Thursday, April 14, 2011

Polenta Veggiola: no gluten, no dairy, no cow's milk

This one is for you "Seuss-Seuss", my very OLDEST BFF (yes it's a Dr. Seuss reference and yes, that is what we called eachother when we were little.) She's not really old, we've just known one another since we were in-utero ;-)

A couple of nights ago we were just home from vacation and I needed to whip something up for dinner. My daughter was asking to help cook and wanted to come up with something new. We looked at our inventory together, which was looking pretty low, and found that I had a nice little tube of polenta sitting there in the fridge. "Cheater Polenta" I like to call it. I knew that thing would be there for me when I needed it! I always buy those things to have on hand for quick appetizers. I'll have to post those up here eventually. I do have a container of dry  polenta grits sitting in my pantry. I managed to pick up the kids cold myself so I decided that this was not the week to make everything from scratch. My daughter pointed out peas in the freezer. I pulled out my favorite Italian cookbook and had her look up peas for inspiration. Peas are a really common ingredient in Italian cooking. You'll often find peas sauteed with garlic and onions. Simple and yummy. A veggie here and a veggie there and all of a sudden Polenta Veggiola was born. You can also add sauteed chicken or tofu to this if you'd like some added protien. My daughter isn't eating meat these days, so we left it out.

Polenta Veggiola: gluten free, dairy free, soy free
1 container home made tomato sauce (2-4 cups) or 1 jar store bought tomato sauce of your choice.
olive oil
1 bag frozen organic peas
yellow bell pepper
1 large carrot
1/2 - 1 small red onion
1 - 2 cloves garlic
fresh cilantro or basil
Pecorino Romano (sheeps milk cheese) (You can use whatever cheese you can have or use no cheese at all)
optional: Trader Joes Almond Meal (for topping)

Cut the red onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot, into small, bite sized pieces.
Chop up the cilantro or basil and set aside.
In a frying/sautee pan, drizzle some olive oil at the bottom of the pan.
Add the red onion to the hot pan and cook over medium-medium high until tender.
Add the garlic, carrot and bell pepper, frozen peas and cook until tender.
Add in your chopped cilantro or basil and stir then turn the heat to low and let it sit while you prepare the polenta.
In a 2.2 Quart or 2 Liter Pyrex dish or comprable, drizzle or spray with olive oil spray.
Cut a small slit in your polenta tube and drain the water in the sink. Remove the wrapping.
Slice your polenta into thin rounds and line the bottom of your baking dish with them.
Add a layer of your sauteed veggies, aka: veggiola topped with a generous layer of tomato sauce topped with Pecorino Romano.
Add a second layer of sliced polenta, if you have enough followed by another layer of veggiola, tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano.
For that top layer of Pecorino Romano, you can also add some almond meal to the top to create a nice cheesy/crunchy top. It helps to combine the Pecorino Romano and Almond Meal for the very top in a small bowl before adding it to the top of your dish.
Bake in a 375 - 400 oven for 30 minutes or so. If the top begins to burn before it's done, you can top it with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes or so of baking. Remember, all the ingredients are cooked already, you are pretty much just heading up and melting it all together. It sure smells great when it's baking!!!

Here is what the top looks like when I mixed almond meal with Pecorino Romano.


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