Polenta is a cheap, delicious, and endlessly versatile foodstuff that lends itself to any number of interesting applications: in a breakfast scramble, as a side dish or a bed for stew, or as the topping for a casserole, this creamy cornmeal concoction is simultaneously light and hearty, nutritious and comforting. Today's recipe is essentially a variation on the theme of baked polenta, this time with a Mexican vs. Italian-inspired topping, which proved an enormous hit at my house. We had it with guacamole, salsa, vegan sour cream, and a green salad with roasted sweet potatoes, and it was so popular that the vasty quantities of leftovers I'd originally envisioned proved to be nothing but a pipe dream. (Which is perfectly fine when it means that everyone is eating their veggies with such enthusiasm!)
Baked Polenta and Veggies
~ 6 cups vegetable broth
~ 1.5 cups polenta (I use Bob's Red Mill)
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 bell pepper, diced
~ 1 large zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cilantro, marjoram, smoked paprika
~ 1/4 tsp. each: cinnamon, cayenne pepper
~ 1 15 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (I like the ones with jalapeños)
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
~ 1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole or baking dish with cooking spray.
~ In a large pot, bring the vegetable broth and olive oil to a rapid boil. Add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Cook for about 10 minutes - whisking all the while - until thickened but still soft.
~ Transfer the polenta into your prepared casserole, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, garlic, and seasonings, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables are beginning to soften.
~ Add the tomatoes and beans, stir to combine, and cook another 5-10 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked off.
~ Distribute the bean/vegetable mixture evenly on top of the polenta.
~ In a small dish, combine the crushed tortilla chips and nutritional yeast, and then sprinkle on top of the casserole. Cover the whole business with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
~ Remove the foil and bake about 10-15 minutes more, until the topping is delectably brown and crispy.
~ Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.