Serves 4 as an entrée or makes 24 set (appetizer) pieces
Equipment, Pans, Utensils:
You will need the following items :
o 1 Dutch oven – to cook veggies
o A cutting board and 1 sharp knife – to chop veggies
o Measuring cups
o 1 Heat resistant cooking spoon – can be solid or slotted, for the veggies
o 1 Heat-resistant cooking spoon – preferably slotted, for the meat
o 1 Large skillet or frying pan – to cook the meat
o Large glass casserole dish and serving spoon – if choosing the casserole option
o Large (12” X 17”) rimmed metal cookie sheet (a.k.a. “jelly roll pan) and a spatula – if choosing the shallow, baked squares option
FOR THE POLENTA
o 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil. TIP: You can taste the difference! Buy the good stuff!!
o 2 tablespoons real butter
o 2 tablespoons minced garlic or garlic powder
o 1 quart broth: vegetable broth or organic chicken broth
o 1 ½ cups coarsely ground polenta meal: TIP: Buy this item at Viviano’s (an Italian grocery store) or the bulk food section of Whole Foods.
o ½ cup roasted red pepper cream cheese. TIP: Buy this item in the dairy or take-out foods section of Whole Foods.
o 1 tablespoon dried oregano
o Freshly ground pepper
FOR THE TOPPINGS
11. 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil. TIP: You can taste the difference! Buy the good stuff!!
12. 2 tablespoons real butter
13. 1 small yellow onion minced – or chopped green onions
14. ½ cup minced sundried tomatoes
15. 1 very small eggplant – or half of a regular eggplant – chopped into bite-sized pieces (goal = 1 ½ cups or thereabouts)
16. ½ zucchini chopped into bite-sized pieces (goal = 3/4 cups or thereabouts)
17. 1 cup sliced mushrooms
18. ¼ cup minced black Nicoise or Greek olives – NO PITS. TIP: Buy this item at Viviano’s or the olive bar section of Whole Foods.
19. 1 pound ground Italian sausage: TIP: There is NO comparison. You MUST buy this at Viviano’s. Nothing else will do!
20. 1-2 cups of shredded Parmesan cheese. DO NOT USE THE HORRID, GRATED STUFF IN THE GREEN CANS. You can buy shredded Parmesan at Aldi’s, Sam’s or any reputable grocery store..
To Make the Polenta:
1. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, sauté the oil, butter and minced garlic.
2. Add the broth to the oil and garlic and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
3. Add polenta to large pot in handfuls, separating your fingers to let the grains slip through and whisking constantly until combined. Reduce heat until only a couple of large bubbles appear at a time.
4. Add the oregano and cream cheese to the polenta and blend until smooth.
5. Add more liquid, if necessary.
6. Your goal is to have polenta that is creamy and just pulls away from sides of pot.
7. The entire cooking time may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the absorbency of the polenta. HINT: The better the polenta you buy, the shorter it takes to cook.
8. Season with pepper.
9. For set polenta: Pour into a slightly damp medium bowl (or a 13-by-9-inch baking dish). Let stand until no longer steaming, about 10 minutes.
10. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold and set, about 1 1/2 hours.
11. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 2 days). Turn out polenta.
12. Cut into squares or place in a baking dish – make sure to leave room for the toppings .
To Make the Toppings:
1. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, sauté the oil, butter and minced onion.
2. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and add them to the pan – in batches, so that they the pot does not get too crowded and they all get cooked with the oil and butter.
3. Keep cooking the vegetables until they are browned and tender
4. Set aside the veggies.
5. In a separate pan, cook the Italian sausage until it is fully cooked. Drain off any fat and set aside.
To Assemble and Bake the Polenta:
You have two options: bake in a casserole dish or bake in a shallow baking pan, one that allows you to cut the polenta into squares.
For the casserole option:
9. Place the polenta in a LARGE/DEEP glass baking dish – leaving the top half of the dish for the toppings – and smooth out the top of the polenta, so that it is level.
10. Place a thin layer of shredded cheese over the polenta.
11. Top the polenta and cheese with the cooked Italian sausage.
12. Place the cooked veggies on top.
13. Cover the layers with the remaining cheese.
14. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, until the cheese has browned.
15. Cool for five minutes and serve – you’ll need a serving spoon.
For the baked squares option:
1. Place the polenta in a long, rimmed metal cookie sheet (a.k.a. "jelly roll" pan) – and smooth out the top of the polenta, so that it is level.
2. Place a thin layer of shredded cheese over the polenta.
3. Top the polenta and cheese with the cooked Italian sausage.
4. Place the cooked veggies on top.
5. Cover the layers with the remaining cheese.
6. Use a sharp knife to pre-cut the polenta into squares
7. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese has browned
8. Cool for 2-3 minutes and serve – you’ll need a spatula to serve.