This little dish is a riff on one my dad used to make. I can’t say for sure that he invented the idea of veggies layered between creamy polenta, but then again, I can’t say he didn’t invent it. He used spinach, tomato and lots of cheese in his – and boy howdy, was it delicious. To me it is “peasant” food and comfort food at its best. Simple, versatile and possibly better the next day.
In a way, this is two dishes in one. The night that it is prepared it resembles a porridge. The next day, it takes on characteristics of lasagna. Either way, it’s a yummy, filling meal that is a great way to use a variety of garden vegetables. I used peppers and summer squash because that’s what is coming in right now, but eggplant would be wonderful, mushrooms most welcome and tomatoes quite a tasty, juicy addition.
Summer Veggie Polenta
1 cup polenta
2 cups vegetable broth/water
~4 cups hot water
1 cup cashew cheez, optional
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup big green olives
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste (I used a smoked sea salt)
splash of white wine and/or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small banana pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small yellow squash or zucchini, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
salt and pepper to taste
Make the polenta:
Prepare a medium-sized casserole by lightly spraying it with oil. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Have the four cups of water simmering on the stove. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the 2 cups of broth or water to a boil and whisk in the polenta. Bring mixture back up to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the polenta is just barely bubbling. I don’t fuss over stirring a whole heck of a lot but instead put the lid on and add water as needed (from the four cups simmering on the stove). Cook until the polenta is soft to the bite.
When the polenta is ready, stir in the remaining ingredients.
Make the vegetables:
Meanwhile, heat the wine or broth in a skillet and add the onions and garlic and gently cook until soft. Stir in the bell pepper, banana peppers and the squash/zucchini. Cook until just starting to get soft. Stir in the tomato paste along with another splash of wine and the tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two and then remove from the heat.
Assemble the casserole:
Pour one half of the polenta mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Then spoon in the vegetables. Top with the remaining polenta and smooth the top. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes and allow to sit for about 10 minutes after removing from the oven.