Monday, March 23, 2015

Recipe: Creamy Garlic Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Once in a while, a recipe comes along that will make you look like a culinary genius. A dish that that will make everything else you ever eat taste like Burger King fries, in comparison. This polenta is that dish.
Polenta may seem intimidating to some, but it is actually extremely easy to make and is very versatile. Here's what you'll need for this Food Network-worthy meal (serves 4-6):
Vegetable Mixture
2 red bell peppers
1 small red onion (or half of a large one; diced)
1 can of chickpeas
2 roma tomatoes(chopped)
1 small bunch of kale (a handful or two, roughly chopped)
half of a head of cauliflower (chopped) 
juice of 1 lemon
1 box of instant polenta
2 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/4 cups of grated parmesan cheese 
1-2 tablespoons of butter
1 whole garlic bulb
First, you'll want to quarter the red bell peppers and place them skin-side up on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Broil them in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the skins are completely charred. Transfer the charred peppers directly from the oven into a large mixing bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees, and roast the cauliflower with salt, pepper, olive oil, and the juice of half a lemon for 10-15 minutes, or until fork-tender. While the cauliflower cooks, prepare the garlic to be roasted. For this, cut 1/4 inch off the top of a full bulb of garlic, so that the cloves are exposed. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, then wrap it in aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes; this is about the time that everything else will take to finish cooking.
In a large pan, begin to sauté the can of chick peas in a small amount of olive oil on medium-high heat. You want the chick peas to develop a deep golden color. Add the onion and tomatoes and continue cooking until both are soft and translucent. Once the cauliflower is finished in the oven, add it to the pan, as well. While your veggies are cooking, peel the skins off of the roasted peppers. Steaming them in the bowl with plastic wrap should make this step very easy. Chop the peppers and add them to the veggie mixture. Incorporate the kale into the pan. Season with salt, pepper, the juice of the remaining lemon half,  a few dashes of cumin, and some Italian seasoning. Add in a splash or two of vegetable broth, reduce heat, and cover.
For the polenta, you'll need to bring the vegetable broth and water to a rapid boil. Whisk in the instant polenta until you have a thick, but smooth consistency. I ended up using about 3/4 of the box I had on hand, but you could very easily chose your own portion. Turn the heat down and whisk in the heavy cream, butter, and cheese. If at any point the polenta becomes to thick, simply add more vegetable broth. Add the full bulb of roasted garlic into the polenta by holding it over your pan clove-side down, and squeezing, then mixing with your whisk. The cloves should be golden in color, and completely softened, making it easy to remove from the skin. If all of that garlic seems like too much to you, think again! Roasting the garlic gives it an entirely different taste than it has in it's raw form. It is slightly smoky and more refined.
Layer the vegetables over the polenta, and top with feta cheese. I also added chopped cilantro and a spoonful of capers to mine.
This is seriously one of the most satisfying meals ever; both in taste and in making you feel like a professional chef. All of the flavors and textures work together to create a cohesive dish that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but totally filling. Pull this one out at your next dinner party, and you are sure to be the center of attention and collector of praise from all of your friends and family. Or, you know, you could just make it at home, alone, and eat it all by yourself.
Happy cooking!

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