Last week I took a trip to Trader Joe's to pick up some gluten-free products. I love their gluten-free rice pasta and their gluten free banana waffles which are inexpensive, and great for a quick breakfast. Among other things, I found a package of organic cooked polenta with a gluten-free label so I brought it home to check it out. Here is a link to a video review of the polenta. I have also used San Gennaro Foods organic polenta in the past. I decided rather than saute it like I normally would, I would bake it with Italian style vegetables. The result was reminiscent of a baked pasta dish, but with a more rich complex texture. Years ago I worked at an Italian restaurant, they sometimes served a very good polenta and sage appetizer. So I used this pair as a starting point. The sage got me thinking about other savory herbs, so I added fennel seeds, rosemary and oregano to give this dish the deep rich flavors I like so much in Italian casseroles and stews. I added some dried red pepper flakes which made this too spicy for the kids and my sister in-law (sorry!). If you (or someone your serving) is sensitive to spicy foods I suggest you leave out the pepper flakes. I will definitely make this one again!
Baked Layered Polenta
@12 oz pre-cooked Polenta (Trader Joe's comes in a 16oz tube)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 of a medium sized eggplant
1 cup of frozen spinach- thawed or two cups fresh spinach
2 ripe plum tomatoes, or 1 large ripe tomato
4 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 onion - chopped fine
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp dried sage
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
6" x 9" casserole dish
• Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick round slices. Sprinkle with salt, place in a colander and let sit for 40 minutes (to draw out moisture and bitterness)
• Heat half of the olive oil in a pan to medium heat.
• Add the onion to the pan, saute for a minute until soft.
• Add the garlic, sage, fennel seed, rosemary, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and the dried red pepper flakes(optional). Mix all together.
• Add the spinach to the pan, cook for 2 or three minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan, set aside.
• In the same pan, add the other half of the olive oil, heat to medium and saute the eggplant slices, for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
• Cut the tomatoes in to thin slices, set aside.
• Cut the polenta tube into 1/2 inch round slices, set aside.
• Pre-heat the oven to 350º
• Place a layer of the polenta slices(using half) covering the bottom of a 6" x 9" casserole dish.
• Take half of the spinach mixture and spread it evenly over the polenta layer.
• Using half of the sliced tomatoes, lay down a layer over the spinach.(see picture)
• Lay down a layer of the sauteed eggplant on top of the tomatoes.
• Lay down a layer of Mozzarella cheese (using half) over top of the eggplant.
• Using the remaining polenta, place another layer on top of the cheese.
• Spread the remaining spinach mixture in a layer over the polenta.
• Beat the egg in a bowl with 1/4 cup of milk, spread the mixture evenly over the top layer. • Lay down an even layer of the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
• Place a layer of the remaining sliced tomatoes over top of the cheese.
• Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes (45 minutes total).
• Let cool 10 minutes before serving, enjoy!