of polenta
1/2 jar of marinara sauce
2-3 tbsp hazelnut oil (olive oil would also be fine)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
salt n’ pepper, to taste
3/4 cup grated cheese or daiya (I did a corner of daiya and the rest old white cheddar)

Hazelnut oil was a gift from a lovely house guest which will likely be featured in many recipes as experimentation, hence why it is in this recipe!

hazelnut oilPre-heat the oven to 425 F and dice and/or cube all the vegetables and sliced the polenta lengthwise. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions, garlic and spices until it is quite fragrant and the onions were becoming more translucent. I’m not actually sure how much oregano and basil I used because I did the ol’ pinch and sprinkle, but I was generous. Also, I think fresh basil would have been lovely. If you are using fresh, put it in after the vegetables.

Add the vegetables and cook for 6-8 minutes.

vegLooking so fresh and so clean! Now add some marinara, not the full 1/2 jar yet because you need to save some for later, probably 1/2 cup. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so.

veg in potTest some of that deliciousness with a clean fork. Add a little salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it, or more sauce, or more basil, or whatever it seems to be lacking (unless it is just perfect). Remove from the burner and let it be.

Grab a 21×21 cm pan (or 9×9 inch pan) and put the remaining marinara in the bottom. Layer the polenta atop as you would lasagna noodles.

polenta polenta in saucePour the vegetable mixture over the polenta, sprinkle whatever cheese or daiya on top, cover in tin foil and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes to allow some of the moisture to bake off and to make the cheese crispy!

prebake

I was not patient enough to crisp the cheese, so this is the result of 35 minutes:finalI had dinner guests to help me test this puppy out, and they gave an overall rating of 4 stars. On the side, I included a tossed salad with enoki mushrooms which was really tasty. All the rumors about their buttery taste and soft texture are true! A really delicate mushroom, which I think would also be a good sprout replacement in wraps.

mushrooms

Also, for those who are poor or are curmudgeony about different ingredients, enoki mushrooms are usually between $1 or $2 and an entire tube of polenta is around $3 or $4, so although the ingredients are unique, they are not bank-breakers.

Go forth and be bold in your eating experiments! Healthy can be fun and adventurous, regardless of what all those fuddy-duddies say about eating like rabbits. Fruits and vegetables are infinitely more exciting than meat and potatoes.