Baked polenta with roasted vegetables [Vegetarian]

Jaymi's Notes:
I've been looking for ways to cut back on wheat and eat more gluten-free options, so this baked polenta seemed like a great option as a substitute for a traditional lasagna, a favorite in this house. Anything loaded up with roasted vegetables is worth a try!

However, buying corn products can also be troublesome, as buying organic and non-GMO means a lot of label-reading. Luckily, I found a great option in a local market. It is an organic Floriani Red Flint, a variety that was near extinction but re-discovered a little over a decade ago and is now grown in organically in Lodi, CA -- a relatively short distance away. Just the story of the source of this polenta alone made the bake a more interesting adventure. Plus the fact that it is grown fairly locally, milled fairly locally and distributed by a local company means it was a perfect option for this recipe.

Everything about this recipe is easy. The only trick is patience after it comes out of the oven. It needs to sit for awhile to let the polenta settle and firm up at the bottom. Cut into it too soon (like I did in my impatience to taste it) and you'll get a bit of a runny mess. So definitely do as step 5 says and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Don't worry -- it'll stay hot. And the leftovers the next day -- wrapped in parchment paper and foil and heated up in the oven for about 20 minutes -- are just as delicious as when first baked.

More on The Cooking Project.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Kelly's Recipe:

I saw a recipe on the website Two Peas & Their Pod for a baked polenta which sounded like a perfect dinner for a cold night. I made quite a lot of changes to the recipe, but I'd like to credit them for the inspiration. You should also make free with this recipe, using whatever vegetables you like. Eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, swiss chard or kale would all be great additions.

I added some capers and olives for a bit of piquancy. I made my tomato sauce from scratch, using my home canned tomatoes and some tomato paste and lots of garlic, but use whatever you like best. This made quite a lot, and we had more than enough for leftovers for lunch today.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Baked Polenta

1 small carrot, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small bunch spinach, chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season vegetables
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1-2 cups tomato sauce
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp kalamata olives, sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place carrot, onion and red pepper on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are done roasting, set aside to cool and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

2. In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a light simmer. Slowly add the polenta to the pot, whisking constantly. Once it starts to thicken, trade the whisk out for a spoon and stir until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot. Add half of the Parmesan cheese to the polenta and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart greased casserole dish. Top with the other half of the parmesan.

3. Evenly spread the roasted vegetables, capers and olives on top of the polenta. Spread the tomato sauce over the vegetables and top with grated mozzarella cheese.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

4. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

5. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Tags: Cooking | Recipes | The Cooking Project | Weekday Vegetarian

Best of TreeHugger 2014