A few days ago I wrote about Judith Jones' book The Pleasures of Cooking for One. Among her many recipes I was particulary eye-boggled by the Baked Polenta with Vegetables. Before returning the book last week, I photocopied the recipe and taped it to my wall as motivation. Polenta, oh mysterious polenta. My mom never cooked polenta while I was growing up; and I didn't eat it until a year ago, perhaps. Until today I associated polenta with fancy restaurants, where it is delicately dollaped underneath an overpriced steak. Polenta is just not in my vocabulary. But Jones' recipe makes it super easy!
Baked Polenta with Vegetables
from The Pleasures of Cooking for One
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped cooked spinach/Swiss chard
3-4 strips roasted pepper
*any cooked vegetables
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup medium-grain polenta
1 cup warm water
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in skillet and saute onion for a few minutes. Add tomato and cook 2 minutes. Mix in additional vegetables and add salt. Remove from heat. Put polenta in smallish, rather shallow baking dish, and stir in warm water and remaining olive oil. Add the sauteed vegetables, sprinkle in the rest of the salt, and stir everything together. Bake in a preheated oven for 350 for 25 minutes, then sprinkle Parmesan on top. Bake another 5 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
*My modifications* First, I accidentally bought kale instead of spinach (that's what I get for relying on a mental grocery list instead of writing it down). Second, Jones' recipe is for an individual serving. I decided to make the whole box of polenta, and had some fun baking minuture polenta cakes using a cupcake tin. For the minuture polenta cakes (pictured below), I added less warm water so that the insides would be less creamy and more crumbly. The polenta to water ration seems flexible, so just follow the box directions or added water until you reach a desired thickness. Third, Jones calls for grated Parmesan cheese on top. I did not add cheese. Fourth, I added cut up deli lunch meat to the mixture. But next time I think mini shrimp would be scrumptious!
The polenta turned out well, and it's actually pretty straighforward. While the polenta was baking I found two fun links. Mark Bittman's New York Times blog features a recent polenta post, Polenta Without Fear. Also, Cook Almost Anything Blog features a Blueberry Polenta Cake, which looks like a cross between cornbread and sugary blueberry cake. Oh yum.