Baked Polenta with Orange Black Bean Salsa

There's one thing I don't like about polenta: it's difficult to make a small amount. The liquid to dry proportion is so great, that it's hard to adjust down to only two servings. With most foods, it's just fine to have a little leftover, but polenta doesn't reheat well. It will never be as creamy as the moment it was poured from pan to plate.

Last week, I made a pot of creamy lemon-pesto polenta to go with King Oyster Mushrooms. Then, for a quick Thursday night meal, I took the leftover polenta and smooshed it onto a baking sheet to reheat it. 

Baked polenta topped with salsa is one of our favorite summer meals. It's a change of pace from the norm - neither a hot dish or a cold one. The polenta satisfies like a solid meal, without being heavy, and the salsa is cool and refreshing. I mixed up a quick topping for the baked polenta with what I had on hand. Most important are the black beans, since they are the key source of protein for a dish like this. I also added a little avocado on the side for healthy fats. Using the pre-made polenta, the whole meal can be ready in 15-20 minutes.

Any ready-made polenta will work here. You can vary the type of legumes, or the herbs used in the salsa. Try different types of cheese, fruits or nuts for topping. There are endless variations you can make with a dish like this. 

Baked Polenta with Orange Black Bean Salsa
2-3 servings

3 C prepared polenta, refrigerated
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese

1-1/2 C canned black beans, rinsed well and drained (prefer Goya brand)
1 navel orange, skin and pith removed, cut into small sections
1 C tomato, diced
1/2 C cucumber, diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 T lime juice (or lemon)
salt & pepper to taste

Seasoned Avocado:
1 avocado, sliced
1 T lime juice
1 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400F.

1. Using your hands, press the polenta into a baking sheet with 1/2" high sides. Keep the thickness 1/2", so if you have leftover space at one end of the pan, it's ok. Top with cheese and bake 15 minutes. Raise heat to 425F for 5 minutes, or broil for 1 minute to brown the cheese.

2. Meanwhile, prepare salsa by mixing together all ingredients. Set aside.

3. Slice avocado and drizzle with lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat evenly. Set aside.

4. To serve, cut polenta into 4"x4" pieces and serve with salsa and avocado on the side. Top immediately before eating.


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