I used to make cooked lunches twice a week for a handful of friends and neighbors. I called it Bethany’s Luncheonette. I would e-mail a menu out Sunday night for Tuesday and Wednesday. Everyone who ordered a lunch got it school-lunch-style in a reusable and returnable container labeled with their name in Sharpie on masking tape. It was fun — my friends loved it, and that made me very happy. Someday I will start it again.
Polenta pie was one of my favorites from those Luncheonette days. Since wheat doesn’t agree with me, this is my version of pizza. It’s super delicious hot or cold.
The recipe is a slight adaptation from the Moosewood Cookbook (a classic 1970’s vegetarian cookbook from a restaurant collective in Ithaca, New York). Thank you, Moosewood and Molly Katzen! Still such good recipes.
This isn’t the fastest recipe out there, so if you’re pressed for time, don’t bake the polenta – instead, just cook it the first time and serve it in a bowl with the veggies and cheese on top. But better yet, wait until you have time to do the whole thing through. You’ll be glad you did.
Please experiment with different toppings. Master the polenta crust, and then you have a base for any seasonal veggie toppings. See the end of this post for suggestions on variations.
I haven’t tried it, but I bet you could make a few polenta crusts ahead of time and freeze them for quick pizzas later on. Don’t forget that you’ll need a decent-sized pot and a sturdy whisk to make a big batch of polenta.
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook
1 ½ cups coarse cornmeal (there are several Vermont and New Hampshire farms that sell cornmeal in local grocery stores)
1 t salt (or more to taste)
1 ½ cups cold water
2 cups boiling water (in a saucepan)
A little olive oil
One clove of crushed garlic (OPTIONAL)
A couple spoonfuls of grated Parmesan (OPTIONAL)
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ a thinly sliced bell pepper (or use the whole one if you want)
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
4 to 5 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ t dried oregano and/or thyme OR a handful of chopped fresh herbs
A few leaves chopped basil OR a spoonful of basil pesto (OPTIONAL)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound mozzarella, grated (feta, cheddar, goat cheese, etc., are good too.)
2 small (or 1 medium-sized) ripe tomato, sliced (OR, a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce if you have that on hand instead)
- Combine cornmeal, salt, and cold water in a small bowl.
- Have the boiling water on the stove in a saucepan, and add the cornmeal mixture, whisking.
- Cook 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. It will get very thick. Taste it for salt.
- Add garlic or Parmesan now, if using.
- Remove from heat, and let cool until handleable.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a 10-inch pie pan or a pre-heated skillet.
- Add the polenta, and use a rubber spatula and/or wet hands to form it into a smooth, thick crust over the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Spread the surface with olive oil, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
- While the crust bakes, heat 1 T olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to soften.
- Season with salt.
- Add the bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini, and sauté until everything is tender but not too soft. (Use your own judgment. There are no rules!)
- Add the garlic, herbs, and some black pepper, and sauté just a few minutes more. Add more salt if needed.
- Turn the oven to broil.
- Sprinkle half the cheese onto the bottom of the baked crust (okay if the crust is still hot), and add the tomato slices or tomato sauce.
- Spread the sautéed vegetables over the tomatoes, add the basil or pesto if using, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Broil until brown (about 5 minutes) and serve hot.
This is also tasty cold the next day, and it reheats well.
Your farmers market shopping list:
– Coarse cornmeal
– A small onion
– A bell pepper
– 2 small tomatoes
– A small zucchini or summer squash
– Fresh herbs
Sauteed or grilled onion & pepper plus Italian sausage
Chopped cooked spinach, sauteed or grilled onion, and Feta cheese
Or try any of these other toppings: grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, cooked sliced asparagus, steamed or grilled broccoli or cauliflower, cooked or roasted kale, arugula, any fresh herbs lying around, sautéed leeks, etc.
Keep in mind that the broiling time is only to melt the cheese, so use precooked vegetables rather than raw ones. Using raw veggies will result in lukewarm crunchy veggies under melted cheese — gross!
Dedication: Written July 24, 2016, on the 100th anniversary of my grandmother’s birth. Happy birthday, Mimi! She was and will always be the best provider of food I know. I dedicate my food blogs to her and her mother, Olga.
– Bethany Fleishman
Photo Credit: Julia A. Reed