Oven-Baked Polenta & Vegetables
Excuse me, if I may, I would like to step up onto my soapbox for just a few moments. One thing that bothers me about food writing in magazines and on the web at the moment, where it is more popular than ever before, it the way that we so often get told that only the best quality products, the finest cuts of meat, the most exclusive ingredients are good enough for us. I just hate that message. Anything fresh, healthy and affordable is good and don't you forget it! It ain't what you do- it's the way that you do it after all!
Seriously- it bothers me to see pretentious preparations and arrangements, edible art on plates for unwordly amounts of money when we live in a world with so many people starving and so many more ruining their health with despicable fast food... something has just gone terribly wrong with our concept of food! How about making the most of our basics, spicing them up and making them interesting and fu and getting back to actually COOKING? Thank you... that was it! I am stepping down from the soapbox now and as soon as my head stops spinning I will tell you how I made this simple but delicious suppertime dish :-)
I made this, as is usually the case in my kitchen on a Friday night, with the remnants of my weeks groceries, in order to clean it out for me to get new and fresh vegetables from the market tomorrow. So in this case, what I had was a small piece of Hokkaido pumpkin, some green beans, leek and cherry tomatoes and as you can see, I managed to put them all to good use!
I started off by partially boiling the pumpkin, beans and leeks, with a clove of garlic and some finely chopped onion for 5-6 minutes, in just enough water to cover them by about an inch or so. I seasoned the water with salt and added a few celery leaves and a bay leaf for a bit more depth of flavor. All of the vegetables were so tender that it only took 5 minutes to get them more than half-cooked by boiling, so I took them carefully out of the water and then added my polenta directly into the flavored broth... why use bouillon cubes or powder? All the flavor you need is right there in your ingredients!
I drizzled the vegetables lightly with olive oil and set them to one side whilst I prepared the polenta. To make this generous single serving it only took 3 tablespoons! So much for expensive and fancy ingredients! I took the garlic clove which had also boiled with the other vegetables, crushed it with a fork and added it into the polenta, along with a little pepper and nutmeg. I let it simmer away for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and then added a little parmesan cheese- just a good pinch, mixed it in well and then poured the polenta out onto a baking dish, ready to assemble with the vegetables... so in eager anticipation, I turned on my oven to full power to be ready to go!
I arranged the vegetables, nicely and equally spaced in the polenta, added a light sprinkle of parmesan and a nice pinch of cracked black pepper... and popped it into the oven, on full power, for 10 minutes and then an additional 3-4 minutes under the broiler to get everything nicely golden brown... and that was it! A simple, healthy and comforting affair... and what more could you ask for on a Friday evening? Except for a little bit more! Enjoy!