Let’s just call this a polenta-vegetable tort

About a week ago, I found myself in Seattle at a friend’s apartment in Ballard.  Sadly the air travel had not helped my cold, so early on Sunday morning when I could have been sleeping, I was perched on a stool in the corner of the kitchen waiting for hot water to boil.

My friend Jill’s roommate is not only vegetarian but vegan, full time.  It was nice to be in a region that didn’t look at me as if I had sprouted another head when I explained, that “no, at the moment I don’t eat meat or dairy or eggs…”  Their kitchen had the various accessories of the stereotypical “vegan” — lots of soy, plenty of alt-cookbooks, and even a little worm composting bin (I’m not saying only vegans keep worms as pets, but it is along the lines of the earth-friendly set).  Needless to say, I was a bit confused at first where to put my recycling, my non-recylcing, food scraps, and even the stapled tag from my tea bag.  Recycle?

I grabbed a cookbook “How it all vegan” to read while waiting to make my bizarre, homepathic cold remedy.  I was already on my 3 bag of cough drops, and poor Lis, Maren, and Jill had listened to me virtually hack up a lung all night.   Anyway, in the cookbook was a recipe for some kind of polenta dish.  Being less than well, I forgot to make note of many of the instructions or the ingredients, but intrigued I decided yesterday, a week later, that I was going to try it.


1 cup of corn meal

4 cups of water

2 teaspoons of salt

olive oil

1 large onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 handfuls of baby spinach, chopped

3/4 cup of sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water, chopped

2 precooked beets, chopped

1 handful of walnuts

Splash of balsamic vinegar

fresh basil

First, I combined 3/4 c. of water with 1 cup of cornmeal.  Once that was stirred and thoroughly combined, I added the remaining 3 1/4 cup of water  and salt and brought this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  It began to boil, and I reduced the heat to a slow simmer, letting it do its business for about 10 minutes.

Boiling the cornmeal

Boiling the cornmeal

Second, I sprayed a large tart pan (a cast-off from my friend Molly when she left Portland and couldn’t rationalize packing it in her Forester — The NW and I  miss her!) and spread the polenta in it.  It looked pretty.

A tart pan just looks pretty.

A tart pan just looks pretty.

I have yet to use the tart pan for an actual, traditional, full-on butter tart.  The amount of butter horrifies me, and I feel a little too guilty.  Yes, I’m sure I consume similar amounts of the golden stuff when I “sample” the batter as I make cookies, but whatever.  Ina Garten and Paula Dean would be very disappointed, I am sure.

Third, it was time to prepare the vegetables.  I had no true reason for the combination that I chose — I thought of adding lots of colors and using what was left in my refrigerator.  Also, I know that beets are very good for you, but I haven’t acquired a taste for them yet.  They just taste a little to “earthy” for me — like the dirt is a part of the beet.  I sauted the onions until translucent (5 minutes or so) and then added the red pepper and garlic for another 5 minutes.  Next came the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.  At this point, I covered it, to let it steam just a little.  I watched to make sure the bright green didn’t immediately turn to the over-cooked brown.  Last came the chopped beats and walnuts, with a dash of balsamic vinegar (hey, why not?).

Look at all the color!  That has to be good.

Look at all the color! That has to be good.

I topped the polenta with these vegetables and sprinkled on the fresh basil, admiring my handiwork.

It kind of looks like a pizza.

It kind of looks like a pizza.

I baked at 350 for about 10-15 minutes.  I’m not sure this was entirely necessary, but it seemed like the thing to do.  In my non-vegan period, I’d likely add a little mozzerella or feta.  Wow.  I miss dairy.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Yes, it was yummy.  But, I love polenta anyway.

Quite tasty, even though my "food styling" needs improvement.

Quite tasty, even though my "food styling" needs improvement.


3 thoughts on “Let’s just call this a polenta-vegetable tort

  1. Polenta is yummy. It’s just so comforting to eat as well.

    No guilt about the butter! It’s natural, it’s not “hydrogenated” to ensure it’s a shelf-stable solid, and it tastes better. Yes, it’s pure fat, but so is olive oil (though I admit I feel guilty making tortilla espanola given the quantity of oil it uses–I’ve found if I make small tortillas I use enough oil because in absolute terms it’s not enough to make me feel guilty, even though you use proportionately the same amount. The big ones I naturally cut back on and they aren’t as tasty).

  2. Oh, there’s a recipe on culinate this week that is similar to what you made–it’s on the cookbook giveaway and is decidedly not vegetarian, but you could adapt as necessary.

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