Baked Polenta & Romesco Sauce w/ A Warm Bean Salad

In southeast Queensland it’s really starting to feel like autumn and the weather has been perfectly beautiful these past couple of days. Autumn would have to be my favourite time of the year and it means in the kitchen that lighter summery meals and crisp salads are being swapped with warm tossed salads and baked dinners, mmmmm!

Here at Veggie num num we love polenta and I can’t believe I haven’t shared more recipes in the past, it seems one of those things I kind of forgot about for a while but, after this successful baked polenta dish, I think we may all be eating it a lot more often. The entire meal does take a little foreplanning but, once the polenta is prepped and the romesco sauce made, you can leave these two components for a few hours or even overnight until you are ready to bake the polenta. Then it’s just a matter of popping it in the oven; perfect for stress free entertaining!

The romesco sauce adds a wonderful depth of flavor, which means the dish does not suffer from the absence of cheese, something you’ll find in most baked polenta recipes. This is a truly tasty and satisfying dairy-free vegetarian recipe that makes a huge dish of beautiful baked polenta. We served it with a super quick and simple warm bean salad recipe, included below.

 

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Recipe

Romesco Sauce
Preparation time: 30mins // Makes approx. 2-3 cups

  • 3tbs olive oil
  • 350g (12 oz) small ripe tomatoes (I used a combination of mini roma & cherry)
  • 1 red capsicum (pepper), halved
  • 2 chillies, halved & deseeded if you wish
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
  • 2 thick slices of cibatta (or similar Italian white bread), roughly torn
  • 30g (1 oz) raw almonds
  • 30g (1 oz) hazelnuts
  • 1 lemon, juice only

Lay the capsicum halves (cut side down) and tomatoes on a roasting dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Pop them under a medium grill for about 5 minutes until the skins begin to blister and the capsicum skins blacken, watch them carefully to ensure the tomatoes don’t burn. Remove from under the grill place the capsicums in a plastic bag and allow to cool. Once cooled the skins should peel away easily. Set the skinned capsicum and grilled tomatoes aside.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the chillies, garlic, torn bread, almonds and hazelnuts. Fry over a medium heat until the bread and nuts are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool a little.

In a food processor blend the capsicum and tomatoes with the fried bread mixture, adding lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. This romesco sauce recipe can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

{ The romesco sauce recipe was adapted from a recipe found in Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Food for Friends }

Baked Polenta & Romesco Sauce
Preparation Time: 55mins (+ 1 hour refrigeration time) // Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups polenta (cornmeal)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • romesco sauce (as prepared above)
  • 2 thick slices of cibatta (or similar Italian white bread), roughly torn
  • 1 tbs za’atar spice mix [or use any combination of spices you like, try sesame seeds, cumin, turmeric and/or sumac]
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Bring the stock to boil in a medium sized pot, gradually pour in the polenta in a steady stream. Turn down the heat to low and cook the polenta for 10-15 minutes, stirring, until the polenta is smooth and soft (not gritty). Remove from the heat and stir through the torn basil leaves.

Pour the prepared polenta into a greased baking dish and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm (polenta can be kept refrigerated overnight).

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/356°F

In a food processor or by hand process the slices of bread with the za’atar to form coarse breadcrumbs adding the olive oil, set aside.

Turn the polenta out of the baking dish and slice into thin slices.

Using the same baking dish spoon in a third of the romesco sauce top with a layer of the sliced polenta spoon in another layer of sauce and repeat finishing with a layer of sauce. Top with the prepared breadcrumbs and bake in the moderate oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and baked polenta and romesco sauce cooked and bubbling.

A delicious vegan recipe perfect for the whole family! We served it as a complete meal with the warm bean salad that follows.

A Warm Bean Salad
Preparation time: 10 minutes // Serves 4

  • 120g (4 oz) fresh green beans, washed and sliced in half lengthways
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 30g (1 oz) raw almonds
  • ¼ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp apple cider (or white wine) vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil

In a frying pan fry the onion, beans, zucchini and almonds in a little olive oil over a medium/high heat for 5-6 minutes until nicely coloured.

In a small bowl whisk the Dijon mustard with the vinegar and olive oil. Remove the beans from the heat and toss through the dressing, serve immediately as a great quick and healthy side dish.

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