I love things with cornmeal, but seeing a log of polenta at the grocery store made it look very unappetizing. Polenta was one cornmeal specialty that I needed to warm up to.
This weekend, I decided to throw away my polenta reservations and concoct a Layered Vegetable Polenta Casserole in response to a suggestion at the bottom of a basic polenta recipe in one of my cookbooks. I was feeling pretty lazy, so instead of making my own polenta I picked up a 1 pound log of polenta from the grocery store. Not that polenta is difficult to make, but slicing the polenta into rounds for my casserole would be even easier!
I decided to go with a tomato marinara type sauce and went with zucchini, eggplant and yellow pepper with a bit of feta cheese. Eggplant really brings a nice texture to baked vegetable dishes, a contrast to the crunch of the pepper and zucchini.
The feta cheese added a nice salty tang to the dish, but looked rather uninspiring. The goat’s milk feta that I bought neither crumbled or melted well. Next time, I will use a blend of Italian cheeses.
Aside from that, it turned out wonderful and EPC even stated that he felt the polenta was the best part. I would have to agree, I savoured each bite and went back for seconds.
With my polenta apprehension a thing of the past, I think you will be seeing a lot more of it at Cookbook Cooks.
Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
28 ounce can diced tomato
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2-3/4 pound of polenta (sold in 1 pound round)
175 g of crumbled feta cheese, or a generous 1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and continue to saute for 3 minutes, stirring often so the garlic does not stick.
- Add zucchini, eggplant and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano and chilies.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat the oven to 350°C
- Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds
- Cover the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce (be careful not to use more than 1/3). Top with a layer of polenta. Top with half the remaining sauce and half the cheese. Top with another layer of polenta, sauce and cheese.
- Bake at 350°C for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.