Oh, cornmeal. In every corner of the world, cornmeal is used in abundance, from the Makki di roti in South Asia to kachamak in Bulgaria to the intriguing national dish of Barbados, Cou-cou and the Flying Fish.
In my kitchen it is mostly used as breading, cornbread and the occasional johnnycake craving. I love working with cornmeal because it is versatile and flavorful, but I haven’t done much with polenta, or boiled cornmeal, despite its terrific heritage and various uses.
[Among my favorite, from the Wikipedia entry on polenta: “In southern Austria, polenta is also eaten for breakfast (sweet polenta); the polenta pieces are either dipped in café au lait or served in a bowl with the café au lait poured on top of it (this is a favourite of children).”]
Vegan Polenta Pizza Casserole!
For the crust:
– 2 cups water
– 1 1/2 cups coarse cornmeal
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp dried basil
– 1 1/2 cups cold water
– A little olive oil (for brushing on the crust)
For the filling:
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– Small onion, thinly sliced
– One bell pepper, sliced
– 2 cups baby spinach
– 6-8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
– 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
– Roasted red pepper, sliced (I used jarred – yes, I know, but it was a last-minute change)
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– 1 tsp cumin
– 3/4 cup tomato sauce
Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees.
For the crust: mix the polenta with the salt and cold water, then stir into the 2 cups boiling water. Cook at low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture should get really thick. Remove from heat and let cool.
Oil a casserole dish (for a thick crust, use 8X8, but you can use up to 13X9 – cooking times will vary) and spread the polenta in the dish, covering the entire bottom and sides. Brush with olive oil and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until lightly browned.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil on the stove. Saute the onions until soft, add the bell pepper, then the spinach and mushrooms. Add seasonings, herbs, and garlic, and keep at low heat for another five minutes. Once cooked through, cover and set aside.
Once the crust is done, cover the bottom with the tomato sauce, then add the veggies. Cover with red pepper slices. Put the dish back into the oven and broil for 5 to 8 minutes.
The end result should be a mix between a deep-dish pizza and a hearty casserole. Like any pizza or pizza-esque concoction, the details are up to the maker. My partner is both a vegan and vehement cheese-hater (even the non-dairy stuff), but try adding some vegan mozzarella to this pie.
(Recipe adapted and veganized from the AWESOME Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)