Monday, August 4, 2008

Baked Polenta with Herbs

Makes about 12-15 squares

2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups plain soy milk
1 1/2 cups polenta (corn grits)
2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced onion seasoning
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil

Bring the milk and vegetable broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Pour in the polenta while stirring. Stir in the basil, rosemary, garlic, minced onion, and nutritional yeast and continue to stir. Turn down the heat to low, or until it stops boiling, and continue stirring until the polenta thickens up to a chalky thick paste. This took me about 15 minutes, but I have read that it can take up to 30 minutes depending on what polenta brand you purchase. I purchased Bob's Red Mill Polenta.

Once it gets thick enough, remove from heat spread into a flat baking sheet or casserole dish so the polenta is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick spreading flat with a spatula, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 and cut polenta with a knife into desired shapes. As you can see from the picture I cut mine into squares and triangles. You can also try cubes, circles, or french fries. Grease the baking sheet generously with the olive oil and bake for 10 minutes on each side, which would be a total of 20 minutes. The outside of the polenta should start to look golden and crisp.

When the polenta is finished cooking, top with the marinara sauce and serve with a side of the roasted carrots and red peppers.

Delights and Afterthoughts:
I was very happy with the outcome of the polenta, but I did want to mention that I did grease the baking pan with olive oil, and the polenta did stick a little to the bottom, so that is why I suggest being generous with the amount of the olive oil you use. I wasn't sure what to expect since I had never cooked or tasted polenta, but I think it's one of my favorites now! It reminds me a little bit of potato pancakes, so I think it would be great topped with applesauce. It would also a make a great binder in a casserole recipe that calls for eggs or cheese to hold ingredients together. It was fabulous topped with the mushroom marinara sauce, hot or cold. When I cooked the polenta, I wanted to give it some flavor with the vegetable broth and the use of fresh herbs, but I didn't want to make it too powerful since I would be topping it with the marinara sauce. I do want to try other flavorings for the polenta such as adding sun dried tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms or chopped up spinach to the mix, and use a light sauce centering the dish more on the polenta than the sauce. I think I'll really enjoy how versatile polenta is to cook, and I can't wait to try these other options and share them with you! Stay tuned!

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