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Monday, November 8, 2010

Vegetarian Polenta Pizza with "Bolognese"


Did you miss me?

Friday night was take out pizza and Saturday night was my birthday--and who wants to cook on their birthday? So I let someone else make me filet mignon, which was awesome. Sunday night I was going to post about making omelettes but thought you could figure out cracking eggs into a dish with salt and pepper, swirling the eggs around a hot pan, then filling the nearly-cooked eggs with filling.

But here I am again. It's Meatless Monday and I have been foaming at the mouth excited about trying this recipe for Vegetarian Polenta Pizza with "Bolognese" since last week. I found it in a Cuisine Light magazine cookbook that I'd picked up. I love polenta, especially grilled polenta. This recipe features a grilled polenta "crust", a vegetable-laden sauce, and topped with the lovely, nutty taste of fontina cheese. The whole thing is supposed to be made on a grill, but since I live in a second-floor condo and it's the beginning of November, I had to improvise. I also don't have a cast-iron skillet as the recipe calls for, so I'll direct you the way I made mine.

Vegetarian Polenta Pizza with "Bolognese"
For the Polenta
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cornmeal or polenta
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil

For the Bolognese Sauce
2 small carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 rib celery, halved lengthwise
1 small onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 Roma tomatoes, cored and halved
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
2 tbsp dry red wine
2 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano

1. Preheat broiler on high. Have one oven rack about 4 inches from the element; the other should be about mid-way in the oven. In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil until hot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, celery and tomatoes and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil with the salt.

2. Put the vegetables in a blender and process with the wine, cream cheese, tomato paste, garlic and salt and pepper. Puree until mostly smooth with no large chunks. Set aside.

3. When the water comes to a boil, slowly whisk in the polenta and thyme; stir constantly. Cook until thick and smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Spray a glass pie plate with a cooking spray. Add the polenta and brush the top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Broil the top for 5 minutes until slightly brown and crisped. Turn off broiler and turn on the oven to 450 degrees. Place polenta on the other rack and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Remove polenta from the oven and spread the sauce over the polenta; top with cheeses. Put the broiler back on high and broil the pizza until the cheeses are melted and golden.

The Verdict: It wasn't quite the amazing masterpiece I'd envisioned, but it was still really good. Seconds good.

One giant mistake I made was not having red wine on hand. I used white instead and my bolognese sauce looked more like...well, sorry to say this...vomit. Orangey-pink puree is not appetizing. That aside, it has a wonderful taste. As if you can now imagine it tasting wonderful.

Please be careful adding polenta to boiling water. It almost immediately becomes like molten lava, bubbling precariously in the saucepan. You may want to turn down your heat or even take the pot off the burner so that you don't get lobbed with a broken bubble of violently raging cornmeal.

The decision to call the sauce "bolognese" was rather dumb on Cuisine Light's part, even said quotationally. Bolognese is traditionally made with a lot of meat that's been cooked for so long it basically disintegrates. There's a lot of irony going on in saying vegetarian bolognese. By the way, I made the sauce about an hour before the rest of the meal. I also grated the fontina in advance. I love recipes you can do that with.

I can't really imagine making this all on a grill. There are Bobby Flays out there who can work magic over an open flame; I can hardly cook a hamburger. If you fall into the Flay category, heat up your grill and go crazy. Otherwise, make this in the comfort of your kitchen.

Amir ate it, but I don't think he's pining for leftovers. I would eat it again as would Noyan, but I don't think it's going to be a part of a frequently rotating repertoire.

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