Polenta with savory tomato chickpea sauce [Vegan]

Jaymi's Notes:
With plenty of polenta left from cooking the baked polenta with roasted vegetables recipe, I was looking forward to making this dish.

There is a lot of room for flexibility with this recipe. For instance, you can choose what herbs, and how much, you'd like to use in the sauce. While Kelly had chives, basil and parsley on hand, I had fresh chives, basil, tarragon, rosemary and thyme in the fridge. The rich, earthy flavor of the tarragon added an unexpected depth to what would have been a fairly traditional tasting Italian sauce. The smell filling the kitchen was extraordinary. Try out any of your favorite herbs in this sauce and don't be shy with them -- the base of onion, celery and tomato can handle it.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

As I mentioned before, I found a great option for polenta 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. The fact that it is grown fairly locally, milled fairly locally and distributed by a local company means it was an excellent option. Looking for something special when searching for ingredients always makes the recipe that much more fun.

More on The Cooking Project.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Kelly's Recipe:

I have always been a proponent of healthy eating, and I've done a lot of cooking of legumes and vegetables over the past few years, but all caution has been thrown to the wind on my trip to France. Who can resist walking down to the boulangerie every morning for a baguette that is still hot? I feel virtuous because I have succumbed to the allure of a croissant (which was as good as any I ever eaten) only once. But, after sharing a rather large fondue of three cheese and cepes with Mark, one of my travelling companions, two nights ago, we all agreed it was time for something a little lighter, perhaps something that didn't involve cheese.We had fresh tomatoes, onions and herbs from the farmers' market so I made a sauce with chickpeas and we had it over some fabulous polenta that Mark made. We had half of a zucchini left, which might have been wasted, so I grated it and cooked it until it was crispy and used it as a topping, along with some crisped onions. As all of our meals have been here, it was simple and satisfying. We have enough polenta left over that we will have to devise some other wonderful way to eat it up, perhaps using some of the reblochon I bought today.

© Jaymi Heimbuch
Polenta with Tomato Chickpea Sauce
For Polenta

1 cup polenta
2 tbsp butter (substitute with olive oil for vegan version)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

For Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery rib, sliced
4 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Fresh herbs ( I used chives, basil and parsley)
Salt and Pepper to taste

For Topping

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced very thinly
1 grated zucchini

1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook polenta according to directions on the package. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste. Butter a baking dish and pour the polenta in and smooth it out. Set aside.

2. In a skillet heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery rib and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to cook over a low heat until the tomatoes are cooked through. Add the chickpeas and heat through. Add water if it is too thick.

3. Meanwhile, drizzle the polenta with olive oil and add salt and pepper, if desired. Bake in a 350F oven for about 20 - 25 minutes, or until heated through.

4. In a small skillet cook the onions for the topping until crisp and brown, taking care not to burn them. Remove the onions from the skillet and add the zucchini and cook until crispy. Drain, mix with fried onions and set aside.

5. Add herbs to the sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Slice the polenta, spoon sauce over polenta, and top with onion and zucchini mixture.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

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

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