Number 98: Polenta

28 Jul

Ah, polenta.  I had it about a year ago for the first time at Karyn’s on Green (a vegan restaurant in Chicago) and almost died it was so good.  It may have been because the polenta was made into truffle chive polenta cakes.  It may have been because the cakes were topped with the most delicious roasted mushrooms the world has ever known.  It may also have been because I hadn’t eaten for hours beforehand.  It was damn good, though.  Knowing that I could never come close to matching that polenta experience, I decided to make a simple vegetable and polenta bake.

Here is the recipe I used, courtesy of Eating Well:


* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium eggplant, diced
* 1 small zucchini, finely diced
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/2 cup water
* 10 ounces baby spinach
* 1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably lower-sodium
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
* 14 ounces prepared polenta, sliced lengthwise into 6 thin slices
* 1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided


1. Preheat oven to 450 degree F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add water and spinach; cover and cook until wilted, stirring once, about 3 minutes. Stir marinara sauce into the vegetables and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in basil.
3. Place polenta slices in a single layer in the prepared baking dish, trimming to fit if necessary. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese, top with the eggplant mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake until bubbling and the cheese has just melted, 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

I only came across 2 slight problems when I was cooking this time (as opposed to the usual 15 problems):

1. Prepared polenta has a little bit of water in the package.  This meant that when I opened it, gross polenta water sprayed myself and everything around me, including my (very expensive) camera.

2. It is not easy to cut polenta into thin strips.  Hence this disaster:

The final result was SUPER yummy, though, and I’ve already bought the ingredients to make it again.  The polenta made a nice little “crust” for the dish, and combined really well with the veggies and cheese.

Because polenta is made from cornmeal, it tastes like cornmeal.  Therefore, it is not something you’d ever want to eat plain for any reason.  Ever.  Unless you’re a weirdo.  It’s fabulous in situations like this, though, where it can soak up all sorts of flavors and provide a nice change of texture in a dish.


5 Responses to “Number 98: Polenta”

  1. Laura in Cancun July 29, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    While cornmeal does not sound (or look) appetizing… I’m still drooling over some of those pictures!

    I guess it’s like tamales. No flavor normally, but add some meat and salsa for it to soak up and YUM!

  2. Yankee Girl July 29, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    That looks so yummy! I have had polenta a few times but have never cooked with it. I will have to give it a shot.

  3. Erin July 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I LOVE polenta! It is a staple in my food consumption!… I have made something similar to this… if you cut the polenta the other way (so the slices are like circles, does this make sense, or no?) it is easier to cut and create a full layer on the bottom! YUM!!

  4. Monique August 1, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Saving this recipe right now!!! I’ve been in LOVE with polenta ever since I was a little girl. My mom used to serve it alllll the time 🙂 Well done!

  5. IntenseGuy August 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I love eggplant… how’d it taste in this dish?

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