Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Incredible Stackable Polenta


A couple of years ago my husband and I attended my friend's wedding at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Wedding receptions can be a bit stressful for my vegetarian husband - open bar, lots of wine, no vegetarian ors d'oeuvres and (in the worst scenario yet) a fruit plate for dinner... recipe for disaster. But, our friend Brian's wedding was different. Apparently, many guests were Kosher and they had planned for that. I'm no fan of typical Kosher food, but they did an excellent job at the Lighthouse. When the waiter posed the dreaded question, which of the meats or fish would we like, my husband very quietly asked in return, "Do you have anything vegetarian?". The server promptly replied "Yes, we have polenta and vegetables". I don't even remember what I had - I remember it was great - but I remember more clearly that my husband's polenta was excellent.

Since this meal discovering a new food category for my (then) vegetarian boyfriend, I vowed to learn to cook polenta. I've had some failures and some successes. Even using the quick-cook variety that I favor, it still takes a while to cook it into a more solid format. I still can't figure out how to grill it and actually get it to the plate in one piece. I hate to admit, that this week I got a little lazy and used a pre-made tube of basil-garlic flavored polenta. The filling wasn't perfectly flavored (I had a little food-curse going on from Saturday to Monday when NOTHING worked out, even take-out) but with some work I think it will become a nice quick-meal stand-by for summer. 

Less of a recipe, more of an idea:

Polenta-Bean Stacks
Pre-cooked Polenta log, with seasonings (ex. Basil Garlic)- sliced into 1/2" rounds
Shredded Cheese (such as Parmesan or Cheddar)
Bacon (or Fake Bacon - such as Morningstar Farms brand from the freezer)
Onions, diced
Navy Beans, drained
Tomato, diced
Zucchini, diced
Salt / Pepper / Seasonings (depending on flavor of Polenta - go Italian theme or Latin)

1. In a 400F oven, bake polenta slices topped with a small amount of cheese for 15 minutes or until golden.
2. In a skillet, cook bacon slices. Remove and crumble.
3. Add onions to pan with a dash of oil and saute. Add zucchini and cook a few minutes. Add beans, a little tomato and seasonings. Cook for another few minutes or reserve over low heat.
4. Layer polenta slice, beans, polenta slice and chopped tomatoes. 

*Garnish ideas: Julienned zucchini stripes, raw onions, chopped olives, cilantro or basil, pesto or fried onions.




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